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Theatre / The Birds

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The Birds (original: Ὄρνιθες — Ornithes) is a comedy by Aristophanes, first performed in 414 BC in Athens.

Peisthetairos and Euelpides, two Athenians dissatisfied with their native city and willing to emigrate, search the wilderness for Tereus, the Thracian king that was turned into a hoopoe by the gods. For birds, the creatures of the air – so they believe – must naturally know the entire world, and thus Tereus, a bird, yet still capable of human speech, will be able to advise them where on Earth living is best.


Their search is successful, but Tereus finds it hard to satisfy his visitors, as no city on Earth seems to quite meet their demands. At this point, Peisthetairos comes up with a brilliant idea: Why not stay with the birds? Not only is life as a bird paradisical, so Peistethairos considers, but he also convinces Tereus that, if only the birds would combine their strength and discover their true power, they could rule the entire Earth.

Tereus summons an assembly of all birds to introduce them to Peisthetairos' grand vision. At first, the birds threaten to peck the human intruders to death, but eventually Tereus' prestige and Peisthetairos' eloquence turn their hostility into enthusiasm, especially as Peisthetairos and Euelpides agree to let themselves be turned into birds with a magic root.

Thus commences the building of the mighty city of Cloudcuckooland (Νεφελοκοκκυγία — Nephelokokkygia), occupying the space between heaven and earth. And before you know it, the birds lay blockade to the air so the steam of humanity's sacrifices can no longer rise to Mount Olympus. Famine brings the gods to their knees, and Zeus finds it advisable to negotiate. But are the three emissaries he chooses, Poseidon, Heracles and the barbarian god Triballos, really the right men for the job?


... No.

The Trope Namer for Cloudcuckooland, though the Cloudcuckooland of The Birds is not strictly an example of the trope.

Available as a free e-book from various sources.

Not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock's film of the same name released millenia later.



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