Friday, May 16, 2014

Stork Stories

In honor of Mother's Day (by which time I'd planned to publish this, but did not, so consider this post an overdue baby...I have postpartum expression, I guess), I give you the stork.

White storks are European birds long associated with fertility and the bringing of babies. Many elements of stork life probably inspired this association. The birds build enormous nests, for starters, and they exhibit strong site fidelity, returning to the same nest for years after spring migration.

The stork was the sacred bird of the Roman goddess Juno, who presided over homes and the family. In Christian mythology, storks symbolize peace, piety, and marital happiness.

The stork-bringing-the-baby originated in northern Germany in ancient times, and since then it's been carried (not by storks) worldwide.

A baby-toting stork even makes a brief appearance in a Sioux legend I found online. And supersized logger Paul Bunyan was apparently delivered to his parents by five burly storks.

Today, babies born with red marks on the nape of the neck are said to bear "stork bites." (My daughter had them, as well as a sweet "angel kiss" on her forehead.)

The stork tale's Germanic origins make Wagner's crafting of a stork very fitting. The stork shown above is the version produced in the company's last decade. It has plastic legs glued into two holes in the underside. Unfortunately, these legs have a tendency to pop out, leaving the poor bird rather helpless.

Fortunately, they're very easy to glue back in. They don't usually take any plaster away with them when they fall off, and the Wagner crafters glued them in to start with, so fixing them doesn't make you feel as if you've defiled a vintage item.

While we're on the topic of disembodied storks...the blob below is an interesting item that my friend W. brought back from a visit to the Wagner workshop. It's the raw body of a stork before it gets painted and flocked.

You can see the hole where the excess slip (wet composite material) was drained from the piece after the mold had set for a while.

Below is a much older version of the Wagner stork, from the early 1950s. It's an M.C. Original, an animal made by the Wagner workshop for Max Carl toys. It has legs made of painted lead instead of plastic, and unlike the one-piece plastic legs, which are joined at the feet, the metal legs are two separate limbs. (I am also thinking that some child  picked off the little orange beads that must once have formed this bird's eyes. I can't otherwise explain the white staring orbs he's got. He was like this when I bought him, so I don't know for sure.)

You can see many other differences between the 1950s bird and the 1980s/1990s one at a glance. The new stork, for example, is bigger and bulkier than its ancestor. Also noticeable is the attention to detail on the older stork. It has feather markings painted on its side that the newer version completely lacks. Interestingly, the mold has curves notched into it to indicate feathers and wings, but in the new stork these are just flocked over and not embellished with paint.

We'll end with your laugh for the day. The Wagner workshop, at some point, began selling the stork with a little plastic baby. This stork, however, did not carry the baby sweetly, all swaddled and cozy in a lovely silken bag. Oh, no. This stork had a horrible way of transporting youngsters...or was it preying upon them? What marketing genius came up with this delivery? I ask you.