The story of the little red hen: a parable of sorts

The story of the little red hen: a parable of sorts

Jul 03
The story of the little red hen:  a parable of sorts

Once upon a time, for that is how all stories like this begin, there was a little red hen.  The little red hen was tired with trying to catch worms and having to eat what she could scavenge here and there.  She decided that she was going to start making her own food.


The little red hen went to the library and started reading everything she could find on how to make bread.  She learned that she needed a place to grow wheat.  Then she’d need to harvest the wheat.  Then she’d need to grind it to flour.  Then she’d need an oven in which to bake the bread.  She realized it would take a lot of work and it would be a long time before she had any bread of her own, but she was determined to achieve her goal of being able to feed herself.


She went to the farmer and asked for some land on which to grow the wheat.  They agreed on a section of the farm.  In exchange for allowing her to grow her wheat there, the farmer insisted that the little red hen give him 10% of all the bread she made.  That would still leave 90% for her and she had to have land on which to grow the wheat, so the little red hen agreed to the deal.


While she was out working in the field and preparing it for planting, Fox, Bear, and Rabbit saw her and came to investigate.  “What are you doing,” asked Rabbit?


“I want to make my own bread, so I’m getting this field ready to be planted with wheat.  I could use some help.  If you help me, I’ll give you some of the bread we make.”


“I’m far too smart and educated for something like that,” said Fox.


“I don’t do physical labor,” said Bear.


“If you give me some bread now I’ll help you,” said Rabbit.  After learning the little red hen didn’t have any bread, Rabbit continued, “In that case I’d rather go play in the field.”  With that, Fox, Bear, and Rabbit all retreated from the field where the little red hen continued her labor.


After clearing the field, the little red hen began planting the seeds that would one day bring wheat.  Fox, Bear, and Rabbit came to see what she was up to.  “It appears that you have begun to plant the seeds for your wheat,” said Fox.


“Indeed,” said the little red hen, “but there’s still a lot of work left to do and I’d be happy to pay you if you’d help me.”


“Planting wheat doesn’t fall within my educational background,” said Fox.


“I don’t work while the sun is out,” said Bear.


“What will you give me?” asked Rabbit.  “And don’t say you’ll give me bread because I know you don’t have any.  What can you give me right now?”


“I have nothing I can give you until the bread is ready,” said the little red hen.  So Fox, Bear, and Rabbit left her to her work.


The little red hen completed the planting by herself and tended to the growing of the wheat every day.  In the meantime, she had to get up extra early in the mornings so she could get food and still have time to tend to the growing crop.  Some mornings she wondered why she continued to work at it.  She was working harder than ever before and had nothing to show for it.  Sometimes while working in the field, she’d see Fox reading a book and she’d wish that she had time to read.  Some days she’d notice Bear sleeping in the shade of a tree and she’d wish that she had time to take a nap, or even just get to enjoy some shade.  Still other days she’d see Rabbit playing and having fun and she’d wish that she had the energy after work to play like Rabbit.  But every day she went back to work, looking forward to the day when all her efforts would be rewarded.


Finally the day came to harvest the wheat.  The little red hen set into the task with vigor, knowing that she was one step closer to her dream.  Fox, Bear, and Rabbit saw her working with increased zest and were puzzled, so they came over to see what she was so excited about.  “Why are you so happy?” asked Bear.  “It still looks like a lot of work.”


“I’m excited because the wheat is ready!” exclaimed the little red hen.  “Soon I’ll have some bread!  If you help me harvest this wheat then you can have some of the bread, too.”


“You’re doing it wrong,” said Fox.  “I won’t work for anyone who does it like that.  I have standards!”


“I don’t work outdoors,” said Bear.


“I’ll help if you’ll give me a carrot,” said Rabbit.


“I don’t have any carrots,” replied the little red hen, “but if you’ll help I’ll have lots of bread.  You can trade your share of the bread for some carrots, if you prefer.”


Rabbit shrugged and said, “I’m not going to work for you if you can’t give me something right now.  Once you pay me, I’ll work.”  After he said this, Rabbit, Bear, and Fox left the little red hen to her toil.


It was hard work, but the little red hen eventually harvested all the wheat.  Now she needed to grind it into flour.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have any means to do the grinding but she remembered that the farmer had a mill that she might be able to use.  So the little red hen asked the farmer if she could use his mill to grind her wheat into flour.  The farmer said that she could, but only if she gave him another 10% of her bread.  Having no other means to reach her goal, the little red hen agreed to the deal and the farmer let her use his mill.  She now owed the farmer 20% of her bread.


Finally the day arrived when the little red hen had everything she needed to bake her bread.  She made all the preparations with loving care.  Her dream was becoming a reality.  She carefully measured out the flour so as not to waste any.  She formed the dough and shaped it into exactly the kind of loaves she wanted to make.  Fox, Bear, and Rabbit saw the little red hen focused carefully on the task and wondered why she was concentrating so hard.


Fox observed, “You sure are concentrating hard on getting all those measurements right.  It looks like you could use someone smart like me.”


“I would like to do that part myself,” replied the little red hen.  “However, I could use someone to put the bread in the oven and then take it out again when it’s done baking.”


