Jataka: The Golden Swan

There was once a man who had a wife and three daughters whom he loved very much. The man worked hard every day of his life to support his family. When he died, he was reborn as a beautiful golden swan. He immediately flew to his old home and visited his family, offering them one of his golden feathers. "Take this feather and sell it in the market," he said. "With that money, you will be able to buy all the food you could want."

The swan returned at regular intervals in this way, leaving behind a single golden feather each time for the family to sell in the market. The woman and her daughters met all their needs in this way, and they were even able to set some money aside.

The mother, however, was very greedy and wanted to become the richest woman in the village. The next time the golden swan came to see them, she ordered her daughters to grab the bird and pluck all its feathers. The daughters refused, protesting against their mother's cruelty, so the mother herself grabbed the bird and started plucking. Yet as she did so, the feathers turned into ordinary feathers, white in color, no longer made of gold. The swan, meanwhile, screamed in pain and struggled to escape. The cruel woman did not let the bird go until she had plucked all its feathers, whereupon she threw the bird out the door.

The daughters then gathered up the poor bird, weeping for what their mother had done. They nursed their father back to health, hiding him all the time from their mother. As soon as his feathers grew back, the swan flew away, never to return.

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