One sunny day, a girl named Maria walked down the path. Her wavy, golden hair streaming down her back, she was walking home from school. Maria was reading a book on birds. She loved, loved, loved, loved, loved birds.
At the end of the sidewalk, Maria turned and saw an extremely large bird egg lying on the road. Curious, she pocketed it. Maria was in the habit of raising young birds if they were lost. She walked in her front door and sat down at the table to do her homework. That night, she covered the egg with a blanket and made sure it was warm. Then she fell asleep.
It was the same for a week or so, but on the 12th day the egg began to show tiny cracks. Maria watched it very carefully, until one day… “Crack!” went the egg, and a small, golden head poked out.
The baby bird had hatched, but it was like no bird Maria had ever seen. It was tannish-gold and had a white head, a very sharp beak, and very strong looking wings. Maria flipped hurriedly through her bird book, but there was nothing that looked remotely like this little creature. How would she know what to feed it? How would she know when it was mature enough to be set free? Maria decided to look in the library tomorrow for anything she could use to take care of this little creature. In the meantime she worked to restrain it from her silver watch and gold necklace.
The trip to the library was unsuccessful. She searched the entire bird section, but it failed her for the first time in her life. She finally decided to feed it on grain and other bird food until she could found out what it ate. This little creature, whatever it was, was growing like a weed. Within a month, it was the size of a toddler’s bike and was going to be as big as a baby elephant. Maria was beginning to grow fond of the odd bird, whatever his size, and named him Goldenwing.
When his wings looked strong enough, Maria began to try to show him how to fly. She pointed at the sky and walked over and moved his wings, but he didn’t seem to get the message. It was a frustrating process, since she herself could not do it, but eventually he got the hang of it.
Maria was beginning to think that this was not a bird at all, but something else. Then, one evening, she found it. Sitting in a chair at the library, reading a book about mythical creatures, she found a picture above a caption that looked just like Goldenwing. The caption said “Griffons”. She read about how they hoarded treasure (explaining the jewelry that had mysteriously disappeared since Goldenwing’s arrival), how they nested in treetops (the road she’d found Goldenwing’s egg on had been right across from the woods), and their large size. They apparently ate meat, but a diet of grain didn’t seem to have stunted Goldenwing’s growth, and their wings developed quickly.
She would never forget that night. She woke up to check on Goldenwing and told him everything she’d found out. Then he spread his wings, but did not take off. He seemed to be waiting for something. Maria stood, watching. He made a beckoning motion with his head, and slowly, Maria understood that he wanted her to climb on. She did so, and went for the most wonderful ride of her life. Lakes and forests, plains and mountains went whizzing by beneath her until finally the griffin swooped back and landed in her own back yard. She went to sleep, then, happy and content.
The next morning, however, her mother stopped her coming down the stairs and said “That griffin thing of yours is taking up too much space. Some of my best jewelry has disappeared, and soon he will eat us out of house and home. He will have to go.” Maria’s spirits sank. “No, mom, he can’t go! Goldenwing’s my pet!” Her mother’s expression did not change.
Maria dashed out the back door. “Goldenwing!” she cried, and ran to the huge griffin, now the size of small tractor. She was cut short, however, when the school bus pulled up outside, and she had to go. That afternoon, when she returned, she did her homework quickly so she could go back outside with Goldenwing. Her mother was a very stubborn woman, and her mind would not be changed when she returned that night. Goldenwing would probably have to go back to the forest the next evening.
She was correct. As she sadly walked him down to the edge of the forest as the sun sank over the horizon, the griffin seemed to know where they were going. When they got there he stopped, and gave her a look she would never forget. Those deep, deep, eyes looking into hers, Maria knew that she was doing the right thing. This creature, however much she would miss it, belonged in the wild. Goldenwing, giving one last backward glance, spread his wings and flew off over the horizon. Forever. He was back where he belonged.