Special Delivery: Why Storks Bring Babies

By | April 22, 2019

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Source: (autodeskresearch.com)

It is one of our most common trope…a long-legged, white stork carrying a newborn baby in a white cloth bundle, delivering the child to its new parents. This is the story that we often tell young children when they ask that awkward question about where babies come from. We see illustrations of storks carrying babies on book covers, infant bedding, baby shower cards, television commercials, and more. But just how did the stork, of all birds, become associated with childbirth? The association between storks and babies goes back much further than you probably thought—all the way to ancient Greece. 

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The Greek Goddess Hera turned a rival into a stork. Source: (greekgoddesses.fandom.com)

A Baby Stealing Stork

There is a story in Greek mythology that tells of Hera, the Queen of the Gods and wife of Zeus, and a stork. According to the legend, Hera grew jealous of the mortal queen, Gerena, who was described as “flawless in beauty.” There were also rumors that Gerena was having an affair with Hera’s husband, Zeus, a known philanderer. The angry Hera turned Gerena into a long-necked stork and instructed her to fly away. Gerena did not want to leave her newborn baby, who may have been fathered by Zeus. So she picked up the infant, safely wrapped in a blanket, and carried him off in her beak. Some researchers claim that the idea of storks delivering babies came from this myth, but there are other possible sources.