HENNY PENNY (aka Chicken Little)




Title (best version for telling):  Henny Penny         


Collector/Author:  Galdone, Paul


Other Bibliographic Information:  The Seabury Press, NY 1968


Ethnic Origin: England


Running Time:  3.5-4 minutes


Power Center: The story is suspenseful and builds anxiety-Henny Penny keeps getting stopped along the way, has to explain (which takes more time), and in the meantime, needs to get to the King because "the sky's a-falling.”   The element of fear is introduced when they all arrive at a dark cave and the fox ushers them in.  In the Mills and Martignoni versions, this unknown dark cave is associated with "told violence" since the snapping off of the animal's heads are detailed in the written story.  Therefore, these stories have the strongest power center of fear, and were excluded from the teller’s preference.  According to the NNCC web site, http://www.nncc.org/Child.Dev/presch.dev.html

" Fears often develop during the preschool years. Common fears include new places and experiences and separation from parents and other important people." 

The teller was trying to be mindful of the unknown consequences of telling a scary story.


However, In Hutchinson's version, one is left to wonder what actually happened in the cave because the details don't give the dark ending.  The only emotion brought out in the story is anxiety and not fear.  Her version does not have a resolution, and could leave a young child hanging or wondering about what happened.


Says Foxy Woxy, "Come with me and I will show you a short way to the King's Palace….

They went along and they went along until they reached Foxy Woxy's Cave.  In they went after Foxy Woxy, and they never came out again.  To this day the King has never been told that the sky was falling.


The power centers around anxiety and fear in Galdone's version with anxiety the most prominent.  Paradoxically, what the teller considered to be the secondary center-fear, is “pleasantly resolved” and the ending made “happy” with the scene of Foxy Woxy's family having a fine meal as a result of the animal’s detour.  The teller believed that using Galdone’s version, and masking the element of fear by leaving out gory details was the best decision, since children are prone to fears at this stage of development.  Foxy Loxy and Mrs. Foxy Loxy and their seven little foxes still remember the fine feast they had that day.


Explanatory Note:  Power Centers Used in Performance- The teller of this story chose to feature anxiety as the main power center in the story.  The story is told in a quick pace because the animals have to hurry and get to the king before the sky falls.  When the animals find out they are going the wrong way tension builds since they believed Henny Penny knew the way, therefore building tension even more.

The teller improvised the exclamation, "We thought you knew where you were going!" This was an added scene to communicate the peak of their anxiety and to express what the teller assumed the animals would have been thinking, that wasn’t written into the story. This also emphasized the stressful group-think the teller imagined was going on among the animals based on the fox’s information that they were not taking the most efficient route.


Characters:  Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucy,  Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey, Foxy Loxy  Secondary Characters:  Mrs. Foxy Woxy and her children.




Henny Penny under the tree in the farmyard

On the road

At the cave

Foxy Woxy’s Dinner Table


Synopsis:  Henny Penny gets hit in the head by an acorn while she is eating corn in the farmyard.  She doesn’t know what hits her and assumes the sky is falling.  On her way to warn the King she runs into Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey  one at a time, and the group gets larger and larger as they make their way to the King’s Palace.  They all run into Foxy Woxy, and he tells them they are going the long way and advises they take a short-cut.  He tricks them and leads them into a cave that is really his home.  The King was never told the sky was falling and Foxy Woxy and his family had them all for dinner.


Rhymes/Special phrases/"Flavor:"


The catchy rhyming names of the  characters (in Galdone's version) :  Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey and Foxy Woxy.


The story has a playful flavor.  It is a building story that enforces order (subconscious counting) and cute character names.


Exclamation-"I'm/We're going to tell the King the sky's a-falling!

Question-"May I go with you?"



Audience:  Pre-School, Ages 3-5


Appropriateness of story for audience:


Children at the preschool age are attracted to rhymes.  In Galdone's version (the chosen version for telling) the names all end with a long e sound making them uniform and easy to remember.  The rhyming attachment names facilitate the learning or reinforcement of the primary name.  Children at this age may not know the visual difference between a hen, cock, duck or their associated names. The repetitive scenes are important during this Preoperational Stage, from 2-7 years of age, named by Piaget. A mere replacement of a different character make the story easy to follow and never lead to boredom since the characters constantly change as the story moves along.


Charlotte Huck includes in her book Children's Literature in the Elementary School  (5th edition) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1993), that children in this age group have a beginning interest in how things work and are developing a rudimentary sense of time (before now, now, not yet).  This story has the "then" or time sequence effect.  For example, the Hen told one animal first then another animal next.  The order she tells them is the order that remains constant throughout the narration of the story whenever the animals are mentioned.


