The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – Sun-mi Hwang

November 1, 2019 § Leave a comment

First published in Korean in 2000
Translated into English by Chi-Young Kim in 2013
Wonderfully illustrated by Nomoco


Sprout is a hen who lives in a coop, right next to the barnyard. She is an egg-laying hen, has never left the coop, and is longing for the day when she gets to lay an egg, watch it hatch, and take care of her own baby.

Sprout wants to be a mother.

But it’s tough for a hen who’s only raised for her eggs. Tough because the eggs she lays will never hatch. Tough because she will never really be let out of the coop. Tough because she can never really be a mother.

These thoughts depress her to such an extent that she refuses to eat, is unable to sleep, and one day, even the single egg that she manages to lay is not fully formed. Her very existence has come into question. The farmer and his wife decide that this is it for Sprout—if she cannot lay eggs any longer, then there’s simply no more space for her in the coop.

It’s a harsh reality, but Sprout somehow manages to turn it around. Thanks to a mallard duck called Straggler, Sprout comes out of a near-death experience, and decides that she will live the way she wants to live, free from the coop, free from the awful barnyard animals.

But freedom comes at a price—she is now constantly on the look-out for the one animal that could not only take away her freedom, but also her life: the weasel.

This feels like such a simple book, such a simple story, and yet there are certain dynamics within it that scream at you from the most unexpected places. There are complexities that are so intricately woven into Sprout’s life that I did not notice them until some time had passed after I finished the last pages of the book.

Who knew a story about a hen could be so profound?

Because, the way I see it, life is life no matter. There will be fears to overcome, challenges to face up to, criticisms to sidestep, disappointments to get over, tears to dry. And every step is an achievement in itself, in that it was a step, there was action, and things will happen.

Life unfolds the way it does. We live the way we do. And we are stronger for it.

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