King of the Birds

“Come to the Greenwood, Golden-haired maiden! Where the bird-minstrels Carol love-laden. Thrush with his fluting Charms every carper, Black-bird, the poet, He is our harper! Wren with his lute-notes Lightens all labour; Finch has the fiddle, Linnet the tabor.”

Seán O’ Neachtain, Bards of Gaeilge, 1925

In Ireland, the 26th of December is celebrated as Lá an Dreoilín, Wren’s Day. In Ireland, the wren is seen as the king of the birds on account of a trick played on the eagle in a competition. This is an old legend, but what was interesting to me is that the Irish legend is similar to a tale told by the First Nations Oneida people of North America. Not all similarities in folklore and fairy tales can be attributed to mass migrations but arise spontaneously and fascinatingly, trickster tales were common to all types of stories told within most ancient Native cultures.

Here is the Irish King of the Birds and have linked the Oneida Story of the Hermit Thrush.

King of the Birds

The origin of the word wren in Irish is dreoilín, which means a trickster. The trickery and cunningness of wren is popular since the day it was titled as ‘The King of Birds’. The story goes that all the birds gathered to choose the king of the birds. Each species had some or the other power which made it difficult for them to choose the best so it was decided that the bird who flew the farthest will be chosen as the King.

House Wren

As soon as the birds took off into the air, the little wren hid herself in the feathers of the eagle, for she knew the eagle can fly the farthest. The eagle flew higher and higher to a point where it thought no other bird can fly further. As the eagle started to come down confident and happy that it had achieved the title, it heard a voice from the sky chiming ‘I am the king, I am the king!’ and this was the little wren who had been hiding in the feathers of the eagle. She took a little flight above the eagle without exhausting herself unlike rest of the birds who tried to fly high but could not beat the eagle.

The victory of wren was not accepted by the eagle who said ‘I used all my strength to win the competition’. The little wise wren replied, “If the eagle can win through its strength then why cannot she win with her wisdom?” She considers her wisdom as a power similarly to how the eagle considers her strength to fly high as a power. 

Nick O’ Connor is a writer who has been involved in the Druid community for over 20 years with extensive knowledge in the overlap of cross cultural beliefs regarding occult communities and how they have evolved from times of old to the present. You can find more of his work at

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