The Little Red Hen is so relevant, or, what is greed?

I love the illustrations in Richard Scarry’s “The Little Red Hen”, a surprisingly hard-to-find little board book. When I read it to my daughter, I think I’m the one who enjoys it the most. The characters are cute. The message is strong.


The little red hen finds some grains of wheat and tries to get the other animals involved in the process of making bread. Each time she asks for volunteers, the other animals opt out. When the tasks is finally done and she asks who is willing to eat the bread, their answers change. Now they are eager to participate. Too late. The little red hen says she did all the work so she will eat the bread.

Is the hen greedy? Should she be required to share with those who have no bread? She saw an opportunity and put in the effort to make it happen. She didn’t cheat anyone or steal. Nobody was willing to help until the bread was ready to eat. It’s interesting how the hen might be judged as selfish and unkind by some people. They feel she should be willing to give to the others because she has bread and they want bread. Those who criticize the inequality of the outcome, don’t consider the inequality of the input. Somehow the greed of the non-participants is not considered greed. Though they covet something they could gain on their own, they are unwilling to work for it.

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