What’s That About The Stork?

By Nicolette Ferreira

Whats That About The StorksImages of long-legged, delicate storks delivering babies in tied-up little bundles have been associated with babies and birth for years. This idea originates from European culture and has found its way into most of what is perceived to be Western Society. So what, exactly, lies behind the myth of the stork?

In Scandinavia, where the story is believed to have originated, when parents needed a convenient explanation for how babies arrived, they told the story of a stork delivering new bundles of joy down the chimney. You see, storks often made nests in chimneys. They originally nested in trees, but had to adapt to human activity and therefore rooftops and chimneys became their most common nesting places (and aren’t chimneys just the perfect, accessible entrance into a house for both Santa and babies!?)

Internet searches show that people from both the Netherlands and Rome also saw it as a good omen or a blessing if a stork built his nest on your roof. Aristotle apparently went as far as declaring the killing of storks a crime! In Germany, storks are also considered to be bringers of good fortune. Here they are often referred to as ‘adebar’, which means ‘luck-bringer’.

Another interesting story is that some believed that a stork could cause a woman to become pregnant just by looking at her! (Anyone care to try this? That is if you can find a stork!)

The tale of storks delivering babies was promoted by the writings of Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. In 1838, his fairy tale, ‘The Storks’, was published. In this story, children are playing in the street when they see a flock of storks. One of the cheekiest boys starts singing a song about them and soon the other children joined in. The young storks said to each other: “Just hear what those boys are singing… they say we shall be hanged and roasted…”

The mother stork then thinks of a way to take revenge: “I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game of the storks.” There was also a little boy in the tale who told the naughty boy that it was a shame to laugh at animals. To him the storks gave both a little brother and sister.

It followed that the famous author imprinted the stork folklore in the nation’s minds! There are probably few parents in South African culture who tell their children that the stork delivers babies, but should you one day feel you don’t have the stomach yet for ‘the big discussion’, this could make a handy explanation! Just make sure babba doesn’t go to school one day, still thinking he was dropped down the chimney!!




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