THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY, a modern South Korean fable by Sun-mi Hwang, tells the story of Sprout, a plucky, ambitious and charismatic hen who lives in a coop. However, Sprout is not content to lay eggs for others in a tiny cage for the farmer. She has a dream of hatching one egg and raising the chick herself. Sprout can see the animals in the barnyard who are allowed to roam free, and she wishes to join them and escape captivity. Once she is declared useless by the farmer and his wife, she is taken from the coop and left for dead. Sprout, though, has other ideas.
"Beautifully and simply written, THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY is a reflection on society, nature and the world at large."
Without getting into plot details, Sprout escapes the cruelty of the coop for the cold indifference of the animals of the barnyard. She does eventually manage to raise a chick, though not her own, and we follow the two as they struggle to overcome violent, harsh conditions. Additionally, we see Sprout struggle with loss, maternity and, no pun intended, empty nest syndrome.
Beautifully and simply written, THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY is a reflection on society, nature and the world at large. Sprout’s life in the coop represents the human fear and tendency of letting circumstances and society trap us in a life we do not want. The selfish animals of the barnyard bring to mind our ability to ignore the plight of those around us. Sprout's life in the wild demonstrates the physical and evolutionary dangers of the world in which we live. Just as Sprout struggles with predators and nature, we can never keep ourselves or our families entirely safe.
At the center of all this is Sprout, one of the most likable protagonists of the year. With her defiance of the rules, curiosity and tireless efforts, Sprout stays with and inspires the reader long after the slim story is finished.
Reviewed by Josh Mallory on November 27, 2013
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly