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indo-european stork storkr starkas sterkas icon

Do storks bring babies?

In Slavic mythology and religion, storks were thought to carry unborn souls from Vyraj to Earth in spring and summer. This belief still persists in the modern folk culture of many Slavic countries, in the simplified child story that "storks bring children into the world". Storks were seen by the Slavs as bringing luck, and killing one would bring misfortune.

The idea was popularised by a 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen story called "The Storks". German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. The babies would then be given to a mother or dropped down the chimney.

Greek and Roman mythology portrays storks as models of parental devotion. Storks were thought to care for their aged parents, feeding them and even transporting them, and children's books depicted them as a model of filial values. A Greek law called Pelargonia, from the Ancient Greek word pelargos for stork, required citizens to take care of their aged parents. The Greeks also held that killing a stork could be punished with death. Storks were allegedly protected in Ancient Thessaly as they hunted snakes, and were widely held to be Virgil's "white bird". Roman writers noted the white stork's arrival in spring alerted farmers to plant their vines.

Storks have little fear of humans if not disturbed, and often nest on buildings in Europe. In Germany, the presence of a nest on a house was believed to protect against fires. They were also protected because of the belief that their souls were human. German and Dutch households would encourage storks to nest on houses, sometimes by constructing purpose-built high platforms, to bring good luck. Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians believe that storks bring harmony to a family on whose property they nest.


Old English: storc

Middle English: stork

Scots: stork

English: stork

Saterland Frisian: Stoark

Middle Low German: stork

Low German: Störk, Stoork, Stürk

Middle Dutch: storke, storc, sturc

Dutch: stork

Old High German: storh, storah

Middle High German: storch

German: Storch

Old Norse: storkr

Icelandic: storkur

Faroese: storkur

Norwegian: stork

Old Swedish: storker

Swedish: stork

Old Danish: stork

Danish: stork

Slovene: štorklja

Welsh: storc

Irish: storc


Ancient Greek: τόργος (tórgos) ("vulture")


Latvian: stārķis

Lithuanian: starkus

Bulgarian: щъ̀ркел (štǎ̀rkel)


Albanian: sterkjok

Jatvingian: sterkas ("stork, crane")

Albanian: shtërg

Russian: стерх (sterh) ("Siberian crane")


Sanskrit: सृजय (sṛjaya) ("wading bird")

Old East Slavic: стьркъ (stĭrkŭ) ("stork, crane")

Macedonian: штрк (štrk)

Serbo-Croatian: штрк, štrk


Romanian: barză (from Dacian)

Bulgarian: барзъ (barz) (from Thracian)

Article published on the 30th of October 2018.