This is my own version of this fable. The origins are unknown.
Long, long ago all the birds that flew in the sky got into a heated argument, the quarrel was over who should be king. They decided that whoever could fly the highest would be worthy of the crown. So, at dawn the next day they all took off flying as high as they could.
With a great flap of wings, small, large, long and wide, the sound echoed through the forests and all the other animals wondered what the great commotion was. One by one they took off into the dawn sky. Higher and higher they flew. First it was the songbirds that faulted and dropped away, then the pigeons gasped for air as their wings flapped furiously, then the gulls faded away. Finally, it was only the raven that challenged the Eagle for the title of King but even this magical bird could not compete with the majesty of the Eagle and dropped away. The mighty Eagle flew on high above his kingdom surveying his domain below. The Eagle wanted to push himself to the limits of his abilities, to be the best king he could and flew as high as possible.
Once at the altitude where even he found it hard to breath, he accepted this boundary, so no further would he go. Just at this point, a tiny Wren leapt from beneath the Eagle's wing and declared himself king of all birds. The Eagle was furious and dived down to the Earth below, where all the other birds had just witnessed what had happened. As they landed the Wren fluttered around boastfully declaring that he was the true king.
The other birds were not impressed and looked scornfully upon the Wren. The wise owl stepped forwards and spoke.
“It is true little Wren you did manage to fly hirer than the Eagle but by using the skills and abilities of the Eagle and claiming them for yourself. Do you think this fair?”
“I used my cunning to beat the Eagle so I deserve to be king and I won’t give up the crown or acknowledge that I couldn't fly high if it weren’t for the Eagle. I am the king and that is it!”
The other birds did not like the Wren's answer. The owl shook his head in disgust and the Eagle became the enemy of the Wren. From then on, the Wren had to hide in the hedgerows in case high, high above, the Eagle would spot him and remember who stole the crown.
The moral of this story is integral to my work and the students I teach. Always honour the source of your knowledge. The first bard to tell the story or teachings, those who passed the wisdom to you must be mentioned to kept in right relationship with the Gods, Spirits, and the Ancestors.
The Wren King is connected to St. Stephen and treacherous acts, and this same story appears in Celtic, Norse, and Christian traditions. The Wren is also said to be the bird of the Fae and is associated with the Faerie king and Samhain.