(An American Tale)
Once upon a time, a little red hen lived in a big red barn, and there her family grew bigger and bigger. The little red hen worked hard taking care of her chicks, and she was happy. Their home was comfortable; her chicks were sweet and happy. All day long she sang.
In that barn there were other animals, and they were the hen’s friends. One was a goose, another was a pig and the third was an ox. The little red hen loved to watch her three friends play. They chased each other around the barnyard; they kicked up mud; sometimes they ran in circles; they napped in the sun. They enjoyed their lives, too.
But the little red hen did not have time for those kinds of games. She was too busy working and looking after all those chicks. She made breakfast for the little ones each morning, and she tidied their nests and tended the barn and cooked more meals and washed their feathers. Morning till night she was hard at work.
But the goose and the pig and the ox never worked at all, or so it seemed to the little red hen. And some days she wondered how they got away with being so very lazy.
One sunny summer day when the hen was outside working in the garden, scratching away for food, she found a few grains of wheat. She called to the pig who was nearby, “Friend, look here. There are 10 grains of wheat. Why don’t we plant them, and they will grow, and then we’ll have a field of wheat!”
“Let’s ask the ox what he thinks,” the pig yawned — he was very nearly asleep again, for he had eaten a large breakfast.
So the little red hen said to the ox, “Look at this, I’ve found some grains of wheat. I think we should plant them.”
“Oh, that doesn’t seem right,” the ox sighed, for he didn’t much like to do work, and planting wheat takes work. “Ask the goose if she thinks that’s a good idea.”
So the little red hen asked the goose, who said, “I can’t plant wheat. I’m very busy, can’t you see?”
The goose didn’t seem very busy, but the little red hen decided she would plant the wheat herself, and so she did.
Before too long, the wheat began to grow taller, golden and ripe. When the hen saw this, she called to the goose and the pig and the ox, “Friends, look at our wheat! Who is going to help me tend it?”
“Not I,” said the goose. “I’m far too busy.”
“So am I,” said the pig.
“Me, too,” the ox explained.
So the little red hen told her friends she would do it herself, and for the next several weeks she worked hard looking after the wheat. She watered and weeded and watched, and finally the wheat was fully ripe, and it was time to harvest.
She asked her three friends, “Who will help me harvest the wheat?”
“Oh, I can’t do that,” the goose said.
“Nor can I,” said the pig.
“Not me!” the ox whined, shaking his head.
So the hen did it herself. She pulled the scythe from the wall and held it in her beak and she used her wings to thresh the wheat, and she worked from dawn to dusk. When she had finished, she carefully put all that wheat into bags and loaded those bags onto a wagon, all by herself.
When she saw the wagon full of bags of wheat, she called to her friends, “Who will help me take this to the miller so he can grind it into flour?”
“Oh, I don’t like the miller,” said the goose.
“The miller doesn’t like me,” said the pig.
“I’m very busy,” the ox said. “I don’t have time to travel all the way to the miller’s.”
So the little red hen pulled that wagon with her beak all the way into the village. When she arrived, she went to see the miller, and she asked him to please grind her wheat.
“Happy to,” said the miller, and he ground the wheat into flour and put it in a sack. The little red hen pulled her wagon all the way home, happy as she could be, for now she could make bread for her chicks.
When she reached the barn, she cried, “Who wants to help me bake bread?”
“I don’t bake,” said the goose.
“I’m much better at cooking than baking,” the pig added.
“I’m very busy,” said the ox.
So the little red hen decided she would bake the bread herself, and before long the smell of freshly baking bread wafted through the barn and across the fields, and the little red hen called out, “Who will help me eat this bread?”
Well, the goose and the pig and the ox came running. “I will! I will! I will!” they cried.
But when they arrived, the little red hen shook her head. “I planted the wheat, and I tended it, and I harvested it, and I took it to the miller, and I traveled back home with the flour, and I baked this bread all by myself, didn’t I?”
“You did!” her friends agreed. “We’re proud of you!”
“Well, now I will eat this bread all by myself,” she said proudly.
The little red hen called to her chicks, “Come to Mama!” and all the chicks came running. They ate up all the bread, and there was nothing left for the goose and the pig and the ox.
“What kind of friend are you?” they asked the little red hen.
“A friend who values her independence!” she said proudly.
That day, the goose and the pig and the ox learned a valuable lesson about teamwork and what it means to be a friend to others. Never again did they let the little red hen do all the work by herself.