Once there was a merchant who happened to acquire six sparrows from China.

“They’ll make a fine gift for my lord,” thought the merchant. But knowing the lord to be very superstitious and always concerned about omens, he suspected that His Lordship might not like the number ‘six’. In order to make the number a lucky ‘seven’, he added one Japanese sparrow, and presented them in a beautiful cage.

The lord was greatly pleased to have such a rare gift. He admired the birds and looked very carefully at each one of them.

“That’s strange,” said the lord after a while, “I see one of these is Japanese!”

The merchant didn’t know what to say. He hung his head in frightened silence.

Then, all of a sudden, the Japanese sparrow opened its little beak and spoke out, “You see, my lord, I’m the interpreter!”

Chinese Sparrows
Chinese Sparrows [Illustrations by Kusum Chamoli]
(From Laughing Together: Stories, Riddles and Proverbs from Asia and the Pacific; Published by The National Book Trust under a UNESCO project.)