True, Very True!
Hans Christian Andersen, known and loved all over the world for his immortal Fairy Tales, was born in Denmark almost exactly two hundred years ago, in 1805. Written more than a century and a half ago, his stories still retain their freshness, magic and power to entertain and amuse.
There was a Hen, with white feathers and short legs, who laid her right number of eggs, and was a respectable hen in every way. One evening, when the sun went down, the fowls jumped on their porch to roost. The Hen, as she flew up on the roost pecked herself with her beak, and a little feather fell out. 'There it goes! The more I peck myself the handsomer I grow,' she said it quite merrily, for she was a joker among the hens. Then she went to sleep.
It was dark all around; hen sat by hen, but the one that sat next to the merry Hen did not sleep. She heard what the Hen had said and couldn't refrain from telling it to her next neighbour.
'Did you hear what was said here just now? I name no names; but here is a hen who wants to peck her feathers out to look well. If I were a cockerel, I should despise her.'
And just above the Hens sat the Owl, with her husband and her little owlets; and they all heard every word that the neighbouring Hen had spoken, and they rolled their eyes, and the Mother-Owl clapped her wings and said,
'Don't listen to it! But I suppose you heard what was said there? I heard it with my own ears. There is one among the fowls who has so completely forgotten what is becoming conduct in a hen that she pulls out all her feathers, and then lets the cockerel see it.'
'Be quiet,' said the Father-Owl, ' That's not fit for the children to hear.'
'I'll tell it to the neighbour owl,' said the mother-owl flew off to her neighbour's. Then the two of them went and screeched in front of the dovecot to the doves inside. 'Have you heard it? One of the hens has plucked out all her feathers for the sake of the cockerel. She'll die with cold, if she isn't already dead.'
'Coo! Coo! Where? Where?' cried the pigeons.
'In the neighbour's poultry-yard. I've as good as seen it myself. It's hardly proper to repeat the story, but it's quite true!'
'Believe it! Believe every single word of it!' cooed the Pigeons.
In the pigeons' retelling of the story the number of featherless hens had risen to two. From the sparrows to the swallows to the bats, the story grew more and more amazing. When finally it came back to the place from which it had gone forth, it had become,
'Five fowls have plucked out all their feathers to show which of them had become thinnest out of love to the cockerel; and then they have pecked each other, and fallen down dead.'
And the Hen who had lost the little loose feather did not know her own story again; and as she was a very respectable Hen, she said,'
'What a scandal! I despise those fowls; but there are many of that sort. One ought not to hush up such a thing, and I'll get it published in the papers, and then it will be spread over all the country, and that will serve those fowls right, and their families too!'
It was put into the newspaper; and it's quite true that one little feather may swell till it becomes five fowls.
(Retold from Hans Christian Andersen)
(R) thedailystar.net 2006