Two storks photographed in Eastern Europe in 2011.

"The Storks" (Danish: "Storkene") is a short fantasy story for children by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was fist published on October 19, 1839, along with "The Flying Trunk" and "The Garden of Paradise", in the anthology Fairy Tales Told for Children, New Collection, Second Booklet, 1839.

The story concerns four young storks who are taunted by a group of small boys. The boys sing a song about killing storks, which greatly distresses the young birds. As the young storks grow older, they develop a desire to get back at the boys who have mocked them. Their mother tells them of an unusual way in which they can take their revenge.


Anne Anderson04

The naughty boys mock the storks by singing a rude song. Early 20th century illustration by Anne Anderson.

A family of storks nest on the roof of the last house at the edge of a small town. The family is made up of the father, the mother and four young storks. A group of small boys are playing nearby and notice the storks. One of the boys starts to sing an old song, the lyrics of which are about killing storks by hanging them, burning them, cooking them on a spit and drowning them. Some of the other boys do not join in singing the song. One boy called Peter says that it is very wrong to make fun of animals in such a manner. Many of the other boys, however, do join in with the singing of the song and point at the storks as they sing it. The four young storks become scared when they hear the song. Their mother tells them that the boys will not really harm them and that they have no reason to be afraid.

The following day, the boys gather again and continue to taunt the young storks by singing the old song. The mother stork tries to comfort her four sons. She tells them that they will soon fly away to spend the winter in Egypt. They will be happy in a warm country while the naughty boys will remain behind in the cold and snow. However, the mother stork warns her sons that they will need to learn to fly well first. Before they fly to Egypt, all the storks in the area will gather for an autumnal exercise. At the autumnal exercise, the general stork will punish all storks who fly very badly by stabbing them to death with his beak.

Page facing 170 of Andersen's fairy tales (Robinson)

The good boy Peter is rewarded by being given both a brother and a sister. 1913 illustration by William Heath Robinson.

Time passes. The four young storks learn to fly. The bad boys continue to taunt the storks. The boy who first sang the old song is especially keen to continue singing it and to continue mocking the birds. The young storks become increasingly angry with the rude boys. One of the young birds suggests flying down to peck out the boys' eyes. Their mother tells them that they will be able to take revenge on the boys in a different way but only if they fly well at the autumnal exercise.

At the autumnal exercise, the four young storks fly so well that they are rewarded by being given frogs and snakes to eat. Their mother then tells them how they can have their revenge on the boys who mocked them. The mother stork knows the location of the pool where unborn babies lie dreaming until storks deliver them to people's houses. According to the mother stork, all children want to have a new brother or sister. All of the boys who did not sing the song will be rewarded by having a new brother or sister brought to their homes. All of the boys who sang the song will not get a new sibling. The first boy to sing the old song will receive a special punishment. One of the unborn babies in the pool is already dead. That baby will be delivered to the bad boy's house. As a special reward, Peter, the boy who said that it was wrong to tease animals, will be given both a brother and a sister. The mother stork also tells her four sons that they will henceforth also be called Peter. All storks are now named Peter in honor of that good boy.

See also

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