The Honeyguide

To want and get are different things
(the wish to fly must find wings).

But what is too much for one to do
May be easy work for two.

Witness the honey guide and bear,
Who each have more when they learn to share.

An Intense Calm - Maldives Eco Surfing Chronicle

The Honeyguide

Grandmother was weaving beneath a tree. The patterns seemed to flow from her spirit to the blanket. One could not say, “There is grandmother. There is the loom.” They functioned as one. Little Star came running toward her, out of breath and bursting with child-fresh enthusiasm.

“Grandmother,” she yelped, “I have found the most wonderful thing. You must help me.”

“Tell me child, of what help can this old body be to you?” Her hands still singing patterns.

“I was following the stream in the forest,” said the girl, “and came upon a beautiful place where the water danced in circles, and deep in the pool I saw such wondrous stones. Many different sizes and many different colors, even greens like the spring leaves, and reds like bright berries.”

“Show me what you have, little one. It will bring me joy to turn them to jewelry for you.”

“Oh grandmother, that’s the problem. The water was too deep and fast. I could reach nothing. I could only admire and sigh. So I came to you. Can you help me get them?”

“Granddaughter, you know my days of forest journeys are through. I am content to journey through the forests of my loom. But I can tell you what to do.”

“What is that,” asked Little Star.

“You must become the honeyguide.”

“What is a honeyguide, grandmother? How will that capture the stones?”

“You see that?” Grandmother’s eyes were following a bird race among the trees. That bird is a honeyguide. It loves honey, but what can it do? It can find hives easily enough by following the scents and following the bees, but how can it get to the honey? It is too small to break into a hive, and the bees would sting it terribly if it ever tried. So what do you think it does, little one?”

“Tell me grandmother,” said the little girl.

“Well child, who in the forest also loves honey and is also strong enough to attack a hive?”

“The bear, grandmother. She loves honey, and no amount of stinging will keep her from it.”

“You are right, and the little honeyguide bird knows this too. So, when it finds a hive, off it goes to find a bear. It flies in the face of the bear calling and flapping. The bear thinks, ‘Leave me alone little bird, I am looking for food.’

But the bird keeps flying around his head, calling, ‘Come, come, come.’

Soon the bear begins to understand and follow the honeyguide. The little bird flies back and forth or stops on low branches so that the great slow bear can follow. When they are close, the bear fully understands, sees the hive, and attacks it, laying the honeycombs open for itself and its friend, the bird. Each has its fill and leaves alone.

You, Little Star, will be the honeyguide. You must now go and find the bear. Surely there are some you know, bigger than you, who would love these stones. And certainly, it is wiser to share than to have nothing.”

Of course, you are right, grandmother. I will fly to my bear now and soon bring you back a beautiful stone.”

“But I already have one,” said grandmother. “Look.”

There in the middle of the blanket on the loom was a honeyguide with a gem in its mouth.


L. Devar



L. Devar

The author is an old guy and a great-grandparent living in Southern California. He really likes fables and ice cream a lot.

Creative Commons Attributions – Honeyguide Illustration
L. Shyamal / CC BY-SA (