Colleen McCullough’s book The Thorn Birds starts out with this passage:
There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth… singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale… For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain… Or so says the legend.
In some ways, this can be applied to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, where Hassan impales himself figuratively when he takes the blame for Amir’s actions. While Hassan almost always takes the blame for Amir’s actions, usually the situation reflects small pranks that many children pull. For instance, when the two boys climb a tree and shine a light in a neighbor’s windows, it is a relatively minor offense, and Hassan takes the blame, even though the prank was Amir’s idea. However, after Hassan is assaulted in the alley, Amir can barely stand to look at Hassan, because it reminds him of his own guilt for not coming to Hassan’s defense.
As a result, Amir steals his father’s money and takes his own watch and hides them under Hassan’s pillow to implicate Hassan. To Amir’s surprise, Hassan tells Baba and Ali that he actually did steal these items. The reader and Amir know that this is untrue. The author describes the scene where Hassan and Ali come to speak to Baba:
They’d both been crying; I could tell from their red, puffed up eyes. They stood before Baba, hand in hand, and I wondered how and when I'd become capable of causing this kind of pain.
Baba came right out and asked. "Did you steal that money? Did you steal Amir's watch, Hassan?"
Hassan's reply was a single word, delivered in a thin, raspy voice: "Yes."
I flinched, like I'd been slapped. My heart sank and I almost blurted out the truth. Then I understood: This was Hassan's final sacrifice for me. If he'd said no, Baba would have believed him because we all knew Hassan never lied.
Hassan impales himself upon the sharpest spine: Amir’s lies and devious misdirection. With this, the relationships between Amir, Hassan, Baba, and Ali die, just as the thorn bird dies in the legend. However, Hassan’s spirit and conduct rise above his own agony to "outcarol the lark and the nightingale"—or, in this case, Amir’s duplicity. This very sad situation bought out the best in Hassan “at the cost of great pain.” Subsequently, Ali and Hassan leave Baba’s house, and they are never reunited as the “family” they once were.