The Farmyard Cock and the Weathercock by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE were once two cocks; one of them stood on a dunghill, the
other on the roof. Both were conceited, but the question is, Which of
the two was the more useful?
A wooden partition divided the poultry yard from another yard, in
which lay a heap of manure sheltering a cucumber bed. In this bed grew
a large cucumber, which was fully aware that it was a plant that should
be reared in a hotbed.
It is the privilege of birth, said the Cucumber to itself. All
cannot be born cucumbers; there must be other kinds as well. The fowls,
the ducks, and the cattle in the next yard are all different creatures,
and there is the yard cockI can look up to him when he is on the
wooden partition. He is certainly of much greater importance than the
weathercock, who is so highly placed, and who can't even creak, much
less crowbesides, he has neither hens nor chickens, and thinks only
of himself, and perspires verdigris. But the yard cock is something
like a cock. His gait is like a dance, and his crowing is music, and
wherever he goes it is instantly known. What a trumpeter he is! If he
would only come in here! Even if he were to eat me up, stalk and all,
it would be a pleasant death. So said the Cucumber.
During the night the weather became very bad; hens, chickens, and
even the cock himself sought shelter. The wind blew down with a crash
the partition between the two yards, and the tiles came tumbling from
the roof, but the weathercock stood firm. He did not even turn round;
in fact, he could not, although he was fresh and newly cast. He had
been born full grown and did not at all resemble the birds, such as the
sparrows and swallows, that fly beneath the vault of heaven. He
despised them and looked upon them as little twittering birds that were
made only to sing. The pigeons, he admitted, were large and shone in
the sun like mother-of-pearl. They somewhat resembled weathercocks, but
were fat and stupid and thought only of stuffing themselves with food.
Besides, said the weathercock, they are very tiresome things to
The birds of passage often paid a visit to the weathercock and told
him tales of foreign lands, of large flocks passing through the air,
and of encounters with robbers and birds of prey. These were very
interesting when heard for the first time, but the weathercock knew the
birds always repeated themselves, and that made it tedious to listen.
They are tedious, and so is every one else, said he; there is no
one fit to associate with. One and all of them are wearisome and
stupid. The whole world is worth nothingit is made up of stupidity.
The weathercock was what is called lofty, and that quality alone
would have made him interesting in the eyes of the Cucumber, had she
known it. But she had eyes only for the yard cock, who had actually
made his appearance in her yard; for the violence of the storm had
passed, but the wind had blown down the wooden palings.
What do you think of that for crowing? asked the yard cock of his
hens and chickens. It was rather rough, and wanted elegance, but they
did not say so, as they stepped upon the dunghill while the cock
strutted about as if he had been a knight. Garden plant, he cried to
the Cucumber. She heard the words with deep feeling, for they showed
that he understood who she was, and she forgot that he was pecking at
her and eating her upa happy death!
Then the hens came running up, and the chickens followed, for where
one runs the rest run also. They clucked and chirped and looked at the
cock and were proud that they belonged to him. Cock-a-doodle-doo!
crowed he; the chickens in the poultry yard will grow to be large
fowls if I make my voice heard in the world.
And the hens and chickens clucked and chirped, and the cock told
them a great piece of news. A cock can lay an egg, he said. And what
do you think is in that egg? In that egg lies a basilisk. No one can
endure the sight of a basilisk. Men know my power, and now you know
what I am capable of, also, and what a renowned bird I am. And with
this the yard cock flapped his wings, erected his comb, and crowed
again, till all the hens and chickens trembled; but they were proud
that one of their race should be of such renown in the world. They
clucked and they chirped so that the weathercock heard it; he had heard
it all, but had not stirred.
It's all stupid stuff, said a voice within the weathercock. The
yard cock does not lay eggs any more than I do, and I am too lazy. I
could lay a wind egg if I liked, but the world is not worth a wind egg.
And now I don't intend to sit here any longer.
With that, the weathercock broke off and fell into the yard. He did
not kill the yard cock, although the hens said he intended to do so.
And what does the moral say? Better to crow than to be vainglorious
and break down at last.