A Hornbill Called Harold is a short story by Ruskin Bond. This story is often covered in the Grandfather’s Private Zoo series. Ruskin’s grandfather is an animal lover and is in the habit of keeping a collection of animals and birds at his home. Harold was a name of a hornbill bird. The bird has, in particular, a long beak.
Coming to the story, Harold’s mother like many other hornbills was a careful and obedient wife. And his father too was an easy-going person. There was a Dhak tree in the garden of grandfather. In January, when Dhak tree was about to burst into flame-red blossom, Harold’s father took his wife to a hole in the trunk of that tree. Taking their wives to that tree was a kind of tradition followed by hornbills, generation after generation. Harold’s father had shut his wife in that hole and covered the hole from outside with mud, sticks and dung. He kept a tiny hole in it for chatting and breathing. Soon, Harold was born. As he grew bigger in size, space for two became short, thus his mother broke away the hole-protecting shield and came out on the branches. Harold was happy at his place, in the hole, as he got food from his parents from time to time.
Well, one day a villainous cat attacked the hole to grab little Harold, Harold’s parents attacked the cat boisterously but in the process poor little Harold fell down from the tree in the garden of grandfather.
Young Ruskin and his grandpa took Harold and made a large wooden cage for it in the verandah, there he got food on time and sunlight and air was abundant. Soon, the hornbill called Harold became acquainted with Ruskin and grandpa. Harold had a long beak and whenever food was offered to him, he would toss it in the air before gulping it down in his long beak. At times, he played with the tennis ball.
Harold strayed there for twelve years, probably the longest from all the animals of grandfather’s zoo. Harold loved rain and before the arrival of rain, he would squeak and dance in his cage. Harold never drank water but the sight of rain was not less than a paradise to him. He was quite decent among all pets – he misbehaved only once – when he took the cigar from one of the guest’s hand. Even grandmother loved him. Later in life, Ruskin missed Harold and wished he got summer showers in the paradise and a lot of tennis balls to play with.
It’s very nice story of a bird and the way it touches our heart is something unusual in animal stories. Ruskin has penned down this story like a true bird lover. Children will surely love it.