"King of the Birds" Wren Riding Eagle

Muninn

Rochester, United States

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Artist's Description

Celtic-inspired wren with a golden crown, riding on the wings of dark brown eagle decorated with a spiral motif.

Legend has it that one day, the birds were looking to crown themselves a king. Eventually they agreed that the bird who could fly the highest should be their leader. Eagle, with his broad soaring wings, took to the skies for an easy win, climbing high above the other contestants. One by one the others tired and dropped from the contest, until only Eagle could be seen. He cried out, “I am King of the Birds!” — just as little Wren, who had hidden herself unnoticed his feathers, fluttered triumphantly above his head, highest of them all.

There are many variants of the folktale of the wren and the eagle, and the wren’s fate at the tale’s end varies as well. But this King (or Queen!) of the Birds design is based on the old favorite that closes with clever Wren winning the crown.

The small text in the background is from a Manx telling recorded in “Manx Fairy Tales” in 1911, translated as Eagle’s “I am King of the Birds, King of the Birds” and Wren’s rebuttal: “Not so, not so, I’m above him.” The larger text is a version of a traditional Irish children’s song recorded in an 1889 article, “The Holiday Customs of Ireland,” translated there as:

“Wren, wren, king of the birds,
On Stephen’s day the bird was caught.
He Is small himself, his family is great.
And if he gets an oaten cake, he will make a dance.”

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