Wu, whose livelihood was on the fields along the Dan River(丹徒江), arrived at the river island in the winter of the eighteenth year of the Qianlong era(乾隆十八年).
Upon reaching the island, he began collecting rent and laid out the harvested rice in the open. A flock of crows gathered to feast on the rice, and Wu, grabbing a clump of soil, chased them away. He struck one crow mid-flight, and it fell to the ground mute for a moment before recovering and flying off.
When Wu returned home after dinner, he suddenly heard the sound of wind and rain. Opening the door to look outside, he found the sky pitch black, and heavy rain poured down. He hurried inside, only to discover that his clothes were entirely white, stained with crow droppings.
Wu recalled the saying that being fouled by bird droppings was inauspicious. Was this an omen of impending death? From then on, he suffered from a mysterious illness characterized by twitching limbs and difficulty moving. He couldn’t rise or lie down easily, and he couldn’t feed himself. He needed assistance with eating and drinking, enduring great suffering. However, his mind remained clear. Wu wondered if the crows had cursed him for chasing them away and decided to appeal to the gods. Yet, despite these thoughts, he couldn’t bring himself to write a formal complaint.
One night, as he lay in bed, Wu dreamt of writing a complaint on yellow paper and planning to submit it to the City God’s Temple(城隍廟). Suddenly, two black clouds descended from the sky, transforming into a young man dressed in dark clothing. Another person followed, holding a black umbrella.
The young man bowed to Wu and said, ‘The one you struck before was not a crow but the Crown Prince of Crows(烏頭太子). Because you offended him, you now suffer from this illness. If you accuse him again, the consequences will be even more severe. It’s better to offer wine and food as an apology to the Crown Prince; it will ensure your safety.’
Wu, however, refused and angrily declared. ‘He ate my rice and unjustly cursed me. I will report him!’
Shortly after, two more black clouds descended from the sky, turning into young men with black hats and cloaks. One of them asked Wu, ‘Do you want to accuse the Crown Prince of Crows? What charges do you plan to bring?’
Wu showed them the complaint.
The young man responded, ‘You mistakenly struck the Crown Prince, causing your illness. Now that you understand the error, I will intercede for you with the Crown Prince. You will be restored to your former state without the need for accusations.’
He took the complaint and flew away.
Wu abruptly woke up. From that moment, his ailment gradually improved, and two months later, he was completely healed.
Original text of 《烏頭太子》 in the 22nd Chapter of 《子不語》: