Why the Bird of Peace is Dove
Once upon a time, so an Azerbaijani legend says, there were two kingdoms in Central Asia led by two kings who hated each other. For many years their enmity grew, and their armies and armories grew, and the threat of war seemed an ever-greater likelihood. One day, something happened that no one now remembers, but this forgotten event caused the hatred between the two kings to erupt and war was declared, one upon the other.
As the kings arrayed themselves for battle, one of them called for his armor and helmet, shield and spear. The king’s men-at-arms and servants went to retrieve the helmet and armor, shield and spear, but when they returned, they did not have the king’s battle gear with them.
The king demanded to know why they had disobeyed his order. None of the servants spoke until the king’s own mother stepped forward and said “I commanded them to leave your helmet and armor undisturbed.”
“For what reason do you dare to block my command?” asked the king.
His mother said, “I will show you a secret, wonderful thing, the thing that has made me defy your order.”
She took him to the royal armory where the helmet and armor, shield and spear were kept. “Behold!” said the mother of the king, and motioned to the helmet. And there within, a dove had built her nest, and there the dove sat, trembling in fright, protecting her newborn chicks.
The king, the great leader and warrior, was touched by the simple sight of a creature so small and beautiful, willing to risk everything to protect her small brood. He decided to risk his own life by entering the battle without his helmet and armor, and let the dove remain at peace on her nest.
“Perhaps,” he said, “if I foster and protect this small dove, the gods and goddesses will shelter and protect me in battle” And forth he went.
When battle was met, the opposing army rushed forth, their king at the head of his troops. He strode forth to meet his rival hand-to-hand, but stopped when he saw the other king standing before him without helmet or armor. This second king was surprised, but also secretly afeared — was this king so powerful as to need no armor? Had he enchantments of special favor of the gods and goddesses that he dared enter battle without a helmet?
So the second king called halt to his army, and shouted across the field “Why do you come for battle without aid of helmet or armor?”
“Come forth to parlay and I will tell you,” the first king replied. So both kings laid their weapons down and strode forth to talk. And the first king told the second of the dove nesting in his helmet, and how he had been so moved by the bravery of this small bird and the love that she bore her nestlings that he had left her undisturbed.
Now the second king had always believed his rival to be a great tyrant, with only cruelty and greed in his heart. And yet here was his bitter rival risking his life and kingdom for the benefit of one small dove. So moved was the second king that he laid aside his own armor and helmet, and sought peace between the kingdoms rather than war. And in this way, the dove became known throughout the land as a bird of peace.