Who Started the Stork Rumour?

Ever wonder why it has traditionally been a stork who delivers babies?

Why a stork? Why is a bird delivering babies at all? What is going on here?

Well, we did some research and believe that we have come up with the backstory of this fun folktale…

You see, it all started in Europe so long ago that we can’t pinpoint the origins. However, thanks to a story called The Storks written by Hans Christian Andersen in the early 19th century, the idea of Storks bringing babies has been told and retold all over the world.

Why are Storks Associated with Babies?

The migratory pattern of Storks is what started this association. In the fall, White Storks would fly south and 9 months later would return North to Europe in April or May. It’s important to note that this is approximately 9 months after the Summer Solstice–a pagan holiday traditionally celebrating marriage and fertility. Many babies were conceived around the Summer Solstice and would then be born around the time that the Storks could be spotted returning North. The association that Storks bring babies grew from there.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Storks were already associated with babies, family, commitment and fidelity in many cultures worldwide. For example: In Norse mythology, the stork represented family values and commitment to one another. In Egyptian mythology, the soul of a person—the ba—was usually represented by a stork. Storks are also represented in Chinese, Israeli, and various European cultures mythologies.

But Why Do Storks Deliver Babies?

The answer to this is simple: adults who did not want to discuss the most in-depth details of baby-making would tell children a much more PG version of events. It often went like this:

When a nice family decides that they are ready for a baby they leave small offerings of sweets on their windowsills. The sweets attract the Stork who will then bring a baby from the pond or in some cases the caves called Adeborsteins—which, in German, means “stork stone.” In other cases, “Adeborsteins” refer to the stones that the babies would ‘hatch’ from.

The Dark Side of Storks

Believe it or not, Storks have a dark side. There is an old Polish tale that talks about how God created the Stork’s white plumage while the Devil gave him black feathers on his wings, imbuing the bird with both good and evil impulses. If a Stork brought a baby to the family of a nasty little child–for instance–that baby would often be dead or near dead and the tragedy was to atone for the sins of the misbehaving child (or parents occasionally?). In Germany, a handicapped baby had been “dropped” by the stork to punish a couple for previous sins. How awful is that?

We’d love to know: Did you use the stork story to explain a new baby to your child? Tell us over on our Facebook page!

If you’d like to read more about Storks and their behaviour and habits we recommend checking out a couple of the links below.

The Jungle Store

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Easy Science for Kids

National Geographic

Planet of Birds

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