This story is by Heise and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
High above an old oak tree in the city park, there lived a little robin. He was handsome and admirable, with ruby-red feathers adorning his breast, and his voice was the most beautiful among his family.
One day, God spoke to him.
“Robin, Robin, little Robin,” said God, “your voice is sweet, sweeter than any voice your brothers could make. Your music is strong, stronger than any music your sisters could sing.”
“How happy I am!” said the Little Robin, and he made a low bow in gratitude.
“In the city, lived one of My children,” continued God, “her eyes are sharp under her lashes, but dead. Her father had passed away years ago, and her mother last Christmas, and she has no friends. Her face is pale, and her heart desolate. No festivities of Christmas could make her smile. Robin, Robin, little Robin, will you not give her a piece of your beautiful music as a gift for this year’s Christmas? Your song will set fire to her icy heart, and she will find joy once more.”
“But it is very cold now,” the Little Robin answered, puffing his feathers so he looked like a tiny ball of fluff, “the Snow has made this city her ballroom and the Winds are often seen dancing with her. Soon, the Frost will come with her chariot and I have made my preparations.”
But God spoke again, “Robin, little Robin, I have given My Only Son, My most precious, to this world. Will you not sing for the loneliest person in the city? Her heart is so cold, and her hope is spent.”
The Little Robin fell silent. He thought about the sadness that this person had to bear, and his heart was moved.
“It is very cold in here,” said the Little Robin, “but I will sing my sweetest song, and I will weave for her a smile out of music. I will give my voice as a gift for this year’s Christmas, and she will be sad no longer.”
“You will see her, little Robin, you will hear her sadness, and your heart will stir,” said God, “your voice will push through, and you will weave a piece of music unlike any other.”
Then the Little Robin began to think, and wondered.
Suddenly, he caught sight of a young woman dressed in black walking alone in the park. She was one of the city’s street singers. The Lady, with her beautiful voice and expressive eyes, was more famous than the others. She was known for her charm, and people would come to hear her songs.
The Lady stopped beneath the Little Robin, who was watching her. She dusted the snow from a bench beside the tree, and sat down.
“What a merry Christmas people are having, but not I,” said the Lady mournfully, “Father is gone, and Mother is, too, and friends I have not. My lips sing of Love, but my heart sings of Sorrow. I give laughter to people, and I keep none for myself. I carved smiles for my face, but I feel nothing.”
“How sad!” the Little Robin exclaimed, “Smiles are not meant to be less than true, and how terrible it is for a Man to not be able to feel Love!” and he continued to listen.
“Money I have, but I can’t buy any happiness. There is no use of me wandering around,” said the Lady, “I am all alone, and it’s best for me to just depart from this world.”
Hearing this, the Little Robin’s tender heart was touched. So moved was he that he left his hole, spread his little wings, and flew down to the lowest branch.
“Be happy,” cried the Little Robin, “you shall have your joy. I will give you my sweetest song, and I will weave a smile for you out of music, and you will again be able to sing earnestly of Love. Do not lose Hope, for he is as wise and mighty as Love is. He is in the first red lights of Dawn, and he is carried in the breaths of all Men.”
The Lady looked up, and listened, but she could not understand what the Little Robin was saying, for she only knew the things that are written in the languages of Men.
“Had I any strength, I would have admired his beauty,” the Lady said to herself, “but I must say that he has a beautiful voice. It’s a pity it does not mean anything, and I am sure that he has no feelings.” And she buried her face in her hands.
Then, amidst the cold winds, the Little Robin began to sing.
He sang first of the birth of the Sun, of how he would race his chariot across the sky and ride upon the silver clouds. And the Little Robin’s voice, clear as a crystal bell, began to seep into the ice in the Lady’s heart.
But the wind grew colder, and the Lady stood up to leave.
Fearing that the Lady will leave from the cold before he could bring smile to her sad face, the Little Robin puffed his feathers, and louder grew his song, for he sang of the birth of a Man, of how his cries would shake the heavens, and how the world was swirling in his eyes.
And the Lady stopped. She turned her head, and looked up. Her eyes gazed in wonder as the Little Robin’s music seized her heart.
The Snow began to dance. The winds became even colder, and Frost nipped at the Little Robin’s feathers. Bitter, bitter was the cold, and wilder and wilder grew his song, for he sang of Love that is as strong as the Death himself.
And at last a marvelous smile broke upon the Lady’s lips, and tears of happiness rolled down her cold cheeks.
But the Little Robin’s voice grew fainter, and his body began to freeze. Fainter and fainter grew his song, and his life ebbed away from him.
Then he gave one last burst of music. The Lady heard it, and her veins were set ablaze. She trembled all over, and the ice in her heart melted.
A snowstorm was approaching, but The Lady was so enchanted by the Little Robin’s voice that she stood still, with a smile and eyes overflowing with hot tears.
Suddenly, a man’s voice called through the howling winds, “Lady, what are you doing? The storm is coming. You must leave!”
The Lady snapped out of her trance, and through the swirling snowstorm, saw a gentleman walking towards her. He had come to visit the park, and was about to leave because of the snowstorm when he saw her.
With her soul still burning, the Lady looked at the storm around her and hastily walked away.
The Little Robin felt numb. His little chest was heavy, and he felt as if he wanted to cry, but robins were incapable of shedding tears, thus he suffered more.
He gathered the last of his strength and was about to return to his hole when he heard the Lady cried, “Alas! My ribbon, my precious red ribbon! It has floated away in the wind. It is the last gift from my late mother, and now it’s gone!”
The Lady frantically looked around her, searching for her lost ribbon. Her face was filled with terrible dread, and, once again, the Little Robin’s heart was moved.
Through his dimming sight, he saw the red ribbon floating quickly in the storm. Flapping his half-frozen wings, he flew against the storm, and caught the ribbon in his beak.
But the storm was so fierce that his little wings froze over, and he fell upon the snow.
“Death is a great price to pay for a smile,” he whispered as snow piled upon his body, “and what is the loneliness of a bird compared to the loneliness of a lady?”
The Little Robin closed his eyes, and then he was dead, with the red ribbon in his beak.
The winds, moved by the Little Robin’s selfless act, carried the ribbon away and gently placed it on a lamp post nearby.
The next morning, the Lady came again to visit the park.
“Yesterday I have heard the most beautiful sound,” she said, “how it has stirred my soul and awakened my heart! Surely it was from the heavens above. I feel so happy, but it’s a pity that my red ribbon is lost.”
Suddenly, she caught sight of a red ribbon tied around a lamp post.
“Dear me, it is my precious ribbon!” she exclaimed, and went to untie the ribbon.
The Lady brought the ribbon to her bosom, and said, “How wonderful! I’ve found happiness, and this ribbon has come back to me. This is indeed a blessed Christmas!”
But she didn’t see the Little Robin, who was lying dead, the ruby-red feathers of his breast staining the whiteness of the snow.