N the last house in a little village stood a stork's
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 rood, quite upright and stiff; 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 can't 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
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 afterward all of them,
sang the old verse about the Storks. But they only sang
it just as he could remember it:
"Stork, stork, long-legged stork;
Off to thy home I prithee walk.
Thy dear wife is in the nest,
Where she rocks her young to rest.
The first he will be hanged,
The second will be hit,
The third he will be shot,
And the fouth put on the spit."
"Just hear what those boys are saying!" said the little
Stork children. "They say we're to be hanged and
 "You're not to care for that!" said the Mother Stork.
"Don't listen to it, and then it won't matter."
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.
The Mother Stork comforted her children. "Don't you
mind it at all," she said. "See how quiet your father
stands, though it's only on one leg."
"We are very much afraid," said the young Storks; and
they drew their heads far back into the nest.
Now to-day, when the children came out again to play
and saw the Storks, they sang their song:
"The first he will be hanged,
The second will be hit."
"Shall we be hanged and beaten?" asked the young
"No, certainly not," replied the mother. "You shall
learn to fly; I'll exercise you; then we shall fly out
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
"And what then?" asked the young Storks.
"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 general's beak; so take care and learn well when
the exercising begins."
"But then we shall be killed, as the boys say—and
only listen, now they're singing again."
"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."
"Oh!" cried all the young ones.
"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!"
It was the snow that she meant, but she could not
explain it any other way.
"And do the naughty boys freeze to pieces?" asked the
"No, they do not 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. Oh, 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. Oh, how they tottered!
How they balanced themselves with their wings, and yet
they were nearly falling down.
"Only look at me," said the Mother. "Thus you must hold
your heads! Thus you must pitch your feet! One, two!
one, two! That's what will help you in the world."
Then she flew a little way, and the young ones made a
little clumsy leap. Bump!—there they lay, for
their bodies were too heavy.
"I will not fly!" said one of the young Storks, and
crept back into the nest. "I don't care about getting
to the warm countries."
 "Do you want to freeze to death here when the winter
comes? Are the boys to come and hang you and singe you
and roast you? Now I'll call them."
"Oh no!" cried the young Stork, and hopped out on the
roof again like the rest.
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, but—bump!—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:
"Stork, stork, long-legged stork!"
"Shall we fly down and pick their eyes out?" asked the
"No," replied the mother; "let them alone. Only listen
to me; that's 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."
"But are we not to take revenge on the rude boys?"
asked the young Storks.
"Let them scream as much as they like. You will fly up
to the clouds and get to the land of the pyramids when
they will have to shiver and not have a green leaf or a
"Yes, we will revenge ourselves!" they whispered to one
another; and then the exercising went on.
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 he
it was 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."
"Yes, you shall see!" cried the young Storks; and then
they took all imaginable pains. They practiced every
day, and flew so neatly and so lightly that it was a
pleasure to see them.
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.
"Now we will be revenged!" they said.
"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
afterward. All the 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."
"But he who began to sing—that naughty, ugly boy!"
screamed the young Storks; "what shall we do with him?"
"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 boy—you 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."
And it was done as she said; all the Storks were named
Peter, and so they are all called even now.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics