The Eagle and The Falconer

The description of the relationship between “The Eagle and The Falconer” is one way of examining relationship problems – in particular faithfulness and jealousy, monogamy, potential separation and the ambivalence which exists between the desire for freedom and emotional ties – from the perspective of a curious onlooker.

High up on the Potzberg mountain is a birds of prey centre which puts on daily shows between spring and autumn, featuring eagles, falcons and vultures. Some of the people who watch the shows ask, “Isn’t it cruel to keep these magnificent birds imprisoned here when they would rather be free?” In response, the falconer answers, “No one who hunts with an eagle can keep him captive – if the eagle decides not to come back from a flight, no one can stop him. An eagle only decides to come back if he thinks that he’s better off living with humans than being free. Strictly speaking he’s already free, because he can decide every day whether to stay or go – but the eagle loves his human and regards him as a partner, and not just a hunting partner, but a marriage partner, if we can speak of such things in relation to birds; a partner in everything, from hunting and everyday life through to rearing chicks… Eagles are long-term monogamists, and become very jealous if they see other birds of prey together with their human, to the point that they will drive off their rivals. The eagle and his falconer are therefore married in a sense, but the eagle can get a divorce whenever he wants one. Now and again an eagle does fly away and never returns, but this is a rare occurrence. In some cases a human must also leave an eagle because he is at risk from the magnificent creature, but this too is rare. If neither of these exceptional situations occur, the eagle and the falconer will stick together through good times and bad alike…”

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