“I’m overqualified,” sniffed Fox and he walked away.


“I don’t do food service,” said Bear as he sat down to watch.


“You’ve got to at least make me a manager,” said Rabbit.  “Put me in charge of the people baking the bread.”


“But there’s nobody but me baking the bread,” said the little red hen.  “There’s nobody for you to manage.”


“Well, when you have a management position let me know,” said Rabbit and he left.


The wonderful aroma of baking bread soon filled the air.  Bear breathed in deeply and licked his muzzle.  Fox came closer and pretended to study the inefficiencies of the oven.  Rabbit drifted near and began to count how many loaves of bread there would be.


With barely contained excitement, the little red hen took her first bite of bread.  It was just as good as she’d hoped.  She decided that it tasted even better since she had to work so hard to get it.  All of her hard work had finally paid off.  She had her own bread.


“Can I have some bread?” asked Bear.  “I don’t have anything to eat.”


“I would have been happy to give you some if you had helped me,” said the little red hen.  “But all you did was tell me what you wouldn’t do.”  Bear got mad and left.


“Can I have some bread?” asked Fox.  “It isn’t my fault that you didn’t have anything that suited my talents.”


“There were plenty of things I needed help with,” said the little red hen.  “But you kept telling me that every job I offered was beneath you or didn’t suit your education.”  Fox got mad and left.


“Can I have some bread?” asked Rabbit.  “I offered to work for you several times.”


“I would have gladly hired you,” said the little red hen.  “But you were always demanding more than I could give you.”  Rabbit got mad and left.


The little red hen finished her loaf of bread, the product of all her time and hard work.  Then she carefully counted out her bread and gathered exactly 20% of the loaves — 10% for use of the land and 10% for use of the mill.  She put them in a sack and delivered them to the farmer.  When she arrived, she discovered that Fox, Bear, and Rabbit were already there and were complaining loudly to the farmer.


“She’s uppity and elitist!” exclaimed Fox.


“She hates the poor!” exclaimed Bear.


“She’s greedy!” exclaimed Rabbit.


When the little red hen asked what was going on, the farmer explained that the other animals all claimed that she was being unfair and was hoarding all her bread.  They said that she had more than enough to share.  They said that she hadn’t tried to give them any jobs that suited them, just jobs that she wanted them to do.  They deserved bread, too, and she had bread, and it wasn’t fair that she had so much when they didn’t have anything.


“But I did all the work for it,” explained the little red hen.  “I should get to do with it as I choose.  I offered jobs to each of them, but they all refused.”


“It isn’t fair!  It isn’t fair!” chorused Fox, Bear, and Rabbit.


The farmer asked them what they thought would be fair.  Fox, Bear, and Rabbit said that the farmer should take some bread from the little red hen, just like he already was, but that he should take more and give it to them.  The farmer asked the little red hen how she felt about it.  She said that it wasn’t fair for the farmer to take from her and give to the other animals when she had worked so hard for it and had already kept her deal with the farmer.


The farmer decided that the four animals would vote on it, since that would be the most fair, and then he would do whatever most of the animals wanted.  After counting the votes, there were 3 votes for more bread to be taken from the little red hen, with only one vote opposing.  Since most of the animals were in favor, the farmer took another 30% of the bread from the little red hen and gave it to the other animals.


Fox got 10% of the little red hen’s bread.  He was pretty happy with himself because he showed that uppity old hen that she wasn’t better than him.  He was smarter than she was and he had some bread of his own to prove it.


Bear got 10% of the bread.  He felt like it was only fair since he didn’t have anything at all and the little red hen had a farm and wheat and a mill and an oven and bread.  He didn’t feel at all bad because it wasn’t Bear’s fault – it was the farmer who took the bread from the little red hen.


Rabbit got 10% of the bread.  It served that greedy old bird right.  She had plenty that she could have given him but she just wanted it all for herself.  It wasn’t like she couldn’t have given him what he had asked for.  She was just greedy and mean and had it coming.


The little red hen only had half of the bread she started with.  The other animals all talked about her as if she was terrible and awful.  The farmer even started saying bad things about her.  None of them even said thanks for the bread, or for the hard work that she put into making it.  If anything, they talked about her like they wished she’d just go away.


The farmer gave everyone bread.  Any time the animals wanted more bread the farmer would provide it.  Nearly every animal loved and adored the farmer because he was so generous with his bread.


  1. Scott

    I love it. I had to share it on my blog. (and I know you don’t mind because I asked first- if you ever see anything I pst and want to re-post, feel free old man)

  2. Todd

    b..b..b..but democracy is magical. Nothing is unfair as long as a majority votes for it…right?

    Seriously…you must read Atlas Shrugged. It’s the story of how the little red hen gets payback.

    • I almost included a little “payback” into the story, but decided to leave it as it is. If God gives me enough time, I’ll get to Atlas Shrugged. It’s in my “queue,” but much like my Netflix queue, there’s always something more interesting at the time. ;)

      • Scott

        Read my book first! You can probably finish it in an hour or so and give me feedback as I’m writing my second and subsequent (you can’t do that with Atlas Shrugged – though I am almost done with book two, so you’d better hurry to give me feedback in time for it)

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