Hans Christian Andersen. (18051875) Tales. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
ON the last house in a little village stood a storks nest. The Mother Stork sat in it with her four young ones, who stretched out their heads with the pointed black beaks, for their beaks had not yet turned red. A little way off stood the Father Stork, all alone on the ridge of the roof, quite upright and stiff; he had drawn up one of his legs, so as not to be quite idle while he stood sentry. One would have thought he had been carved out of wood, so still did he stand. He thought, It must look very grand, that my wife has a sentry standing by her nest. They cant tell that it is her husband. They certainly think I have been commanded to stand here. That looks so aristocratic! And he went on standing on one leg.
Below in the street a whole crowd of children were playing; and when they caught sight of the Storks, one of the boldest of the boys, and afterwards all of them, sang the old verse about the Storks. But they only sang it just as he could remember it:
But the boys went on singing, and pointed at the Storks mockingly with their fingers; only one boy, whose name was Peter, declared that it was a sin to make a jest of animals, and he would not join in it at all.
No, certainly not, replied the mother. You shall learn to fly; Ill exercise you; then we shall fly into the meadows and pay a visit to the frogs; they will bow before us in the water, and sing Co-ax! co-ax! and then we shall eat them up. That will be a real pleasure.
Then all the Storks will assemble, all that are here in the whole country, and the autumn exercises begin: then one must fly well, for that is highly important, for whoever cannot fly properly will be thrust dead by the generals beak; so take care and learn well when the exercising begins.
Listen to me, and not to them, said the Mother Stork. After the great review we shall fly away to the warm countries, far away from here, over mountains and forests. We shall fly to Egypt, where there are three covered houses of stone, which curl in a point and tower above the clouds; they are called pyramids, and are older than a stork can imagine. There is a river in that country which runs out of its bed, and then all the land is turned to mud. One walks about in the mud, and eats frogs.
Yes! It is glorious there! One does nothing all day long but eat; and while we are so comfortable over there, here there is not a green leaf on the trees; here it is so cold that the clouds freeze to pieces, and fall down in little white rags!
No, they dont freeze to pieces; but they are not far from it, and must sit in the dark room and cower. You, on the other hand, can fly about in foreign lands, where there are flowers, and the sun shines warm.
Now some time had elapsed, and the nestlings had grown so large that they could stand upright in the nest and look far around; and the Father Stork came every day with delicious frogs, little snakes, and all kinds of stork-dainties as he found them. O! it looked funny when he performed feats before them. He laid his head quite back upon his tail, and clapped with his beak as if he had been a little clapper; and then he told them stories, all about the marshes.
Listen! now you must learn to fly, said the Mother Stork one day; and all the four young ones had to go out on the ridge of the roof. O, how they tottered! how they balanced themselves with their wings, and yet they were nearly falling down.
On the third day they could actually fly a little, and then they thought they could also soar and hover in the air. They tried it, butbump!down they tumbled, and they had to shoot their wings again quickly enough. Now the boys came into the street again and sang their song,
No, replied the mother, let them alone. Only listen to me; thats far more important. One, two, three!now we fly round to the right. One, two, three!now to the left round the chimney! See, that was very good! the last kick with the feet was so neat and correct that you shall have permission to-morrow to fly with me to the marsh! Several nice Stork families go there with their young: show them that mine are the nicest, and that you can start proudly; that looks well, and will get you consideration.
Among all the boys down in the street, the one most bent upon singing the teasing song was he who had begun it, and he was quite a little boy. He could hardly be more than six years old. The young Storks certainly thought he was a hundred, for he was much bigger than their mother and father; and how should they know how old children and grown-up people can be! Their revenge was to come upon this boy, for it was he who had begun, and he always kept on. The young Storks were very angry; and as they grew bigger they were less inclined to bear it: at last their mother had to promise them that they should be revenged, but not till the last day of their stay.
We must first see how you behave at the grand review. If you get through badly, so that the general stabs you through the chest with his beak, the boys will be right, at least in one way. Let us see.
Now the autumn came on; all the Storks began to assemble, to fly away to the warm countries while it is winter here. That was a review. They had to fly over forests and villages, to show how well they could soar, for it was a long journey they had before them. The young Storks did their parts so well that they got as a mark, Remarkably well, with frogs and snakes. That was the highest mark; and they might eat the frogs and snakes; and that is what they did.
Yes, certainly! said the Mother Stork. What I have thought of will be the best. I know the pond in which all the little mortals lie till the stork comes and brings them to their parents. The pretty little babies lie there and dream so sweetly as they never dream afterwards. All parents are glad to have such a child, and all children want to have a sister or a brother. Now we will fly to the pond, and bring one for each of the children who have not sung the naughty song and laughed at the Storks.
There is a little dead child in the pond, one that has dreamed itself to death; we will bring that for him. Then he will cry because we have brought him a little dead brother. But that good boyyou have not forgotten him, the one who said, It is wrong to laugh at animals!for him we will bring a brother and a sister too. And as his name is Peter, all of you shall be called Peter too.