It's Quite True!
By Hans Christian Andersen
' That is a terrible affair ! ' said a Hen ;
and she said it in a quarter of the town
where the occurrence had not happened. '
That is a terrible affair in the poultry
-house. I cannot sleep alone to-night ! It
is quite fortunate that there are many of us
on the roost together ! ' And she
told a tale at which the feathers of the
other birds stood on end, and the cock's
comb fell down flat. It 's quite true !
But we will begin at the beginning ; and
that was in a poultry-house in another part
of the town. The sun went down, and the
fowls jumped up on their perch to roost.
There was a Hen, with white feathers and
short legs, who laid her right number of
eggs, and was a respectable hen
in every way ; as she flew up on to the
roost she pecked herself with her beak, and
a little feather fell out.
' There it goes ! ' said she ; ' the more I
peck myself the handsomer I grow ! ' And she
said it quite merrily, for she was a joker
among the hens, though, as I have said, she
was very respectable ; and then she went to
It was dark all around ; hen sat by hen, but
the one that sat next to the merry Hen did
not sleep : she heard and she didn't hear,
as one should do in this world if one wishes
to live in quiet ; but she could not refrain
from telling it to her next neighbour.
' Did you hear what was said here just now ?
I name no names ; but here is a hen who
wants to peck her feathers out to look well.
If I were a cock I should despise her.'
And just above the Hens sat the Owl, with
her husband and her little owlets ; the
family had sharp ears, and they all heard
every word that the neighbouring Hen had
spoken, and they rolled their eyes, and the
Mother-Owl clapped her wings and said,
' Don't listen to it ! But I suppose you
heard what was said there ? I heard it with
my own ears, and one must hear much before
one's ears fall off. There is one among the
fowls who has so completely forgotten what
is becoming conduct in a hen that she pulls
out all her feathers, and
then lets the cock see her.'
Prenez garde aux enfants,' said the
Father-Owl. ' That 's not fit for the
children to hear.'
' I'll tell it to the neighbour owl ; she 's
a very proper owl to associate with.' And
she flew away.
' Hoo ! hoo ! to-whoo ! ' they both hooted
in front of the neighbour's dovecot to the
doves within. ' Have you heard it ? Have you
heard it ? Hoo ! hoo ! there 's a hen who
has pulled out all her feathers for the sake
of the cock. She'll die with cold, if she 's
not dead already/
' Coo ! coo ! Where, where ? ' cried the
' In the neighbour's poultry-yard. I've as
good as seen it myself. It 's hardly proper
to repeat the story, but it 's quite true !
' Believe it ! believe every single word of
it ! ' cooed the Pigeons, and they cooed
down into their own poultry-yard. There 's a
hen, and some say that there are two of them,
that have plucked out all their feathers,
that they may not look like the rest, and
that they may attract the cock's
attention. That 's a bold game, for one may
catch cold and die of a fever, and they are
' Wake up ! wake up ! ' crowed the Cock, and
he flew up on to the fence ; his eyes were
still very heavy with sleep, but yet he
crowed. ' Three hens have died of an
unfortunate attachment to a cock. They have
plucked out all their feathers. That 's a
terrible story. I won't keep it to myself ;
let it travel farther.'
Let it travel farther ! ' piped the Bats ;
and the fowls clucked and the cocks crowed,
' Let it go farther ! let it go farther ! }
And so the story travelled from poultry-yard
to poultry-yard, and at last came back to
the place from which it had gone forth.
' Five fowls,' it was told, ' have plucked
out all their feathers to show which of them
had become thinnest out of love to the cock
; and then they have pecked each other and
fallen down dead, to the shame and disgrace
of their families, and to the great loss of
And the Hen who had lost the little loose
feather, of course did not know her own
story again ; and as she was a very
respectable Hen, she said,
' 1 despise those fowls ; but there are many
of that sort. One ought not to hush up such
a thing, and I shall do what I can that the
story may get into the papers, and then it
will be spread over all the country, and
that will serve those fowls right, and their
It was put into the newspaper : it was
printed ; and it 's quite true that one
little feather may swell till it becomes