The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang is a short tale from Korea that heralds back to the fables of our youth but with all the adult themes of an Orwellian novel. It is an intense and emotional story of loss and hope, the likes of which have not been written of in longer more adult books.
It is the story of Sprout, a egg laying hen who desires to raise a chick of her own. Unfortunately her existence is to lay the eggs that are gathered. The eggs slip directly into a chute and are carted away by the farmer.
“…Sprout was an egg-laying hen, which meant she was raised for her eggs. She had come to the coop over a year before. Since then, all she had done was lay eggs. She couldn’t wander around, flap her wings, or even sit on her own eggs. She had never stepped outside the coop. But ever since she had seen a hen running around the yard with the adorable chicks she had hatched, Sprout had harbored a secret desire-to hatch an egg and watch the birth of her chick. But it was an impossible dream…”
Sprout decides that she cannot lay another egg. She cannot see another one of hers disappear from her. She refuses to eat and is then tossed into the refuse to die. Here she is saved by an outcast duck and together they begin a journey of hope and desperation played out in the barnyard and surrounding countryside.
I won’t reveal much else about the story. There are layers upon layers of morality issues involved in the telling of this small tale. The desire of Sprout to be a mother is the powerful overriding theme. I understand in today’s society that rejects motherhood as being something to aspire to; as being a step backward, that this fable may be fearful. But there is a big difference between choosing not to have a child and having that choice taken from you.
Sprout’s rejection by all the other animals of the barnyard once she breaks free is also telling. She is a pariah because of her desire to not accept her place in the hierarchy of the barnyard. Her desire to be more than what this small group or society demands that she be causes her to be alienated and in some instances abused by those she thought would embrace her.
Sprout’s journey and eventual opportunity to realize her dream comes in the end at a great price. A price she is more than willing to embrace.
This little hen is brave and strong in the face of overwhelming adversity. There is a great amount of hope in this little tale as well as the sadness of the story.
It is one, as a parent, you may wish to read to your child, after some careful editing.
A very good read.
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