"Chicken Licken" redirects here. For the African fast food chain, see Chicken Licken (restaurant).

The fable is also known by the name of other characters such as Chicken Licken or Chicken Little (USA), and by the phrase The sky is falling that occurs there. It is an old cumulative tale about a chicken (or a hare in an early version) who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase "The sky is falling" has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.

The story

The basic motif and many of the elements of the tale can also be found within Buddhist scriptures as the Daddabha Jataka (J 322).[1] In this a hare disturbed by a falling fruit believes that the earth is coming to an end and starts a stampede among the other animals. A lion halts them, investigates the cause of the panic and restores calm. The fable teaches the necessity for deductive reasoning and subsequent investigation.

There are several western versions of the story, but the best-known concerns a chick that believes the sky is falling when an acorn falls on her head. She decides to tell the King and on her journey meets other animals who join her in the quest. After this point, there are many endings. In the most familiar, a fox invites them to his lair and there eats them all. Alternatively, the last one, usually Cocky Lockey, survives long enough to warn the chick and she escapes. In still others all are rescued and finally speak to the King.
File:Henny penny.JPG

In most retellings the animals all have rhyming names, commonly:

In the most common version, Henny Penny is the only character whose last name does not begin with the letter L. (In another version, the character is named Hen Len.)[2]

The moral to be drawn changes, depending on the version. Where there is a 'happy ending', the moral is not to be a 'Chicken' but to have courage, which is the conclusion of the film "Chicken Little" (2005). In other versions the fable is usually interpreted to mean do not believe everything you are told, as in the first version of the film (1943). This was one of a series of four produced by the Walt Disney Studios at the request of the U.S. government during World War II for the purpose of discrediting totalitarianism in general and Nazism in particular. Its dark comedy is used as an allegory for the idea that fear-mongering weakens the war effort and costs lives.[3] The Chicken jumps to a conclusion and whips the populace into mass hysteria, which the unscrupulous fox manipulates for his own benefit.


Walt Disney Studios made two animated versions of the story:

Musical adaptations

There are many novels, films, CDs and single lyrics titled "The Sky is Falling", but the majority refer to the idiomatic use of the phrase rather than to the fable from which it derives. The following are some lyrics which genuinely refer or allude to the story:

  • During the later 1940s, Lightnin’ Hopkins had a song titled "Henny Penny Blues", largely on the strength of the line 'She's my little chicken, she's my honey pie'.
  • British band Happy Mondays have the lines "Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey, Ducky Lucky, Chicken Little, It seems they are all on the move when the sun is falling in" in the song "Moving in with" on their second album, Bummed (1986).[6]
  • The Aerosmith song "Livin' on the Edge" (1993) has the lines "If Chicken Little tells you that the sky is falling, Even if it wasn't would you still come crawling back again?"[7]
  • "Chicken Little" is a song from the 1997 album Fancy, by the California avantrock band Idiot Flesh; it contains the line 'The sky is falling, gotta tell the king'.[8]
  • "The Sky Is Falling" is a song by Owsley from the 1999 debut album Owsley; it includes the line "Chicken Little had a big day today".[9]
  • British band Radiohead used the line "Go and tell the King that the sky is falling in" in their song "2+2=5", included on the album Hail to the Thief (2003).[10]

American composer Vincent Persichetti used the fable as the plot of his only opera The Sibyl: A Parable of Chicken Little (Parable XX), op. 135 (1976), which premiered in 1985.

In 1991, on the sitcom The Golden Girls, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche perform a short musical based on the fable in a fairy tale recital at Dorothy's school.

In 1998, Joy Chaitin and Sarah Stevens-Estabrook published their musical version of the fable, "Henny Penny".[11] Flexibly designed for between six and a hundred junior actors, it has additional characters as optional extras: Funky Monkey, Sheepy Weepy, Mama Llama, Pandy Handy and Giraffy Laughy (plus an aggressive oak-tree). An adult version of the song "The Sky is Falling" is available as an MP3 download.[12]

About 2005 the Canadian poet David Pekrul wrote a lyric called "The Henny Penny Blues" satirising those too quick to believe prophecies of doom.

In 2007 Gary Bachlund set the text of Margaret Free’s reading version of “Chicken Little” (The Primer, 1910) for high voice and piano.[13]


External links

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