Calvin: Dad, where do babies come from? Is it true a stork leaves them swaddled in a bundle on the front step?
In most cases, yes, but you
were unceremoniously dumped down the chimney by a big, hairy pterodactyl.
For many years, when a kid whose parents don't think they're ready for The Talk
asked the question "Where do babies come from?", a common answer was "the stork".
For those wondering exactly how storks became associated with pregnancy: The tradition apparently started in Victorian England. The White Stork was considered a symbol of happiness, fertility, and prosperity. Storks were known to nest on chimney tops in England, so the mythology of storks dropping baby humans down the chimney was made quite quickly. (It must also be mentioned that the surgical masks worn by early gynecologists gave them a vaguely storklike face. Best not to think about that too hard
The myth has mostly died down, to the point where TV is usually the only place you'll see kids who believe in "the stork"
. But the symbology of storks and babies has persisted to this day, where the image of a stork with a bundled baby hanging from its beak is still a symbol of pregnancy, childbirth, and babies.
Where the stork got the baby is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
The rival story that new babies were found under a gooseberry bush seems to have died out, though some guy named Xavier (not that one
) did make a small fortune with the mythology of babies being grown from cabbages...
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- An ad for birth control has one of these walk up to a woman, who dismisses it with a gesture and walks off to consider vacations, new houses, and other options she can pursue because she's not pregnant.
- A cartoon stork with a Groucho Marx voice is a long-time pitchman for Vlasic brand pickles (working off the theme of pregnant women's craving for pickles).
- The Kia Sorento 2014 space babies commercial features a very kid friendly and funny "Daddy, where do babies come from?" story about babies coming to earth via outerspace. The rocket ships "penetrating" Earth's atmosphere will be very familiar to anyone who's had biology.
Anime and Manga
- Cited in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service as the reasoning behind the business's name: instead of the white stork that brings new life, they're the black heron ("kurosagi" = "black heron") that takes away the dead.
- Flying delivery storks are a regular gag in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei. These have generally replaced aircraft in the background sky, and sound like them too.
- In the same series there is a chapter based around white lies, in which Kafuka suggests changing white lies into reality. After Chiri overhears Majiru being told that a stork delivers babies, a news report about a stork literally delivering a missing baby is broadcasted.
- The Code Geass parody comic "Legend of the Power Couple" (from the gag comic compilation Queen volume 1) has Suzaku and Euphemia believe in this as Character Exaggeration Played for Laughs. Suzaku believes in the Delivery Stork, while Euphemia believes that babies come from cabbage patches, and Lelouch, standing nearby, has a look on his face that's the non-verbal version of a Flat "What.". Which gets even flatter and what-ier when they hop in the Lancelot to search cabbage patches and stork habitats for babies.
- In Brazilian comic Penadinho (known in English as Bug-a-booo), along with the comedic Grim Reaper, Dona Morte (known in English as Lady McDeath), there is a Stork who leads the reincarnation sector.
- A MAD article from several decades back compared sexual knowledge among youth of different generations. In the '50s, they show a whitebread kid talking with a greaser.
Whitebread: But I thought the stork just brought the baby.
Greaser: Man, ain't you ever heard of sex? First, the man *whisper*, then the woman *whisper*, and then the two of them *whisper*.
Whitebread: Then what?
Greaser: Then the stork brings the baby.
- A Don Martin cartoon has a couple of kids pondering the situation. One says "Charlie says the Stork brought us." The other shrugs "Ecch, Charlie, what does he know!" - then they both say "Hi, Charlie!" to a kid walking by with long skinny legs and neck, and a long pointy nose.
- Joe Stork, purveyor of progeny to prince and proletarian, in Krazy Kat.
- In the stories by Wilhelm Busch.
- Astérix and Son shows that Obelix still believes this trope. At the beginning, he mentions a (Slightly prophetic) dream that one stork dropped a baby off on his and Asterix's doorstep. Much to his mild (and Asterix' not so mild) surprise, there really is a baby on the doorstep!
- Empath: The Luckiest Smurf purposely subverts this trope by stating that the Smurfs in the series reproduce physically. A stork does appear in the series to deliver Baby Smurf, but it is revealed that Baby Smurf came from Smurfling Island, and from parents on the island where nobody ages.
- In the live-action movie of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Who babies (and the Grinch) are shown floating into Whoville in baskets. Oddly enough, one Who notes that his new son bears a strong resemblance to his wife's boss...
- There's also a strange (even for him!) Dr. Seuss book and film entitled The Hoober-Bloob Highway in which new babies are sent from space down a magical spiral-shaped highway. Before they're sent down, a creature named Hoober-Bloob lets them choose what species they want to be born as, where they'd like to grow up, and then gives them a briefing to prepare them for life. This is undoubtly the most convoluted fictional answer to the question "Where do babies come from?"
