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The Gertrude Bird

Published June 15, 2010
Countries: Scandinavia, England, Norway
Age Levels: 5-6 and up

Gertrude lived by herself in a little country town in Norway.  She was a lonely old red haired woman.  She did not have to be lonely.  Her loneliness was all her own fault.  The little town had families living in it.  Visitors passed through the town every day.  But, every time someone tried to stop and talk or to say a kind word, the little old lady would wave her white apron and shoo them away.  If that did not work, she would make tapping noises with a spoon or a stick and tell them to go away.

When children came near her house to play, Gertrude would take a stick and tap loudly on the side of her house.  Tap, Tap, tap-Tap!  Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  "Go away," Gertrude would say.  Get out of my yard.

This was too bad, because Gertrude was a wonderful baker.  She made small delicious cakes to eat.  Gertrude would put her cakes on the window ledge to cool.  Everyone passing by would smell the wonderful cakes.  They would stop to look at the cakes on the window ledge.  Gertrude would tap with her spoon on the window... Tap, Tap, tap-Tap!  Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  "Go away," Gertrude would say.  This cake is for me.

One day Gertrude put on her black dress and her white apron.  She went into her kitchen and mixed together the best little cake she had ever made.  When the cake came out of the oven Gertrude placed it as usual by the window.  Like always, the smell of her cake caused everyone to stop and smell.

Tap, Tap, tap-Tap!  Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  Gertrude tapped on her window.  "Go away," Gertrude told the people.  This cake is for me!  The grown-ups left first.  Tap, Tap, tap-Tap!  Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  Gertrude tapped her stick on the outside of her house.   "Go away," Gertrude told the children."  The children sadly left as well. 

Gertrude was left alone by everyone except for one old man, a stranger she had never seen before.  Tap, Tap, tap-Tap!  Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  Gertrude tapped with her spoon on the baking pan.  "Go away.  This cake is only for me." 

"Hello, kind woman," said the old man.  This was very nice of him, because she was not kind at all.  "I could not help but smell your cake.  I will go away if you give me a cake of my own to ease my hunger."

"This cake is only for me," said the old woman.  "Go away."

"It is unlucky to send a stranger away from your door hungry," reminded the old man.  "I will leave, but I must have a bite of your cake first."

The old woman said, "This cake is too big for you.  I will make you a small cake.  Come in and sit by the fire."  As the old man sat by the fire, Gertrude made a very small cake.  She put it into the oven to bake.  When the cake was done, it was bigger than the first cake she made for herself.

"This cake is too big for you," said Gertrude.  "This will be my cake.  I will make still another cake for you."  The old man sat by the fire and waited.  The old woman made yet another cake.  She made it as small as she could and put it into the oven to bake.  When it came out, it was bigger than the first or the second cake.

"I cannot give you this cake.  It is too big for you.  This will be my cake also.  I will make you a smaller cake."  Gertrude took the smallest bowl and mixed the smallest bit of batter.  She put it into her smallest cake pan.  But when the cake came out of the oven, it was the biggest cake yet.  It was bigger than the first and second cake. 

Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  Gertrude tapped her spoon on the cake pan.  You need to leave.  This cake will be for me also.  I have no cake for you."

The little old man got up to leave.  "I told you it was bad luck to send a stranger away hungry.  I am a fairy disguised as a man.  I like kind people who are nice to one another.  I do not like selfish people.  I have used my magic for years to help you make wonderful cakes that I hoped you would share with others.  But, you never shared even one.  Eat your cakes.  You will never make another one.  Then the stranger disappeared.

Gertrude sat down at her table to eat her cakes.  But, when she tried to reach out... she had no hands to eat with.  Gertrude looked in the mirror.  What she saw staring back at her was a redheaded woodpecker.  It had a red head, a black body and a white front that looked like an apron.

When you see a redheaded woodpecker today, you will still see what looks like Gertrude's black dress and white apron and her red scarf.  You will still hear her making sounds like Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap-Tap.  The sounds come from the woodpecker as it pecks at trees trying to find bugs to eat.  There is no cake for Gertrude anymore.

Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.