How the Birds and Animals Dug a Bed for the Daugava

A Latvian fairy tale, this version is from Tales of The Amber Sea, compiled and translated by Irina Zheleznova in 1974.

Long, long ago all the birds and animals got together to dig a bed for the river Daugava. They set to work, and the rabbit said that he would run ahead and show them where the river bed was to lie. This he did, but, like all rabbits, he ran in circles and zigzags, and that is why there are so many loops and turns to the Daugava.

Just behind the rabbit came the mole. He worked very hard and dug the first furrow, and he was richly rewarded for it, getting a coat of very soft and shiny black velvet that he wears to this day.

All the birds and animals did their bit. The only one who refused to come and help was the oriole.

“The water that falls from the sky is enough for me,” said she. “I don’t need the kind that flows over the ground.”

The birds and animals were very hurt at this and decided to punish the oriole: she was not to get any river water at all to drink and from then on would have to make do with rain water.

So now you know why the oriole is always so thirsty in the dry season and we hear her calling:
“When’s the rain coming? When’s the rain coming?”

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