The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Translated by Chi-Young Kim
Penguin Paperbacks
November 26, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-143-12320-0

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". . .captivates from the first sentence. . ."

Sun-Mi-Hwang’s South Korean classic, “The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly”, captivates from the first sentence that captures the essence of our deepest desires, motivations and sense of helplessness: “The egg rolled to a stop upon reaching the wire mesh of the coop.”

It is not surprising this thin book became an international bestseller because its tragic-love and death themes are timeless. Young readers can relate intimately with the plight of an animal, while adults connect with metaphorical messages of oppression and discrimination.

Sprout is an aging hen who yearns to hatch an egg and raise a child, but instead her usefulness has ended so the farmer and his wife toss her into a wheelbarrow, the “hell hole,” with other sick and abandoned animals. But she is rescued by Straggler, an outcast mallard with a crippled wing who is often bullied by the barnyard community.

Old and sickly Sprout is not accepted into the barnyard, so she finds shelter among the ferns and bamboo thickets in the briar patch where she discovers an abandoned egg, still warm. “You almost got into trouble little one,” she says, “I’ll keep you warm. Don’t be afraid.”

Straggler protects her at night from the marauding weasel. The mallard is a good father, the hen says, willing to give up his life for his child, which he does. Then, with Straggler gone, the hen returns with her child to the barnyard, but is shunned by the other appalled farm animals. They press Sprout to give up her child, while the farmer and wife want to clip the wing of her new duck-child. Thus Sprout begins her singular journey into a world filled with prejudices and constant fear of the weasel. Suspense mounts as Sprout and her child flee, forever searching for hiding places, their lives evolving with affection and trust, but ultimately they must accept their destiny.

Published in 2000, this book became an instant hit in South Korea. This English-language version, translated by Chi-Young Kim with graceful illustrations by Japanese designer Nomoco, can be cherished and reread numerous times.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla