Fairy Tale Friday: The Storks 

Andersen’s Fairy Tales

by H. C. Andersen

This was an old Christmas present from my mom that I re-found at the beginning of the year. It’s a lovely old book, probably from a used book store. There’s a handwritten note in it dated to June 1961. And while I have other books with a lot of the same stories, there’s something adorable about this one so I’m going through reading all them. 

The Storks (pg. 41-7)

“‘Hark! what are the boys singing? ‘ said the little storks; ‘they say we are to be hanged and burnt!'” (41).
“‘I know the pond where all the little human babies lie, til the storks fetch them'” (46).
“‘We will take both a brother and sister to him'” (47).

It begins with a cute family of storks.

Father stork might be a mite conceited for he decides that “‘I daresay they think I have orders to stand there—it looks smart!’ and so he remained standing on one leg” (41).

The little boys are cruel, even if unintentionally as they sing: “‘The first of your chicks shall be struck through the breast / The second shall hang and the third shall burn'” (41).Who sings about babies being cut and burned and hanged?  I’m glad at least one boy (Peter) isn’t taking part and isn’t a jerk.

No, you’ll be fine (to the little storks). “‘Hark! what are the boys singing? ‘ said the little storks; ‘they say we are to be hanged and burnt!'” (41). Aw, poor little storks; they’re scared: “‘But we are so frightened,’ said the young ones, burying their heads in the nest” (42).

Is this story about baby storks being scared by cruel lyrics?

Mother stork tells them that nothing will happen to them. And furthermore, they are going to learn to fly and tells them “‘you will have to fly your best, for the one who cannot fly will be run through the body by the general’s beak'” (42).Oh joy. The threat of being stabbed at not flying well enough is not helping the conflict of the baby storks. Though the part about visiting the frogs (and then eating them) was kind of amusing. Remember baby storks, be polite to your food before you eat it!

Father stork is nice. He has more personality than Mother stork. He’s playful and silly and full of himself. She is more direct, pragmatic, and a traditionalist. Okay, so writing that, maybe they’re at the same strength personality-wise.

I like how one stork is sullen about going to warmer climates. Mother stork uses the boys’ song and the babies fear of it as a threat to compel the sullen stork to keep learning to fly.

Also, the baby storks are vengeful: “‘Shall we lay down and pick out their eyes?’ asked the young ones” (44). Mother stork, being sensible, advises against it.

Ah, the baby storks really want revenge. It’s their motivation to learn to fly. The introduction of the tearing cruel lyrics is what holds up the storks motivation to fly in conjunction with them learning to fly in general.

I like that Mother stork orchestrates the revenge. Her solution rests on storks and babies as thematically viable and connected. Rather than something brutal as I feared, they only bring babies to those who did not tease them, a dead one to the boy that started it, and two to Peter, the boy who said they should stop. What’s fascinating is that it connects storks to life; they are messages of new life and if they’re displeased they’ll bring dead life.

Additionally, the idea of human babies sleeping under lakes, like lotus, before a stork plucks them out, fits into the general “stork brings babies” myth and also the the Egyptian myth of that Blue Lotus, as well as the general life of a lotus and the Nile, the storks’ summer home. It’s a nice thematic tie up.

Overall: It was a compact story about bullying, but put in a particle light by having the storks rely on qualities or skills that are unique to them (flying and dreaming babies) to set the score. So, I liked the resolution against the boys, but disliked the song lyrics. The ending had a more mysterious tone compared to the rest. As usual boys are jerks but there’s wisdom in knowing how to pick your fights.

Works Cited:

Andersen, Hans Christian. Andersen’s Fairy Tales. trans. Mrs. E. V. Lucas and Mrs. H. B. Paull. New York: Grosser & Dunlap. Print


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