of the Hoopoe
Respecting the crest of the hoopoe there
is a curious old legend. As is the case with most of the Oriental legends,
it introduces the name of King Solomon, who, according to Oriental notions,
was a mighty wizard rather than a wise king, and by means of his seal,
on which was engraven the mystic symbol of Divinity, held sway over the
birds, the beasts, the elements, and even over the Jinns and Afreets, i.e.
the good and evil spirits, which are too ethereal for the material
world and too gross for the spiritual, and therefore hold the middle place
On one of his journeys across the desert,
Solomon was perishing from the heat of the sun, when the Hoopoes came to
his aid, and flew in a dense mass Over his head, thus forming a shelter
from the fiery sunbeams. Grateful for this assistance, the monarch told
the Hoopoes to ask for a boon, and it should be granted to them. The birds,
after consulting together, agreed to ask that from that time every Hoopoe
should wear a crown of gold like Solomon himself. The request was immediately
granted, and each Hoopoe found itself adorned with a royal crown. At first,
while their honours were new, great was the joy of the birds, who paused
at every little puddle of water to contemplate themselves, bowing their
heads over the watery mirror so as to display the crown to the best advantage.
Soon, however, they found cause to repent
of their ambition. The golden crown became heavy and wearisome to them,
and besides, the wealth bestowed on the birds rendered them the prey of
every fowler. The unfortunate Hoopoes were persecuted in all directions
for the sake of their golden crowns, which they could neither take off
At last, the few survivors presented themselves
before Solomon, and begged him to rescind his fatal gift, which he did
by substituting a crest of feathers for the crown of gold. The Hoopoe,
however, never forgets its former grandeur, and is always bowing and bending
itself as it used to do when contemplating its golden crown in the water.
The Hoopoe in the Bible
IN the two parallel chapters, Leviticus 11 and
Deuteronomy 14, there occurs the name of a bird which is translated in the
Authorized Version of the bible as Lapwing: 'And
the stork, the heron after her kind, the lapwing, and the bat.'
The Hebrew word is dukiphath, and
various interpretations have been proposed for it, some taking it to be
the common domestic fowl, others the cock-of-the-woods, or capercaillie,
while others have preferred to translate it as Hoopoe. The Jewish Bible
retains the word lapwing, but adds the mark of doubt. Commentators are,
however, agreed that of all these interpretations, that which renders word
as Hoopoe is the best.
There would be no particular object in
the prohibition of such a bird as the lapwing, or any of its kin, while
there would be good reason for the same injunction with regard to the Hoopoe.