The Parable of the Eagle

parable of the eagle

The Parable of the Eagle, written by James Aggrey is a favorite of mine. It’s a story I often tell at the beginning of my seminars.

Once upon a time, while walking through the forest, a certain man found a young eagle. He took it home and put it in his barnyard where it soon learned to eat chicken feed and to behave as chickens behave.

One day, a naturalist who was passing by inquired of the owner why it was that an eagle, the king of all birds, should be confined to live in the barnyard with the chickens.

“Since I have given it chicken feed and trained it to be a chicken, it has never learned to fly,” replied the owner. “It behaves as chickens behave, so it is no longer an eagle.”

“Still,” insisted the naturalist, “it has the heart of an eagle and can surely be taught to fly.”

The Naturalist Encourages the Eagle to Fly

After talking it over, the two men agreed to find out whether this was possible. Gently the naturalist took the eagle in his arms and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”

The eagle, however, was confused; he did not know who he was, and seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again.

Undismayed, the naturalist took the eagle on the following day, up on the roof of the house, and urged him again, “You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly.” But the eagle was afraid of his unknown self and world and jumped down once more for the chicken food.

A Trek up the Mountain

On the third day the naturalist rose early and took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There, he held the king of birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, “You are an eagle. You belong to the sky as well as the earth. Stretch forth your wings now, and fly.”

The eagle looked around, back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Still he did not fly. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun. The eagle began to tremble and slowly stretched his wings. At last, with a triumphant cry, he soared away into the heavens.

It may be that the eagle still remembers the chickens with nostalgia; it may even be that he occasionally revisits the barnyard. But as far as anyone knows, he has never returned to lead the life of a chicken. He was an eagle though he had been kept and tamed as a chicken.

Deciding in Favor of Your Potential

Just like the eagle, people who have learned to think of themselves as something they aren’t can re-decide in favor of their real potential. They can become winners.



  1. Mary

    Sadly, I see myself when I read this parable. I don’t know how I got here, but I live in fear. I doubt my abilities, and continue to deny my self worth. The decision is easy, putting it into action, staying focused and avoiding self sabotage is where the work is.

    • Roger Allen

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your honest comment. Sorry to hear you live in fear and fail to trust your abilities and self-worth. Not a fun way to live. As you say, the self-sabotage is where the work is. Are you aware of those moments when you sabotage yourself? Change begins with awareness, seeing the pattern as it happens. Are you then willing to make a new choice, not a once-and-for-all choice, but a new choice in that moment? Sometimes we need support to do this. We need a trusted other(s) who can be our alter-ego, who see our good and can reinforce that message.


    • John Linus Ekpah

      In the words of the great Greek Philosopher, Socrates, “Man know thyself”; “An unexamined Life isn’t worth living”. I totally agree.
      Thanks immensely for this insightful article.
      Within each and every one of us lies unlimited great potential and abilities. But little do we ever harness it due to fear. May God provide us with great enfouragers like the naturalist to always open our eyes to be and live our true Self. All to the glory of God our creator.
      God bless you exceedingly.
      John Linus Ekpah (Nigeria).

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  6. CaitlinMDandrea

    Great post. I am going through some of these issues as well..

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  8. Clifford

    I read this on a freshman college english lit textbook more than a decade ago. I still remember it. One of the best stories ever.

    Thank you Mr. Roger K. Allen.

    • Roger Allen

      Thanks, Clifford. It is an inspiring story.


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