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Previous Story: Aesop And Birbal

AMERICAN CROWSome crows eyed the walking duo from atop their perch on a tree, and the walkers eyed them back.

“You know crows are quite clever, don’t you Josh?” began Rosh as he stopped to rest beside the tree.

“Have I told you the Aesop fable where a thirsty crow on a hot afternoon comes upon a pitcher with some water?"

"The problem is that the pitcher’s mouth is so small, the crow’s beak and head can’t go through it, and the little water there is in the pitcher is thus out of reach of the crow. Have you heard of how the thirsty crow got that water?”

A crow crowed above them. Josh smiled, “This one has heard of it. Must have been his ancestor. Must have knocked the pitcher over Pa, and drunk when the water spilled.”

“The Avianus version of this fable says he couldn’t topple the pitcher because it was too heavy for the crow."

"Yet the crow gets the water using a strategy, showing that thoughtfulness is superior to brute strength."

"But even if the pitcher could be toppled over,” argued Rosh. “The hot parched earth would have sucked up the water instantaneously, long before the poor crow could get a sip."

"No, the crow was clever enough to understand his problem, know that he needed a tool to solve it, know what tool was appropriate and where to find it, and know how to use it.”

“Come on Pa,” Josh was incredulous. “That story can’t be literally true. Crows are stupid. Look at that one, he looks stupid, he acts stupid, he talks stupid. Aesop must have seen a special crow.”

As if he had heard Josh and wanted to protest, the crow called out raucously, staring at them.

“Careful Josh. Just because someone looks different, talks different or has a different gait doesn’t make them stupid, and even if they might be stupid it doesn’t give you the right or reason to call them stupid. Birds are definitely not stupid."

"Crows, jays and ravens score highly on intelligence tests, with certain species topping the avian IQ scale. A scientific study published in Current Biology showed that rooks, a relative of crows, did exactly what the Aesopian crow did when presented with a similar situation. So, Aesop didn’t have a unique specimen.”

“What did the crow do, Pa?” asked Josh.

“What would you have done, if you were the crow?” asked Rosh instead.

“I would have found a straw to sip it up,” responded Josh without thinking.

“You’ve been having too many Cokes with straws. Think like a crow. There were no sipping straws around 2,000 years ago,” said Rosh.

The crow called again, louder this time.

“He’s really onto it, isn’t he?” laughed Josh. “You do have a point, and he knows it. I … don’t know, Pa. Tell me how he got to the water?”

“Well, he flew around till he found a pebble,” answered Rosh. “This he picked up in his beak and flew back to drop it in the pitcher."

"Then he did it again and again, until the water level in the pitcher rose high enough for him to reach in and drink from it. What do you think Aesop was trying to tell his audience through this story?”

“That crows are clever. Better not upset them by calling them names,” replied Josh.

“Could well be,” smiled Rosh. “But if this was a story with another moral, what do you think this moral would be?”

“Try or die,” said Josh playfully, looking again at the feisty crow to see if he would protest again.

When neither the crow nor his father said anything, he offered, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

“I like them both. The moral could very well have been persistence. Keep trying till you succeed – or die,” Rosh laughed, getting into the mood with Josh, “whichever is earlier."

"My teacher had a different angle on it. That necessity is the mother of invention. But Christopher Bird, co-author of that scientific paper, concludes that Corvids are remarkably intelligent creatures and in many ways rival the great apes in their physical intelligence and ability to solve problems.”

“How did he figure that?” asked Josh curiously.

“Remind me to tell you tomorrow. If you are interested, remind me also to show you Youtube clips of some pretty clever things crows have been seen doing. But now, we must hurry back. A storm is on its way,” said Rosh.

The crow cawed a farewell as he saw father and son turn back on their way to home.

Next Story: Rook Vindicates Aesop

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