Once upon a time, there was a man. He spent his days working from dawn to dusk on his farm, harvesting cotton, planting grains and he loved his work.
One day, when he was out plowing his fields, he discovered an abandoned fledgling covered in ash and sitting in the remains of an extinguished fire. He stooped down and scooped the bird up, brushing off the ash as he did so. The little bird bobbed his reddish-purple head and nuzzled into his hand.
The farmer nurtured the bird, feeding him every day and caring for its wellbeing. In return, the bird remained with the man. They spent every waking moment with each other. The man told the bird his every secret and deepest desire and the bird listened.
They lived harmoniously for many many years and then many many more for the bird lent its longevity to the man. At long last the man passed on.
The bird mourned the loss of his lifelong companion, letting tears stream down his face. Filled with anger, the bird flew to the temple of the Sun God, Ra, to plead for the life of his friend. The God, being impressed with the beauty of the bird and his devotion to his human friend, considered the bird’s request. Ra decided that he would prefer the company of the bird and so told the bird that he would allow an exchange of life, the spirit of the bird for the spirit of the man. The bird agreed.
Realizing that the man had chosen to die and would not want to face life without the bird, the bird burst into flame but did not react. He took flight and as he approached the heavens, his feathers burned off, leaving a trail of ashes along the ground. Eventually, a single red plume on the bird’s head was left. Finally, that one plume dropped intact to an underlying field. That feather, too, burst into flame. As what remained of the once beautiful bird joined Ra above, a baby bird emerged from the pile of ashes that the feather had produced.
And a different farmer noticed the bird in the ashes and picked it up and cleaned it off. And the little bird nuzzled into the man’s hand. And the story began again.