There is this stupid story that goes around which some people still persist in telling the children. When a little kid asks where babies come from some adult says that a stork brings the baby. It’s not true people. The stork does not bring the baby, but that doesn’t mean people persist in trying to keep the facts of life away from their children. This story published by Hans in 1838 illustrates this very fact.
Once upon a time there was a nest of storks. The mother bird sat with her four babies, while the father bird stood proud like a sentinel or a guard. He was proud of his family.
There were some children looking up at the storks’ nest one day and they made up a song. No one really knew the words so they just kind of made it up as they went along. This is what they sang.
“Stork, stork, fly away
Stand not on one leg, I pray,
See your wife is in her nest,
With her little ones at rest.
They will hang one,
And fry another;
They will shoot a third,
And roast his brother.”
The young storks were not happy about this. They thought it was rather rude that the boys were singing this about them. The mom told them to ignore the little boys, but the little storks persisted. Only one boy out of the group, named Peter, thought it was a terrible idea to make fun of the storks and he had told the other boys to stop. The little boys sang the song again the next day, and the little storks were again ticked off. The little storks asked their mother if they would be hanged and roasted and she told them they would not. She would teach them to fly and then they were perform military maneuvers, because there is a stork military apparently.
The mother stork assured her children that they would do well in the drill and after that they would fly to Egypt for the winter. There it would be warm and there would be plenty to eat because of the great Nile river which flooded its banks every year and left the land marshy and full of frogs and snakes. The little storks did learn to fly very well. They practiced their drills over and over again. They even received special awards after the military drills were complete, but still they wanted revenge against the little boys that prophesied their deaths. They wanted to pick the eyes of the children out, but their mother told them it was not a good idea.
Mama stork finally promised that the little storks could have their revenge, probably just to keep them quiet for five minutes. She said she knew the pond where all the babies waited until storks came to take them to their new families. Mama stork said that the babies stayed there dreaming until they were taken away to start their new lives. To the good children they would bring good babies for younger siblings. To the bad children who made up the awful song, they would bring dead babies. There were babies there who dreamed themselves to death and Mama stork proposed that these babies be taken to the naughty children. She said they must remember the one good boy though, Peter, he would get a little brother and a little sister for being good.
As an homage to the goodness of Peter all storks are now called Peter.
I’ve never met a stork called Peter. I’ve never met a stork for that matter. Storks aren’t exactly animals you see flying around all the time. The name Peter is from the Greek Πετρος, meaning “rock.” You have to think of Simon Peter from the Bible whom Jesus called his rock. St. Peter is probably the most renowned Peter that people are named after. Why you would call a stork Peter I really don’t know.
This whole stupid thing evolved because some parent didn’t want to explain to their kid that babies came out of their mothers, but we do have to consider that maybe the parents didn’t really know how it happened. They probably knew that sex led the pregnancy, but maybe they didn’t know all the mechanics and biology of the whole thing. This story was published in 1838 and while the medical world had gotten fairly advanced by this point, as compared the others, the medical profession was still a bit of a mystery. People knew that a body did XYZ, but they didn’t necessarily know why a body did XYZ.
So for parents of all those inquisitive children out there, maybe they really and truly did not have an answer to all the persistent “whys.” When the children asked why the baby grew within its mother, perhaps the parents were like, “Beats me, a stork brings a baby.”
This story is a bit cruel. First of all, this is something I omitted from my summary, the mother tells the baby storks that if they do bad during the military drills, the commanding stork will drive his bill into their chests and kill them. Good Lord, what kind of a military is this?! Well, soldier, you mis-stepped while we were doing the drill, where’s my gun? If that were the case, there wouldn’t be a military left because everyone screws up every once in a while. Then the song these kids sing is kind of mean, but then these storks want to peck people’s eyes out. Do they know Alfred Hitchcock or something? Then the story starts talking about dead babies who dreamed themselves to death and bringing dead babies to families as revenge. Man, Hans must have been depressed when he wrote this story, depressed and mad at the world.
This story is about babies and child-rearing to an extent. This mother promises her children something she probably shouldn’t have promised them, probably to get them to shut up, but then again, maybe she’s just like a Tiger mom. She’ll do whatever it takes to get her kids out front. If that means teaching them military drills and helping them get revenge upon people who bullied them, then so be it.
The storks are the messengers who bring babies to families. From this story we gather that individual storks pick what baby goes to whom. So if the stork doesn’t like you for some reason, you’re getting a dead baby or a bad baby, whatever. Looking deeper into this, this story is basically saying that if you have a miscarriage or a stillbirth it means you did something to cause it, or perhaps someone in your family did. This story says nothing of the mothers who will suffer because of this decision. The little boys who were bad caused their mothers to end up with dead babies. So who caused the little boys to be bad? Was it perhaps that their mothers were too lax in their parenting and the little boys ended up bad, so it was just the mother’s fault all around? Her boys were bad because of her bad parenting so the fact that her son’s misbehavior caused her to have a stillbirth or a miscarriage is her own fault, if you want to look at it that way anyway.
Look here people, there used to be this trend to blame the woman for everything. There even used to be this idea going around that a baby in the womb wasn’t human and was only a homunculus until the father stepped in and provided his sperm, otherwise the thing would just be non-human. People have given women a heck of a lot of blame for things they can’t control. Oh, Eve gave Adam the fruit! Oh my gosh! Well, you know what, he didn’t have to eat it. He has his own will. He didn’t have to be like, mmm food, don’t care what it is, I’m going to eat it. Oh, it’s my wife’s fault that we keep having girls instead of boys, yeah, totally not the woman’s fault you jerk.
This story has this blaming attitude. The idea is that it’s somebody’s fault, when in reality, it’s nobody’s fault. It’s not the kid’s fault that he gets a dead brother or sister. It’s not the mom’s fault. It’s nobody’s fault; it happens. Now, on the other hand, if the mom was all like, “Mmm Jack Daniels and cocaine. I love Jack Daniels and cocaine when I’m pregnant,” then, yeah, maybe it’s her fault that her baby was stillborn.
Two opposing ideas of parenting are presented in this story, not outright, but they’re there. The mother stork is very hardcore with her children and quite strict. Why would these little storks be talking of revenge if they hadn’t heard one of their parents speaking of it? They probably developed this attitude from watching and listening to their parents. The mother stork raised her babies to realize that they were always in the right and they could get revenge, but they should be crafty and cold about it, not rash.
The little boys, on the other hand, are just being little boys. Trust me, I have three younger brothers, they said awful things just like the boys in this story all the time. They are boys; boys do junk like that no matter how you raise them. The feeling of this story is that even though people know boys act in this manner, is that you are reflected upon poorly if your children act in this manner and you deserve punishment. The story doesn’t mention the mothers of these boys at all, but you know they’re suffering. They already have these boys who get into all kinds of trouble and on top of it they get a stillborn child.
That crying kid in the restaurant is not a result of bad parenting; it’s a result of the crying kid being a kid. All children do stuff like that. Just because you look across a restaurant and see a crying baby, doesn’t mean the baby is crying because its parents are awful parents; it just means it’s a baby and the same exact darn thing will happen to you if you ever have children. The parents do not deserve your criticism over something that is normal. Capisce?
You know what, just explain to your children where babies really come from and you’ll get around this whole thing.
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Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian