There was once a little boy called Sigli, who, I am sorry to say, took great pleasure in catching and killing little birds. His father was a notorious robber, so it was not surprising that Sigli gave way to acts of cruelty. His mother died when he was little more than a year old, and he did not know any other relation. In the north of Portugal, bands of robbers used to frequent the roads, and some of them lived in strong castles, and had a large retinue of followers. In time of war these robber-chiefs would side with the king’s party, because after the war was over they received large grants of land for the assistance they had rendered the sovereign. Sometimes when the neighbouring kings of Spain invaded Portugal, these robbers proved of great advantage in repelling the invaders; but in following up their victories they would despoil all the churches in the enemy’s country of the gold and silver idols, which the priests had caused to be made in order to get the ignorant peasantry to make offerings of money, corn, and oil, in exchange for which the priests, in the name of the idols, offered all those who gave, pardon of their sins.
Now, Sigli’s father had on many occasions robbed gold and silver idols, and had murdered a few brethren of the Holy Inquisition, who, in their turn, were well known for the wicked deeds they had committed, such as burning Christian men and women who did not, and could not, profess the popish faith. But in course of time the Jesuits, for so they were called, made common cause against these robbers, and either put them to death, or obliged them to leave off robbing churches and take to cheating the peasantry.
Sigli, as I said before, was a very cruel boy, and he was the terror of all the birds and beasts. He would lay traps for them, and when he had caught them he would take pleasure in tormenting them, which clearly proved that he was not a Christian, nor possessed of any refinement. But he took more pleasure in catching Robin-redbreasts than in anything else, and for this purpose he used bird-lime. He had caught and killed so many that at last King Robin of Birdland issued invitations to all his feathered subjects and to the beasts of the field, asking them to a meeting at which they might discuss the best means of putting Sigli to death, or punishing him in some other way, for the cruelty of which he was guilty towards them.
Among the many who accepted the invitation was an old fox, the first of the Reynards, and when it came to his turn to speak, he said that as Sigli was so fond of catching redbreasts with bird-lime, he (Mr. Reynard) would propose catching Sigli in the same manner; and when caught they might discuss how they should punish him, either by pecking and biting him, or by getting the wolves to eat him. In order to carry out this idea, he suggested that the monkeys should be asked to prepare the bird-lime, which they might use with safety by oiling their hands, and then gradually make a man of bird-lime close to the robber chief’s castle. Sigli would probably take it for some poor man, and hit it, and then he would not be able to get away.
This idea was accepted by all in general, and by Mrs. Queen Bee in particular, who owed Sigli and his father a grudge for destroying her hive; and the monkeys cheerfully set to work, while King Robin watched the putting together of the figure, and was very useful in giving it most of the artistic merit it possessed when finished. The making took one whole night, and next morning, almost opposite the castle, stood the bird-lime figure about the size of a man.
Sigli, seeing it from his dressing-room window, and taking it for a beggar, was so enraged that he ran out without his shoes and stockings, and, without waiting to look at the man, he struck at him with his right hand so that it stuck firmly to the figure.
“Let go,” he cried, “or I will kick you!” And as the figure did not let go he kicked it, so that his foot was glued. “Let go my foot,” he cried out, “or I will kick you with the other;” and, doing so, both his legs were glued to it. Then he knocked up against the figure, and the more he did so the more firmly he was glued.
Then his father, hearing his cries, rushed out, and said—
“Oh, you bad man! I will squeeze you to death for hurting my dear Sigli!”
No sooner said than done, and the robber chief was glued on to the bird-lime figure.
The screams of the two attracted the attention of the servants, who, seeing their robber master, as they thought, murdering his little boy, ran away and never came back again.
King Robin was now master of the situation, and he directed ten thousand bees under General Bumble, and another ten thousand wasps under Colonel Hornet, to fall on the robber and cruel Sigli and sting them to death. But this was hardly necessary, as the wriggling of their bodies so fixed them to the figure that they died of suffocation.
Then King Robin ordered the wolves to dig a large grave, into which the monkeys rolled Sigli, his father, and the bird-lime figure; and after covering it up, they all took charge of the castle, and lived there for many years undisturbed, acknowledging King Robin as their king; and if the Jesuits did not turn them out, I am certain they are still there.
Notes: The book contains 21 folktales from Spain and Portugal.
Author: Charles Sellers
Publisher: Field & Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, E.C.
Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co., London