How the Robin Got His Red Breast


Legend - fable - fiction - 2006 - from "A Christmas Stocking" by Louise Betts Egan

On that first Christmas, it is said, the night was wrapped in a bitter chill.  The  Newborn Baby sleeping, Mary resting, but the small fire in the stable was nearly out, Joseph had gone for food and the new Mother Mary worried that her baby would be cold.  She turned to the animals about her and asked them for help. 

"Could you blow on the embers," she asked the ox, "so the fire might continue to keep my son warm?" 

But the ox lay sound asleep on the stable floor and did not hear her.  Next, Mary asked the donkey, horse and the sheep to breathe life back into the fire, but the sleeping animals did not hear Mary.  She wondered what to do. 

Suddenly, Mary heard a fluttering of little wings. Looking up, she saw a plain, little brown robin fly into the stall.  This robin had heard Mary calling to the animals and had come to help her himself.  He went over to the dying fire and flapped his wings hard. 

His wings were like little bellows, huffing and puffing air onto the embers, until they glowed bright red again.   He continued to fan the fire, singing all the while, until the ashes began to kindle.   Next, with his beak, the robin picked up some fresh, dry sticks and tossed them into the fire.   As he did, a flame suddenly burst forth and burned the little bird's breast a bright red.   But the robin simply continued to fan the fire until it crackled brightly and warmed the entire stable.

The Baby Jesus slept happily.

Mary thanked the robin for all he had done.   She looked tenderly at his red breast, burned by the flame, and said  "From now on, let your red breast be a blessed reminder of your noble deed." 

And to this day, the robin's red breast covers his humble heart.