I am delighted to welcome Sophie Anderson to the blog with a special guest post as part of the blog tour for ‘The House With Chicken Legs.’ Stunningly told and superbly written this has to be one of the most accomplished debuts I have had the pleasure to read. A truly unforgettable story that will stay with me forever. Sophie has been sharing her favourite Russian Fairy Tales and what they mean to her and today we have the wonderful story of ‘The Crane and the Heron.’
The Crane and the Heron (on seizing the day)
‘Once upon a time a crane and a heron lived in a bog; they had little huts, one at each end of it …’
In this Russian fairy tale, collected and published by Alexander Afanasyev in 1855, crane grows weary of living alone and sets off to woo heron. But when he arrives and asks heron to be his wife, heron both rejects and insults him.
‘“No, crane, I will not be your wife; your legs are too long, your clothes are too short, your flying is poor, and you cannot support me. Go away, you spindleshanks!”’
And so, crane returns home upset. But later, heron changes her mind – deciding she would rather marry crane than live alone after all – and so she flies to crane and asks to be his wife.
However, crane, still upset, tells heron he doesn’t want her as a wife and demands she leaves. So, this time it is heron who flies home upset and ashamed.
Later still, crane changes his mind and flies back to heron, but she tells him to go. And then, heron changes her mind and flies back to crane, but he tells her to go.
‘“And to this very day they go to each other to propose, but never get married.”
When I first heard this story as a child I chuckled and thought how silly! Both heron and crane want the same thing, yet they stop themselves from getting it. They should just seize the day and marry!
But as I have grown older, and thought about this story more, I have come to understand and empathise with heron and crane more deeply.
From an omniscient reader’s point of view, it is easy to see heron and crane want the same thing, but this would not be obvious to heron or crane at all. Only half the time heron and crane’s words and actions reflect their desire to be together, so how can they ever be sure what the other truly wants?
If only heron and crane could communicate better …. but each time one rejects or insults the other, the upset it causes drives a wedge between them.
It can be quite an emotional experience to put yourself in heron or crane’s shoes. They are struggling with pride, rejection, hurt, shame, and loneliness. Is the togetherness they seek worth this struggle? And could they ever be truly happy together? At what point should they give up and maybe fly off to a new bog?
I still stand by my childhood conclusion that heron and crane might find happiness if they could somehow seize the day and marry. But now I understand that seizing the day is not always easy. It can involve overcoming seemingly mountainous emotions; such as fear, pride, rejection, worry, or hurt. But if we don’t learn to deal with these emotions effectively, we might end up like heron and crane …. flying back and forth over a bog forevermore, never getting what we truly want.
There is a lovely illustrated picture book of this tale, ‘The Heron and the Crane‘ written by John Yeoman and illustrated by Quentin Blake, published by Andersen.
Thank you to Sophie for stopping by the blog to share what ‘The Crane and the Heron’ means to her today.
Sophie Anderson grew up in Swansea, studied at Liverpool University, and has worked as a geologist, science teacher and text book author. Sophie was inspired to love stories by her Prussian grandmother who fled her homeland during WW2, losing her family in the process. She carried the stories, music and food of her home in her soul and brought them with her to Wales…and to her granddaughter Sophie. Growing up it was the tale of the chicken-legged house that captured Sophie’s imagination the most. She thought it would be incredible to live in a house that could take you to see new places or to visit the homelands of ancestors. Now living in the Lake District with her husband, Sophie enjoys the freedom of home schooling her three children, fell walking, canoeing, and daydreaming.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour to find out more about Sophie’s favourite Russian fairytales.
Thank you to Fritha and Usborne for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ is released on May 3rd but you can buy online now or pre-order from any good bookshop.