- Used as the basis of an in-universe joke in the film Children of Men:
Jasper: So they call together all the great scientists, all the philosophers and thinkers, to ask the big question: why can't women have babies anymore? And all through the talk, there's one man in the corner who says nothing, just eats his dinner in a very loud fashion. And eventually the speakers get tired of the sound of his chewing, so they ask him from the podium, "If you deserve to be here, what do you think the answer is?". And he looks up, and says, "I don't know. But this stork is delicious!"
- The "Every Sperm Is Sacred" scene in Monty Python's Meaning of Life starts with a stork dropping a baby down the chimney. Inside the house, it then falls out from under the mother's skirt. The beleaguered woman just glances up and asks one of the dozens of kids to pick it up.
- The 1940 Disney film Dumbo starts out with storks delivering baby animals to their mothers while their circus is headquartered in Florida for the winter. The babies have no (visible) fathers except for the tiger cubs.
- In the Pixar short that accompanied Up, Partly Cloudy, this trope was used, and the question as to where the storks obtained the babies they delivered was answered. They are made by clouds.
- In another Pixar film, Cars, judging by a painting on one of the courtroom's walls, it's implied that cars and other vehicles reproduce by getting baby cars that roll down to Earth on a golden highway coming from an ivory and gold factory in Heaven.
- Reversed in Flubber. Stork is Weebo's last word before dying.
- Parodied in Addams Family Values. When Morticia is having a baby, one of the other kids in the waiting room with Wednesday and Pugsley claims their new sibling came from some bizarre amalgamation of the stork and seemingly every other baby euphemism in existence. Pugsley tells her, "Our parents are having a baby too." Wednesday then deadpans, complete with dramatic zoom-in, "They had sex."
French/Belgian Comic Books
- In Astérix and Son, Obelix still thinks storks deliver babies. In the final panel, Asterix tries to give him The Talk.
- A baby Smurf is delivered by stork on a blue moon. Guess they really do only need one female after all.
- In issue 12 of Urbanus, Urbanus is bribed into marriage because he presumably impregnated a girl. Not understanding where babies come from, he panicks when he sees a truck with cabbages and blows it up. Then he spots a stork, and promptly beats it up. When he gets home, there is an entire swarm of storks, and he shoots at them with a cannon. Loaded with cabbages.
- In Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, babies really are brought by the stork, though thanks to something called the Adult Conspiracy, the parents still have to "summon the stork" (i.e. have sex. Sigh.) This only seems to apply to humanoids; centaurs apparently have offspring the mundane way, but they don't talk about it, and we're glad to comply. One villain is said (though possibly just rumored) to have proven too foul for the stork to handle; a basilisk is said to have delivered him.
- Spoofed in the book Open Sesame by Tom Holt, in which a fairyland "family planning" division works by shooting storks out of the air while they're delivering.
- The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Crooked World takes place on a planet that's like a children's cartoon. They have no concept of sex, and Fitz (who's a little bit of a Lovable Sex Maniac) takes it upon himself to try explaining to the Girl of the Week. She only understands it in terms of making babies, which is done on this planet by writing a letter to the stork, and gets confused by his explanation and even more confused when Anji tries to explain his explanation, and decides Fitz would probably appreciate it if she wrote to the stork. He gets kidnapped and the stork has a devil of a time trying to find him, and by the time it finds him, it has dropped the baby into the jungle to be raised by friendly wolves and ends up delivering him a bomb instead, which he seems about as (un)happy about as he would have been about a baby. One of the villains who has kidnapped him comments, when the "baby" is dropped into his lap, that if he'd written to the stork in French, the stork wouldn't have known what he meant and wouldn't have delivered it.note
- In the Novelization of The Twin Dilemma, the Sixth Doctor, temporarily under the delusion he's Sherlock Holmes, claims that as a child his parents told him the stork delivered babies, but he found this hard to believe as babies were common in London, but storks were rare. Upon hearing that a neighbour was about to have a baby, he observed the house closely, and didn't see a single stork. He did see a doctor entering with a black bag; obviously he had brought the baby.
- Pat of Silver Bush, (by the author of Anne of Green Gables) features Judy spinning a homegrown yarn to Pat: Judy says she's going to find Pat's little brother or sister in the parsley bed.
- The Anne of Green Gables books contain a reference to the stork, too. It was used as a euphemism for the birth of Anne's son, Jem. It was a bit oddly placed, since Anne had already given birth—albeit prematurely and the baby did not survive—and though it wasn't gory, it was plainly written.
