From Iceland — There’s Nothing Wrong with a Cow on a Swing

There’s Nothing Wrong with a Cow on a Swing

There’s Nothing Wrong with a Cow on a Swing

Published September 2, 2005

The plot of this story, with a vocabulary aimed at children entering grade school, is simple enough: one fine summer’s day, an ordinary cow (Mamma Mö) gets the urge to learn how to ride a swing, so she sneaks away from the pasture and into the woods to do just that. Her reasons for wanting to do so take up a large part of the beginning of the narrative, with a crow, Krákur, following her all the while, acting like a belligerent Jiminy Cricket, repeatedly pointing out the absurdity of a cow on a swing. But Mamma Mö is unswayed and counters Krákur’s argument of “there’s no good reason for a cow to swing” by pointing out that there’s no reason why she shouldn’t, either.
Krákur, after watching Mamma Mö’s futile attempt to string up a simple plank-and-two-ropes swing from the branch of a pine tree, relents at last and gets the swing tied in place. With understandable trepidation, Mamma Mö settles down on the swing and waits for something to happen. It’s at this point of the story that the already entertaining illustrations take a more active role in the narrative, depicting in a way that words can’t Mamma Mö’s struggle to get the swing to move with her legs and tail. After several attempts, Mamma Mö gets the thing in motion at last, and is soon cheering as she swings high up in both directions, with Krákur delighted for her.
The crow is, in folklore, often a bad omen, and the case is no different in this story, as Krákur’s initial refusal to believe that a cow can swing is made manifest in the form of an approaching farmer on his tractor. Mamma Mö and Krákur both realize they’d probably send the poor farmer into therapy if he saw her on the swing and they quickly hide. The farmer notices the commotion and takes a closer look but, not able to see a cow cleverly hiding in some underbrush, gets on his tractor and heads back to the farm. Having tricked the world’s stupidest dairy farmer, Mamma Mö sneaks back into the barn where he’s milking the other cows and is oblivious to the fact that Mamma Mö is wearing his John Deere cap. The illustrations are what really bring this story to life, and even brought a chuckle to some otherwise serious grown-ups we know. It’s a simple, charming, well-paced story, too, with the added bonus of trying to convey one of the better lessons you can teach a child: just because some harmless and enjoyable activity isn’t something you’d normally do is no reason why you shouldn’t do it.

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