Everyone knows that the dachshund's legs are very short and that it was they themselves who
wore them down. But how the stork got its long legs, that is quite another story.
Three days before a stork delivers a baby it knocks with its red beak on the window of the
house where it will leave the child and calls out:
“Make ready a cradle,
A net for the flies,
A little colored skirt,
A white jacket,
A diaper, a cap:
The stork is coming."
Then people know what is about to happen. But now and then when the stork is very busy it
forgets to let the parents know and then there is great bustle because nothing is ready.
In the case of a poor couple who lived in the village in a little cottage the stork forgot. When
it came with the baby there was no one at home. Husband and wife were out working in the
fields and the doors and windows were all locked. There were not even stairs leading up to the
house where the stork could leave it. So it flew up onto the roof and clapped its wings until all
the people in the village came running together and an old woman ran out to the field as fast
as she could to let the parents know.
"Neighbor! Neighbor!"she called from afar, all out of breath, "For heaven’s sake! The stork is
sitting on top of your house and wants to deliver a baby. No one is there to open a window. If
you don’t come soon the stork will drop it and what a disaster that would be. Three years ago
it dropped the baby at the Miller's house and the poor thing still has a hunched back.”
The parents ran home as fast as their legs would take them and found what the stork had
brought them. When they saw the sweet little baby they were beside themselves with joy. But
the stork was angry for having to wait so long and it made up its mind never to deliver a baby
to those parents again. When they went over to thank the stork it tilted its head and looked
at them angrily, and as it was flying away it called out: "It will be late again when I get home
to my mate in the marsh. I still have twelve babies to deliver and it is so late already. Oh,
what a hard life I have!"
But because they were so overjoyed the couple never even noticed that the stork was angry.
Actually it was the stork that had caused the long delay for it had forgotten to let the couple
know in advance. As the baby grew and became cuter day by day its mother said:
"I think it would be nice if we would give our dear stork a present for bringing us such a
gorgeous child, something it would like! Do you have an idea what that might be? I can't think
"That will be difficult", replied her husband: "the stork already has everything it needs!"
But the next day he came to his wife and said:
"How would it be if I asked the carpenter to make a nice pair of stilts for the stork. It has to
move around in the marsh to catch frogs and wade into the village pond to fish out little
children. It must get wet feet very often! When it was here I heard its quacking and I thought
it sounded a bit hoarse."
"That’s a splendid idea!" answered his wife. "But the carpenter must paint the stilts a bright
red so that they go with the color of its bill!"
"Is that so? replied the husband, "do you really mean red? I thought green would be good."
"Oh my good man!" replied his wife, "What are you thinking about?" Men never know which
colors go together and what looks best. No question about it, the stilts must be red!"
Because the husband was always so understanding and always did what his wife wanted, he
ordered red stilts and when they were finished he went to the marsh and gave them to the
The stork was delighted and tried them out immediately and said: "You know, I was really
quite angry with you because you left me waiting so long. But because you are such good
people and have given me these red stilts I want to bring you a little girl. I will be coming in
four weeks time. You had better be at home when I come. But do not expect me to repeat
what I have just said. In the meantime I will not be coming to your house! Do you
"Yes, yes!" replied the husband. "We will certainly be at home. We will not cause you any
trouble this time."
When the four weeks had passed the stork came again and brought a baby girl; it was even
cuter than their son, and so now the pair was perfect. Both children were well-formed and
healthy, as were their parents, and life could not have been better.—
Now there was a rich farmer living in the village and he only had a boy but wanted to have a
baby girl, too. He was a nasty farmer and when he heard what the poor couple had done he
thought he would do the same. Without further ado he went to the carpenter and ordered a
pair of stilts, much nicer ones than those the poor couple had ordered. At the top and bottom
he had golden knobs and in the middle he wanted green and yellow and blue rings. When they
were finished they looked very special.
Then the rich farmer put on his best clothes, took the stilts under his arm and went out to the
marsh where he found the stork.
"Your humble servant, Your Grace!" he said to him and made a deep bow. "Do you mean me?"
asked the stork, standing comfortably in the water on his plain red stilts. "If it be allowed
me!" said the farmer. "Now, what do you want?" asked the stork. "I would like to have a baby
girl, and for that reason my wife took it upon herself to send Your Grace this little present. A
very modest pair of stilts.
"Well, you can go back home again as fast as you can!" answered the stork while turning on
one leg, not even looking at the farmer. "You cannot have a baby girl; and as for your stilts, I
don’t need them at all! I already have two very nice red ones, and because I use only one
most of the time I won’t be needing any others for a long while. — Besides that, your stilts
are horrible. Phooey! Those blue, green and yellow rings look silly! My wife would never be
seen with me on stilts like that.
There was nothing left for the farmer to do but to turn around and go home. As long as he
lived he never did get a baby girl.
|The White Stork Fairy Tale
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustrations: Hans von Volkmann (Son)
|Reveries at French Firesides