- Referenced in Superfudge, where Peter's grandmother is dismayed that his parents told four-year-old Fudge the truth about how the baby got inside Mommy's belly. In her day, this trope was the standard Lie To Children.
- Parodied in "The Parenting Storks," a short story from David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, with a stork who believes that baby storks are put into eggs by mice with magic pockets.
- In To Kill a Mockingbird, Dill tells Scout that you get babies from an island where they are gathered like flowers. Scout, who had previously been told that babies are dropped down the chimney by God, is skeptical.
- In the short story The Conjure Brother, the young girl protagonist rejects the idea that babies come from storks. Instead she believes her friend's theory, that to get a baby a mother must eat until she becomes extremely fat. Then she goes the hospital to lose the weight and from their she can choose a baby.
- On the cover of the Choose Your Own Nightmare book The Haunted Baby, the eponymous character is being carried by a raven instead of a stork.
Live Action TV
- A first-season Mad TV sketch involved a couple going to a fertility clinic but not understanding what sex was. Turns out they "prayed to the magical stork." They were quite disgusted to learn the truth.
- An early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode has Buffy and Xander discovering Giles anxiously rehearsing asking Jenny out on a date, and proceed to give him unsolicited advice. Xander tells him "That business with the stork? It's just a smokescreen!" - Giles glares.
- In the Glee episode "Sexy", Brittany thinks she's pregnant because a stork built its nest on top of her garage.
- Discussed in House. When House posits that the patient might have two diseases, his team counters that one is simpler. To illustrate the point that one is not always simpler than two, House asks "what if I showed you a baby and told you that it's the product of either two parents or one stork?"
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- One strip features Calvin hearing about and asking his father specifically about the stork. His father's response was that, yes, most babies were delivered by a stork, but Calvin was "unceremoniously dumped down the chimney by a big, hairy pterodactyl." Calvin is, needless to say, thrilled (to his father's lack of surprise).
- In another comic, Calvin's dad informs him that kids come in kits (some assembly required) from Sears. Calvin is upset by this, but his father tells him not to worry as he was "a blue light special at K-mart. Almost as good, and a lot cheaper." Calvin is less than thrilled.
- When Mafalda's mother warns her that a brother is coming, the children discuss a lot about the stork, including the fact that airplane delivery would be quicker.
- In Hägar the Horrible, Hamlet asks his mother The Question. She answers that the stork brought him. He wants to know about his big sister, and Helga gives the same answer. Then he asks about his dad, and Helga says: "Four big storks."
- A '40s Blondie strip has Dagwood telling Cookie about this, but then Alexander butts in...◊
- In Once Upon a Mattress, the King gives The Talk to the Prince entirely in mime, but despite his best efforts, his son doesn't quite get it, and so, in the end he makes motions suggesting a stork. The Prince, however, finally puts it all together and realizes that "it isn't the stork at all."
- In Spring Awakening (which takes place in 19th century Germany) Frau Bergmann is still trying to use this story with fourteen-year-old Wendlanote , who becomes frustrated and insists her mother finally explain to her what really happens. She doesn't, and this ends very, VERY badly.
- The set-up for Yoshi's Island involves an attempted kidnapping of Baby Mario and Baby Luigi while they're being delivered by the stork.
- Yoshi's Island DS also uses the stork part, except it adds a few things such as a stop sign called a 'Stork Stop' where the stork allows Yoshi to switch which baby he's carrying on his back, storks carrying the babies back home after being rescued from Bowser's Castle and the stork itself in various cut scenes.
- Yoshis New Island has the stork accidentally bring Mario and Luigi to the wrong house, then get literally beaten up by Kamek mid flight.
- Word of God says this is how Pokémon eggs are delivered to the Day Care Center.
- The Pokédex also implies that Celebi may be the stork.
- Crusader Kings, a game about family lines and whole dynasties, uses these as a symbol to indicate that a character is, well, expecting.
- Baby was delivered this way in the beginning of Guardians Crusade until the stork was attacked and dropped it in a nearby village.
- Pac-Man and Ms Pac-Man had a baby delivered to them by the stork.
- Coryoon has a stork that delivers powerup orbs.
- After two Piñatas romance, their eggs is delivered to them... not by an actual stork, but by Storkos.
- A number of Hallmark's new baby and baby's first Christmas ornaments have incorporated this theme.
- After Expelled came out, it was followed by a short parody called Sexpelled about how scientists keep blindly rejecting the theory of the Delivery Stork. This featured bits of Nina Paley's film.
- In China, a common answer to where babies come from is to tell the child in question that he/she burst out of a stone like the Monkey King Sun Wu Kong.
- Another 'answer': "Bought you from the goldfish man." (Many fairgrounds and street markets often had a vendor who would sell short-lived goldfish for a living.)