Of that which happened to a Falcon and a Heron, and, more particularly, to a cunning Falcon, which belonged to the Infant Don Manuel

February 23, 2017

Count Lucanor conversed one day with his counsellor, Patronio, in the manner following: —

“Patronio,” said he, “it has happened lately to me to have contentions with many men, and no sooner is one quarrel ended than I am by some one instigated to commence another; others again recommend me to rest and be at peace, while again, others wish me to renew the war with the Moors. Now, knowing that no one is better able than yourself to advise me, I pray that you will counsel me how best to act under these circumstances.”

A falcon painted by by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.

“My lord,” said Patronio, “in order that you may the better act with judgment, it would be well that you should know what happened to a cunning falcon, belonging to the Infant Don Manuel.”

The Count begged that he would relate the circumstance.

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “the Infant Don Manuel being one day at the chase in the country near Escalona let fly a cunning falcon at a heron. Scarcely had he mounted above the heron, than he perceived an eagle approaching, when the falcon, being in great fear of him, left the heron and took to flight. The eagle, finding that he could not overtake the falcon, gave up the chase. As soon as the falcon saw that the eagle had departed he renewed his pursuit of the heron; which the eagle perceiving, turned again upon the falcon, when the falcon again took flight as before, pursued by the eagle, which soon gave up the chase, when immediately the falcon returned to chase the heron. This occurred three or four times, the eagle departing each time, as before, and each time returning to kill the falcon.

“The falcon, perceiving that the eagle rendered his killing the heron impossible, he mounted above the eagle and descended upon him with great fierceness, wounding him several times, until he drove him away. No sooner was he gone than he flew in pursuit of the heron and was engaged with it very high in air, which the eagle perceiving, again returned to attack him. The falcon, seeing that all his attempts were frustrated, left the heron, and mounted again above the eagle, descending upon him with such violence that he broke his wing. Seeing the eagle fall to the ground with the wing broken, the falcon then went in pursuit of the heron, and killed it this time, having freed himself from the hindrance of the eagle.

A heron

“And you, Count Lucanor, since you desire to know how best to act as regards your estate, your honour, and your soul, and how best to devote yourself to the service of God, can anything in the world be more proper, considering your position, than going to war with the Moors, for the glory of the holy and true catholic faith? Therefore, as soon as you can liberate yourself from other parties, commence a war with the Moors, as much good must arise from it. Firstly, you are devoting yourself to the service of God in an honorable engagement, gaining renown, and not eating the bread of idleness, which should never be said of a powerful noble. And, moreover, those holding your position, and without occupation, are unable to appreciate the worth of those who surround them, who lose the reward which, if engaged, they might otherwise deserve. Idleness may also incline you to do that which might be better left alone. Since, therefore, it is good and profitable that you, holding the position you do, should be well employed, certain it is that nothing can be better, more honorable, and more to your advantage here and hereafter than a war with the Moors.

A falcon, after striking the eagle on the back of the head, quickly becomes the victor after the eagle flipped upside down. Photo by Steve Garvie.

“Reflect, at least, on the example I gave you of the leap made by Richard, King of England, and how much he gained by it. And remember in your heart that you must die, and that God is all-seeing and of great justice, and that you cannot escape the great punishment due to you for those sins which you have committed unless indeed you should be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to do penance 118for your sins. So if, being at war with the Moors, you were slain, being at the time truly penitent, you would have the good fortune of being a martyr; and if you were not killed in battle, your good works and your good intentions would save you.”


The Count considered this a good example, and determined in his heart to follow it. He prayed to God to direct him how best to carry out his wishes.

And Don Juan, understanding that this example was very good, ordered it to be written in this book, and made these lines, which say as follows: —

God’s guidance making thee secure,

Fight on to the end, of victory sure.



This original and amusing tale of Don Manuel appears to be written by the hand of an old hunter, and has not only a war-like but a political signification, illustrating the necessity of exercising our ingenuity, judgment, and steady resolution to overcome opposition, losing not the opportunity, if presented, to soar above, and, like the falcon, overwhelm by the force of well-directed determination what appeared invincible.

Prince Don Juan Manuel, Count Lucanor: of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, trans. James York (London: Gibbings & Company, Limited, 1899).

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 565


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