Babies, Birth Announcements and The Stork:
The Legend and Lore

Illustrated by actual vintage birth announcements circa 1900-1915.
Storks have been revered in Europe since the Middle Ages. Their association with babies and birth announcements originates many centuries ago in legend and lore native to northern Germany. One popular stork tale revolves around the folk legend that the souls of unborn children live in watery areas such as marshes, wells, springs and ponds. Since storks visit such habitats frequently, they were believed to fetch babies’ souls and deliver them to their parents.

An alternate version of this tale tells of storks finding human infants called “stork-children” dwelling in rocky caves called “Adeborsteine” or “stork-stones” and carrying them to expectant parents.

Danish author Hans Christian Anderson adds a troublesome twist to this legend and lore in his fairy tale The Storks, published in 1838:
In the street below were a number of children at play, and when they caught sight of the storks, one of the boldest amongst the boys began to sing a song about them, and very soon he was joined by the rest...“Just hear what those boys are singing,” said the young storks; “they say we shall be hanged and roasted...”

“Yes, certainly,” cried the mother stork. “I have thought upon the best way to be revenged. I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to

have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game of the storks.”

“But the naughty boy, who began the song first, what shall we do to him?” cried the young storks.

“There lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed itself to death,” said the mother. “We will take it to the naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a little dead brother. But you have not forgotten the good boy who said it was a shame to laugh at animals: we will take him a little brother and sister too, because he was good.”

In another Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, What the Moon Saw: Thirteenth Evening, published in 1840, a brother and sister doubt the stork legend.

Other European tales also tell about storks bringing babies to waiting parents. These fables spring from the belief that storks nesting on roofs and chimneys in Holland and Germany bring abundant good fortune. In Germany, storks are known as “Adebar” which means “luck-bringer.” In the Netherlands, a stork nesting on one’s roof is welcomed as a good omen.

Naturally, when European parents needed to explain to youngsters how babies arrived, the adage “the stork brought you” was a handy answer. This saying ventured to American culture in Victorian times.

Thus, ancient legend and lore inspire the widespread imagery seen in birth announcements of storks delivering little bundles of joy.

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