The other day I started reading The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly written by a Korean author, Sun-mi Hwang. I heard a lot about this book a while ago and it sounded beautiful so I have been eager to read it. It’s a simple story about a hen, who is rather different from her peers. She wants to lay an egg and to see it hatch, to have her own baby and to watch it grow. But she is unable to lay eggs and is sent out to die by the farmer and farmer’s wife. She survives and as fate has it, she ends up finding happiness in the most unexpected places.
The story is simple, and yet I think part of the beauty is this simplicity. It’s a story that I think could be enjoyed and appreciated at any age, with several ways of interpreting the story and the people in it. For me, the story is about motherhood, about being different, and about overcoming hardships. The hen, Sprout as she has named herself, is strong willed and she starts to question things around her even as everyone around her is taking things at face value, not noticing what is right under their noses. She is unique, and she ultimately refuses to change just to please others.
I don’t really know how to talk about the book because it’s very short, only 134 pages in my copy. The writing is rather straight-forward, it is simple – sort of like a fairy tale. But as I have already pointed out, there’s room for interpretation in that simplicity that for some readers could make this book especially poignant. For me, this was the case. I teared up more than once while reading and felt sad for Sprout especially but not her alone.
Actually this book reminded me of one of my absolute favorite books (and characters) as a child – Mamma Mu (Swedish). Mamma Mu is a cow who wants to do things humans do – like riding a bike, or play on a swing. The other cows thinks she’s weird but she went about her way, decided that what she wanted to do, she was going to do. Sprout is similarly determined to not be walked over. I think you can also sort of tell part of the cultural values of the author’s homeland – in politeness, and pride, and such things. That might be just me. But overall I feel like this is a story that is universal which is why I think a lot of people – especially children, could enjoy this.