LEAD Action News Vol 2 no 2 Autumn 1994
Lead in Literature
The Little Red Hen
Reprinted with kind permission from the HELEN OXENBURY Nursery Story Book. Published by William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1988
You may be asking why our Lead in Literature section features "The Little Red Hen". You only have to read the second paragraph to see the connection between the obvious lead sources in the young fox's environment and his behaviour. Read it aloud to your children - it's a well-told moral tale.
Once there was a pretty, neat little house. Inside it lived a Cock, a Mouse and a Little Red Hen.
On another hill, not far away, was a very different little house. It had a door that wouldn't shut, windows that were dirty and broken, and the paint was peeling off. In this house lived a bad old mother Fox and her fierce young son.
One morning the mother Fox said, "On the hill over there you can see the house where the Cock, the Mouse and the Little Red Hen live. You and I haven't had very much to eat for a long time, and everyone in that house is very well fed and plump. They would make us a delicious dinner!"
The fierce young Fox was very hungry, so he got up at once and said, "I'll just find a sack. If you will get the big pot boiling, I'll go to that house on the hill and we'll have that Cock, that Mouse and that Little Red Hen for our dinner!"
Now on the very same morning the Little Red Hen got up early, as she always did, and went downstairs to get the breakfast. The Cock and the Mouse, who were lazy, did not come downstairs for some time. "Who will get some sticks to light the fire?" asked the Little Red Hen. "I won't," said the Cock. "I won't," said the Mouse. "Then I'll have to do it myself,' said the Little Red Hen. So off she ran to get the sticks.
When she had the fire burning, she said, " Who will go and get the kettle filled with water from the spring?" "I won't," said the Cock again. "I won't," said the Mouse again. "Then I'll have to do it myself," said the Little Red Hen, and off she ran to fill the kettle.
While they were waiting for their breakfast, the Cock and the Mouse curled up in comfortable armchairs. Soon they were asleep again. It was just at this time that the fierce young Fox came up the hill with his sack and peeped in at the window. He stepped back and knocked loudly at the door.
"Who can that be?" said the Mouse, half opening his eyes. "Go and find out, if you want to know," said the Cock crossly. "Perhaps it's the postman," said the Mouse to himself. So, without waiting to ask who it was, he lifted the latch and opened the door. In rushed the big fierce Fox!
"Cock-a-doodle-do!" screamed the Cock as he jumped onto the back of the armchair. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" squeaked the Mouse as he tried to run up the chimney. But the Fox only laughed. He grabbed the Mouse by the tail and popped him into the sack. Then he caught the Cock and pushed him in the sack too. Just at that moment, in came the Little Red Hen, carrying the heavy kettle of water from the spring. Before she knew what was happening, the Fox quickly snatched her up and put her into the sack with the others. Then he tied a string tightly around the opening. And, with the sack over his shoulder, he set off down the hill.
The Cock, the Mouse and the Little Red Hen were bumped together uncomfortably inside the sack. The Cock said, "Oh, I wish I hadn't been so cross!" And the Mouse said, "Oh, I wish I hadn't been so lazy!" But the Little Red Hen said, "It's never too late to try again."
As the Fox trudged along with his heavy load, the sun grew very hot. Soon, he put the sack on the ground and sat down to rest. Before long he was fast asleep. Then, "Gr -- umph . . . gr -- umph," he began to snore. The noise was so loud that the Little Red Hen could hear him through the sack. At once she took her scissors out of her apron pocket and cut a neat hole in the sack. Then out jumped: first the Mouse, the Cock, and last, the Little Red Hen.
"Quick! Quick!" she whispered. "Who will come and help me get some stones?" "I will," said the Cock. "And I will," said the Mouse. "Good," said the Little Red Hen. Off they went together and each one brought back as big a rock as he could carry and put it into the sack. Then the Little Red Hen, who had a needle and thread in her pocket too, sewed up the hole very neatly.
When she had finished, the Little Red Hen, the Cock and the Mouse ran off home as fast as they could go. Once inside, they bolted the door and then helped each other to get the best breakfast they had ever had!
After some time, the Fox woke up. He lifted the sack onto his back and went slowly up the hill to his house. He called out, "Mother! Guess what I've got in my sack!" "Is it - can it be - the Little Red Hen?" "It is - and the Cock - and the Mouse as well. They're very plump and heavy so they'll make us a splendid dinner."
His mother had the water all ready, boiling furiously in a pot over the fire. The Fox undid the string and emptied the sack straight into the pot. Splash! Splash! Splash! In went the three heavy rocks and out came the boiling hot water, all over the fierce young Fox and his bad old mother. Oh, how sore and burned and angry they were!
Never again did those wicked foxes trouble the Cock, the Mouse and the Little Red Hen, who always kept their door locked, and lived happily ever after.
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