Retold by Andrew Lang
ONCE upon a time there was a handsome black Spanish hen who had
a large brood of chickens. They were all fine, plump little birds except the
youngest, who was quite unlike his brothers and sisters. Indeed, he was such a
strange, queer-looking creature that when he first clipped his shell his mother
could scarcely believe her eyes, he was so different from the twelve other
fluffy, downy, soft little chicks who nestled under her wings. This one looked
just as if he had been cut in two. He had only one leg, and one wing, and one
eye, and he had half a head and half a beak. His mother shook her head sadly as
she looked at him and said:
"My youngest born is only a half-chick. He can never grow up a
tall, handsome cock like his brothers. They will go out into the world and rule
over poultry yards of their own; but this poor little fellow will always have to
stay at home with his mother." And she called him Medio Pollito, which is
Spanish for half-chick.
Now, though Medio Pollito was such an odd, helpless-looking
little thing, his mother soon found that he was not at all willing to remain
under her wing and protection. Indeed, in character he was as unlike his
brothers and sisters as he was in appearance. They were good, obedient chickens,
and when the old hen chicked after them they chirped and ran back to her side.
But Medio Pollito had a roving spirit in spite of his one leg, and when his
mother called to him to return to the coop, he pretended that he could not hear,
because he had only one ear.
When she took the whole family out for a walk in the fields,
Medio Pollito would hop away by himself and hide among the corn. Many an anxious
minute his brothers and sisters had looking for him, while his mother ran to and
fro cackling in fear and dismay.
As he grew older he became more self-willed and disobedient, and
his manner to his mother was often very rude and his temper to the other
chickens very disagreeable.
One day he had been out for a longer expedition than usual in
the fields. On his return he strutted up to his mother with the peculiar little
hop and kick which was his way of walking, and cocking his one eye at her in a
very bold way, he said:
"Mother, I am tired of this life in a dull f farmyard, with
nothing but a dreary maize-field to look at. I'm off to Madrid to see the king."
"To Madrid, Medio Pollito!" exclaimed his mother. "Why, you
silly chick, it would be a long Journey for a grown-up cock, and a poor little
thing like you would be tired out before you had gone half the distance. No, no,
stay at home with your mother, and some day, when you are bigger, we will go a
little journey together."
But Medio Pollito had made up his mind, and he would not listen
to his mother's advice nor to the prayers and entreaties of his brothers and
"What is the use of our all crowding each other up in this poky
little place?" he said. "When I have a fine courtyard of my own at the king's
palace, I shall perhaps ask some of you to come and pay me a short visit."
And scarcely waiting to say good-by to his family, away he
stumped down the high road that led to Madrid.
"Be sure that you are kind and civil to every one you meet,"
called his mother, running after him; but he was in such a hurry to be off that
he did not wait to answer her or even to look back.
A little later in the day, as he was taking a short cut through
a field, he passed a stream. Now, the stream was all choked up and overgrown
with weeds and water-plants, so that its waters could not flow freely.
"Oh! Medio Pollito," it cried as the half-chick hopped along its
banks, "do come and help me by clearing away these weeds."
"Help you, indeed!" exclaimed Medio Pollito, tossing his head
and shaking the few feathers in his tail. "Do you think I have nothing to do but
to waste my time on such trifles? Help yourself and don't trouble busy
travelers. I am off to Madrid to see the king," and hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick,
away stumped Medio Pollito.
A little later he came to a fire that had been left by some
gypsies in a wood. It was burning very low and would soon be out.
"Oh! Medio Pollito," cried the fire in a weak, wavering voice as
the half-chick approached, "in a few minutes I shall go quite out unless you put
some sticks and dry leaves upon me. Do help me or I shall die!"
"Help you, indeed!" answered Medio Pollito. "I have other things
do. Gather sticks for yourself and don't trouble me. I am off to
Madrid to see the king," and hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped
The next morning, as he was getting near Madrid, he passed a
large chestnut tree, in whose branches the wind was caught and entangled.
"Oh! Medio Pollito," called the wind, "do hop up here and help
me to get free of these branches. I cannot come away and it is so
"It is your own fault for going there," answered Medio Pollito.
"I can't waste all my morning stopping here to help you. Just shake yourself
off, and don't hinder me, for I am off to Madrid to see the king," and hoppity-kick,
hoppity-kick, away stumped Medio Pollito in great glee, for the towers and roofs
of Madrid were now in sight. When he entered the town he saw before him a great,
splendid house, with soldiers standing before the gates. This he knew must be
the king's palace, and he determined to hop up to the front gate and wait there
until the king came out. But as he was hopping past one of the back windows the
king's cook saw him.
"Here is the very thing I want," he exclaimed, "for the king has
just sent a message to say that he must have chicken broth for his dinner."
Opening the window he stretched out his arm, caught Medio Pollito, and popped
him into the broth pot that was standing near the fire. Oh! how wet and clammy
the water felt as it went over Medio Pollito's head, making his feathers cling
"Water! water!" he cried in his despair, "do have pity upon me
and do not wet me like this."
"Ah! Medio Pollito," replied the water, "you would not help me
when I was a little stream away on the fields. Now you must be punished."
Then the fire began to burn and scald Medio Pollito, and he
danced and hopped from one side of the pot to the other, trying to get away from
the heat and crying out in pain:
"Fire! fire! do not scorch me like this; you can't think how it
"Ah! Medio Pollito," answered the fire, "you would not help me
when I was dying away in the wood. You are being punished."
At last, just when the pain was so great that Medio Pollito
thought he must die, the cook lifted up the lid of the pot to see if the broth
was ready for the king's dinner.
"Look here!" he cried in horror, "this chicken is quite useless.
It is burned to a cinder. I can't send it up to the royal table." And opening
the window he threw Medio Pollito out in the street. But the wind caught him up
and whirled him through the air so quickly that Medio Pollito could scarcely
breathe, and his heart beat against his side till he thought it would break.
"Oh, wind I" at last he gasped out, "if you hurry me along like
this you will kill me. Do let me rest a moment, or-"
But he was so breathless that he could not finish his sentence.
"Ah! Medio Pollito," replied the wind, "when I was caught in the
branches of the chestnut tree you would not help me. Now you are punished." And
he swirled Medio Pollito over the roofs of the houses till they reached the
highest church in the town, and there he left him fastened to the top of the
And there stands Medio Pollito to this day. And if you go to
Madrid and walk through the streets till you come to the highest church, you
will see Medio Pollito perched on his one leg on the steeple, with his one wing
drooping at his side and gazing sadly out of his one eye over the town.