In the beginning, the great World Tree grew, and on each of its branches was a cone, and in each of the cones there was life. Gradually, each of the cones opened and the life within left the World Tree and went out. Each time, the World Tree offered them its wisdom, but each time the life, heady with young pride, turned them down.

The nuthatch, like all other birds, had spurned the advice of the World Tree and lived isolated and alone, always hungry and always lonely. But, unlike the others, the nuthatch came to realize its folly and returned to the World Tree, contrite, to ask for its forgiveness and its wisdom.

The World Tree was moved by the nuthatch’s humility, but it too was proud, and had been greatly wounded by the hubris its creations had earlier showed. So it offered the nuthatch a bargain: in exchange for something dear, the World Tree would give it three pieces of wisdom, timeless and immortal.

After considering the offer, the nuthatch agreed, and gave up its sweet song in exchange for what the World Tree would offer. The Tree then bestowed the three wisdoms that have since come to define the life of all nuthatches:

First, the secret to digging out homes from trees. By this wisdom, the nuthatches never needed to be cold and vulnerable again.

Second, the secret to banding together as a family unit, with siblings helping to raise their parents’ new brood. In this way, the nuthatches never needed to be lonely again.

Finally, the deepest secret of them all, one that only a handful in the world were privy to: tools. By using tools to seek for insects in the scaly bark of lesser pines, the nuthatches never needed to be hungry again.

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