As we enter springtime, take a walk in nature. You might just find, nestled between the blooming flowers, a particular gray bird. They look a bit like pigeons, but they have a marking on their neck — a black or white collar. These collared doves, or les tourterelles in French, are peaceful woodland birds who only eat grains. However, it wasn’t always this way.Long ago, they were small but mighty hunters; they’d swoop down on bugs and mice — plus the occasional small rat — and eat their fill. 

One day, one of these doves was gliding through the forest when it spotted a mouse! Right in the open! They swooped down into a nearby branch without hesitation. The mouse hadn’t been foolishly walking around in an open glen; rather, it had gotten stuck in a trap. Most of it was free and struggling, but only its little paws kept the wire of the trap from snapping closed and crushing its neck.

The mouse saw the dove out of the corner of its eye and cried out, “Please! Please help me! This is a terrible way to die!”

The dove considered this. If they let the mouse die, they could eat it easily, but they had already found some tasty seeds earlier. The dove also agreed with the mouse that a trap snapping your neck was a terrible way to die. So, the dove hopped down from its perch, awkwardly sidling to where the trap lay (doves are not very good at walking). Carefully using their beak, they took the wire and pulled it just enough so the mouse could free its head.

As soon as it was loose, the mouse yanked itself away from the trap, but it didn’t run into the underbrush as the dove had expected. Instead, it walked to the other side of the trap and pulled from the leaves a little blue hat.

It turned to the dove and bowed, the little hat clasped in its paws, “You have saved me, noble dove. I am the mouse magician of this forest, and so I will grant you a boon. What is it you wish for?”

The dove merely cocked their head. They had never heard of a mouse magician before and had no idea what to wish for.

The mouse magician straightened up and dusted its hat off. “It’s a difficult question, I understand. How about I give you the same help you gave to me, then? Should you ever become caught in a trap such as this, I will help you escape!”

The dove nodded, as this seemed as good an idea as any. 

The mouse magician stepped carefully and deliberately up to the dove. Then, it placed a paw on the dove’s beak. The dove felt a little spark, and its feathers all ruffled as they jumped back in shock. Magic apparently done, the mouse magician scampered away into the underbrush as fast as its little legs could carry it.

The dove felt a bit like they had somehow been cheated, but they didn’t know what else to expect and flew back to the canopy.

Life passed normally for the dove. There were plenty of little meals to be found and plenty of greater hunters to be avoided. The dove was clever enough to escape from tricky situations, but there was one exception. 

It was evening, and the dove was flying around, tiredly searching for a place to rest. At last, they spotted a fig tree, growing thickly above a little garden gate. The dove landed on the stone wall below its branches, and noticed what the wall hid. A beautiful little garden, with seeds, bugs, berry bushes, and everything else a bird could ask for. The dove glanced around, but no birds circled above, and they could see no cats or dogs below. They distantly heard the movement of a human from the house attached to the garden, but that was no concern. The dove glided down to the patch of grass where rested a small wooden dish of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and tiny multi-colored grains. The dove landed by the edge of it and began to help itself. The seeds were as tasty as they looked, and the dove was so lost in its dinner that they completely missed the cat.

The dove was very disoriented at first. One moment, they were savoring a bit of millet, the next they were being dragged by its neck through the garden by sharp teeth.They tried to struggle, but wherever the cat was going, it was going fast. The movement stopped, but the dove continued wildly flapping its wings. Suddenly, another creature grabbed at them and pulled them upwards.

The face of a human stared at it, its massive hands locked around its wings. The dove could not escape, they could barely squirm. Its heart hammered against its chest, and they felt as if they could barely breathe with the hands so tightly clasped around it.

“What a good cat you are!” The human crooned at its companion, who rubbed its legs happily. “Why don’t I cook this one up for us?”

With no other choice, the dove thrashed its head and feet back and forth, but the human was unphased. 

It carried the dove towards a great wooden block which smelled of blood and soap. The human repositioned its hands so that only one was holding the dove’s wings closed. The dove felt a bit less constrained now, but they still couldn’t escape. The human’s other hand reached to the wall and unhooked a giant knife.It  placed the dove on the block and began to raise its knife over its head.

The dove quailed and thought to itself, “Oh no, no, what a terrible death this is!”

The knife came down in a flash! There was a loud noise, but the dove only felt a small pain. As pieces of the knife rained down around it, the dove realized the knife had shattered on its neck!

The human cried out in surprise and staggered backwards. Its hands released the dove, and they wasted no time! With a great heaving of wings, the dove shot itself upwards and out of the doorway.

Once they were very far away from the cottage and its racing heart settled down, the dove landed. Curious about what had happened, they glided to a puddle and looked at its reflection in the moonlight.

Its neck was completely unscathed! Where the knife would have cut into it, there was only a strange dark mark on its feathers. The dove wondered if this was magic of some kind, and suddenly remembered the mouse magician and its boon.

Realizing how close the dove had come to death and what had saved it, the dove was manically joyful. They swore to never eat mice again, to always be a friend to mice.

The dove honored that promise for the rest of its life, and all its descents followed suit. Every collared dove since then has worn its collar proudly.

Other posts that may interest you: