“The sky is falling” describes a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.
Henny Penny, more commonly known in the US as Chicken Little is a European folk tale with a moral about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. Versions of the story go back more than 25 centuries.
The story is an examples of folktales that make light of paranoia and mass hysteria. The best-known Western version concerns a chick that believes the sky is falling when an acorn falls on its head. The chick decides to tell the King and on its journey meets other animals which join it in the quest. After this point, there are many endings. In the most familiar, a fox invites them to its lair and then eats them all. Alternatively, the last one, usually Cocky Lockey, survives long enough to warn the chick, who escapes. In others all are rescued and finally speak to the King.
Part of the oral folk tradition, the story only began to appear in print in the early 1800s. John Greene Chandler, an illustrator and wood engraver from Massachusetts, published an illustrated children’s book titled The Remarkable Story of Chicken Little in 1840. In this American version of the story, Chicken Little is frightened by a leaf falling on her tail.
In 1849, an English version was published as The Story of Chicken-Licken by Joseph Orchard Halliwell. In this story, Chicken-licken was startled when “an acorn fell on her bald pate” and encounters the characters Hen-len, Cock-lock, Duck-luck, Drake-lake, Goose-loose, Gander-lander, Turkey-lurkey and Fox-lox. It was followed in 1850 by The wonderful story of Henny Penny in Joseph Cundall’s compilation, The Treasury of pleasure books for young children.
A very early example containing the basic motif of the tale is some 25 centuries old and appears in the Buddhist scriptures as the Daddabha Jataka. In it, the Buddha, on hearing about some particular religious practices, comments that there is no special merit in them, but rather that they are “like the noise the hare heard.” He then tells the story of a hare disturbed by a falling fruit who believes that the earth is coming to an end. The hare starts a stampede among the other animals until a lion halts them, investigates the cause of the panic and restores calm.
The fable teaches the necessity for deductive reasoning and subsequent investigation. It is a warning not to believe everything one is told.
One wishes that global warming alarmists would pay more attention to the “deductive reasoning and subsequent investigation.”