The very proper gander

by James Thurber

Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, "There is a very proper gander." An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. "They said something about propaganda," she said. "I have always suspected that," said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander's clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. "They were up to no good," she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. "He said to hell with the flag, too," said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander's house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife. "There he is!" everybody cried. "Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!" So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.

Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.

(Source: Thurber, James. Fables for Our Time. New York, 1940.)


gander: male goose
smooth: not rough/charming and polite, but often not sincere
to strut: to walk in an upright proud way
to remark: to say
hen: a female chicken
to overhear: to hear sb. talking when one is not involved in the conversation or without their knowledge
roost: place/stable where chickens are kept overnight and where they lay their eggs
to suspect: to have an idea of the existence, presence or truth of sth. without definite proof
rooster: male chicken
hawk: "Habicht"
to be up to no good: "etwas im Schilde führen"
duck: "Ente"
hell: opposite of heaven
guinea hen: "Perlhuhn"
to recall: to remember
to snatch up: to pick up
to descend on: to attack
to overthrow (the government): to get rid of/to do away with (the government) in a violent way


I. Comprehension

  1. Have a close look at the action: How is the rumour ("Gerücht") started and how is it spread?

II. Form

  1. Characterize the gander. (How is he described, why does he behave the way he does and in what respect does he differ from the other animals?)
  2. What is said about the other barnyard animals?

III. Comment

  1. Write down in a few sentences what you believe is the theme of the fable.
  2. What do you think of the moral the author has chosen?