The Wren, the Wren, the King of all Birds by Dawn Marie Hamilton

It’s that time of year again. I so love the Christmas season. One of my favorite things is the Christmas music. We have a large collection that we start listening to the day after Thanksgiving.

Again this year, while listening to The Chieftains’ The Bells of Dublin and the Wren in the Furze song, I wondered aloud how the wren became the king of all birds. My husband jumped on it and did an internet search. He found a site, The Little Brown Wren, which explains via folklore. It seems the world of birds decided they wanted to have a king same as the humans. But how should they choose who among them should be king. They decided to hold a contest…whichever bird could fly the highest would be the king of the birds. On the day the contest was held, the eagle climbed ever higher into the sky. After the other birds gave up and fell to the ground, he smugly began his decent, believing he was the king of the birds. But above him, a wee wren fluttered her wings and sang a beautiful song. Having hidden within his feathers, she’d ridden into the sky on his back and became king through cleverness.

There is more to the story. Check it out at The Little Brown Wren.

There is a tradition in Ireland to ‘hunt the wren’ on the feast of Saint Stephen, which is celebrated on December 26th. On Wren Day, the wee bird is secured to a decorated staff and paraded through the village with music and dancing and much celebration. Fortunately, in our modern times a fake bird is used.

I’ll think of this tale every time I watch the wren in our backyard flutter from the shrubs near the house to the suet feeder.  Or when it sings its beautiful song mid-winter.

wren cutout

The Chieftains, The Bells of Dublin (1991)
Wren in the Furze

The wren, oh the wren; he’s the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s Day he got caught in the furze,
So it’s up with the kettle and it’s down with the pan,
Won’t you give us a penny for to bury the wren?

Well it’s Christmas time; that’s why we’re here,
Please be good enough to give us an ear,
For we’ll sing and we’ll dance if youse give us a chance,
And we won’t be comin’ back for another whole year!

We’ll play Kerry polkas; they’re real hot stuff,
We’ll play the Mason’s Apron and the Pinch of Snuff,
Jon Maroney’s jig and the Donegal reel,
Music made to put a spring in your heel!

If there’s a drink in the house, would it make itself known,
Before I sing a song called “The Banks of the Lowne”,
A drink with lubri-mication in it,
For me poor dry throat and I’ll sing like a linnet!

Oh please give us something for the little bird’s wake,
A big lump of pudding or some Christmas cake,
A fist full o’ goose and a hot cup o’ tay (Tea),
And then we’ll all be goin’ on our way!

The wren, oh the wren; he’s the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s Day he got caught in the furze,
So it’s up with the kettle and it’s down with the pan,
Won’t you give us a penny for to bury the wren?

 

gorse

Furse is another term for gorse; a yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family, the leaves of which are modified to form spines.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

~Dawn Marie

*images from Pixabay

 

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