Legends of the Firebird
The Firebird is a magical bird in legends from Russia, Armenia, and the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Golden Bird. The mystical bird is often the object of a difficult quest. Some tales describe how, when it flies, its eyes sparkle and pearls fall from its beak.
In the Russian tale, the Tsar commands his three sons to capture the magical Firebird that nightly flies from above to eat the king’s apples, golden apples that give youth and strength to all who eat them. The sons can catch just one of the Firebird’s glowing feathers. They take it to a dark place, where the magic feather lights the room completely.
The Conference of the Birds by Attar
In Sufi literature, the Simurgh is a mythical bird used as a metaphor for God. In the 12th century Conference of the Birds, the Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar wrote of a band of pilgrim birds of the world who gather to go on a journey. First, they decide who is to be their leader, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they travel together to find the legendary Simurgh.
Excuses of the Birds to Avoid the Journey
Before they embark, most make their various excuses for not attempting the journey, each bird presenting a human fault that prevents man from attaining enlightenment. One explains that he is newly married; another is too weak and frail. To each, the leader responds, providing Sufi teaching anecdotes that esoterically describe the nature of the weakness or excuse.
Achieving the Divine Destination
After this, only thirty birds remain to begin the flight. When these birds finally reach the dwelling place of the Simurgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection. This Persian expression means, in fact, “thirty birds” (si morgh).