The message about the consequences of trusting a stranger is illustrated when they end up trusting the fox and being eaten by him and his family in the end.  There is also a hidden story about the power in numbers when it comes to delivering a message…in an emergency everyone bans together no matter their differences.


Bibliographic Information on other versions/variants:


     Galdone, P. (1968) Henny Penny. The Seabury Press, New York.


     Hutchinson, V. S. (1992)  Henny Penny in Chimney Corner Stories Tales for Little Children, pp. 3-8.  Shoe String Press, Connecticut.


     Martignoni, M.  (1955)  Henny-Penny in The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature, pp. 66-68.  Grosset and Dunlap, New York.


     Mills, A.  (1998)  Henny-Penny in The Random House Children’s Treasury, pp. 316-317.  Derrydale Books, New York


Comparison of all versions/variants :



The language is simple and proper:

-One day when Henny Penny was scratching among the leaves..

-May I go with you?   Yes, indeed.


As for rhythm, the animal sound effects chop the flow of the story.  For an example:

“Gobble, gobble, gobble!” said Turkey Lurkey.  “Where are you going..?”   This animated language gives the story a playful flavor, since the language is indicative of the particular species. However, these sound effects slow down the telling of the story.


This story tells the best because it leaves out the violence but tells the truth of the ending without possibly disturbing the children with the details.

The story has a more dramatic flavor than the others due to sound effects and character lines.  The fox says,

“Ah, ha!…But this isn’t the way to the King…” 

In addition, every page is illustrated except the page in all black that says:

From that day to this Turkey Lurkey, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, Cocky Locky and Henny Penny have never been seen again.

By use of the formal language mentioned above, it also maintains its English flavor.



The language is simple throughout and the author uses the term farmyard, where the others use rickyard (Martignoni) and cornyard (Mills)- as the place Henny Penny was struck.

The use of farmyard is much better as children in their preschool years may understand it or visualize the scene better.


The story does not tell well-in terms of true telling of the whole story.It has an avoidant ending.  It tells that they all went into the cave and ends abrubtly. 

They went along and they went along and they went along until they reached Foxy Woxy’s cave.  In they went after Foxy Woxy, and they never came out again.  To this day the king has never been told that the sky was falling.


The rhythm does not move smoothly due to word choices and lack of contractions.  For an example:  “sky was falling  instead of “sky’s a-falling.”  Oh, we are going to tell the King the sky is falling

This non traditional use of falling instead of a-falling, gives the story a modern flavor.


The language may be confusing to a child.  The fox’s cave is referred to as a burrow instead of a cave, and the farmyard is called a rickyard.  The word choices may be foreign to young children. 

The language also adds a formal flavor:  Says the fox, “I know the proper way; shall I show it to you? 


The rhythm flows and has a sing-song affect by the use of the term “a-falling” and contractions- the use of sky’s instead of the words “sky is.”


“Oh!  We’re going to tell the King the sky’s a-falling..”


The sound of the narrative below gives this story an old-fashioned flavor and a humorous style.

The listening children can be comforted by this use of humor to replace Henny Penny’s knowledge of her friend’s violent deaths.  Young children may be satisfied knowing the main character, who they bond with through meeting first, gets home safely.


Now when Henny-penny, who had just got into the dark burrow, heard Cocky-locky crow, she said to herself: “My goodness!  It must be dawn.  Time for me to lay an egg.”  So she turned round and bustled off to her nest; so she escaped, but never told the King the sky was falling!



The language is difficult for a child at times.  Terms such as alongside and turned tail are used.

…Cocky Locky was thrown alongside Turkey Lurkey. 

But she turned tail and off she ran home, so she never told the king the sky was a-falling.


The story flows but becomes convoluted and drags at times with too much detail.


…till they came to a narrow, dark hole.  Now this was the door of Foxy Woxy’s cave.


This version is tellable to an older crowd of children, perhaps elementary age with a longer attention span and tolerance for the violent ending:

-Foxy Woxy snapped off Turkey-Lurkey’s head and thew his  body over his left shoulder.


-Then Goosey-Poosey went in, and “Hrumph”, off went her head and Goosey-Poosey was thrown beside Turkey-Lurkey.


-But Foxy-Woxy had made two bites at Cocky Locky, and when the first snap only hurt Cocky-Locky, but didn’t kill him, he called out to Henny-Penny.  But she turned tail and off she ran home, so she never told the king the sky was a-falling.