This tale is based on a true story told to me by Thomas and Annisette Koppel one afternoon in a park near the Children’s Animal Farm in Copenhagen, Denmark. It's intended to be a children's story, but grownups might like it, too. Oh, here's audio of me reading the story. You might like my children's music as well.
There was some land on the outskirts of Copenhagen with lots of trees and grass on it. Nobody knew who it belonged to, but an old man named Black Ina lived on it, and he had been there a long time.
Black Ina lived on the land there on the edge of the city, along with all of his animals. He had dozens and dozens of animals. Dogs, cats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, cows, horses, all kinds of animals.
Some of the grownups thought Black Ina was strange to be living in the city with so many animals. The children liked him, though, and he liked them, too.
But more than anything, the children liked the animals. Every day after school, and on the weekends, too, kids from the neighborhood would come to Black Ina’s land. They would feed the animals, brush their fur, take them for walks, ride the horses, play games and hang out.
The animals belonged to Black Ina, but nobody thought of it that way. There were different animals that different children took care of every day, and for each kid, there were certain animals that they were responsible for.
Billie was a little girl who lived not far away. Every day Billie came to Black Ina’s place. She took care of a big brown horse named Sven.
Every day she would clean out Sven’s stall, brush his hair, and take him for a ride. In the evening she’d go home, where she lived with her mom and dad, Thomas and Annisette. Sometimes she’d take some eggs with her from Black Ina’s chickens, or some milk from the cows, and they’d use them in that night’s dinner, or the next morning for breakfast.
Things went along like this in the neighborhood, until one day Black Ina died. This happens to everybody eventually, especially when they get very old, and that day it happened to Black Ina.
Friends of Black Ina’s, who lived far away, came to the city and started taking Black Ina’s things, including his animals.
The children were very sad. They started talking to each other, and they were all thinking the same thing. “We've been taking care of these animals for a long time, and they should stay here with us.”
The children started taking their animals home with them.
Billie took her big horse to her family’s house. Billie and her parents lived in a very small house, and the horse didn't fit inside the house very easily.
And even when he was in the house for a very short time, he could make a very big mess.
So Sven lived in the backyard. But the backyard was also very small, and Sven barely had room there to turn around.
Billie’s parents didn't mind Sven being in the backyard, but some of the neighbors started complaining. Thomas and Annisette said that something had to be done with Sven, and they didn't have enough money to pay for a stable out in the countryside. They didn't know what to do.
One day Billie made up her mind. “I’m going back to Black Ina's land,” she said.
When she got there, she took Sven to the stables where all the horses used to live. But the stables were all locked up! A policeman was guarding Sven’s stable. Billie asked the policeman, “Can I please keep my horse in the stable? There’s no room in my backyard for him.”
“No,” said the policeman. “This land is going to be sold now that Black Ina is gone. Someone’s going to build a big house on it.”
Billie didn't like this answer. Sell the land? A big house? No more animals, no more place for the kids to play? Billie stood her ground. She looked the policeman in the eye. “Please can Sven stay in his stable?”
The policeman had kids too. He knew he was supposed to do his job and not let anyone use the stables, but he felt bad for Billie, and he couldn't take it any longer. He broke open the lock that was on the stable.
“OK, you can keep the horse here, but only for a little while,” he said.
By the next day word was spreading around. “Billie is keeping her horse at the stable,” everyone was saying.
Other kids had brought their animals home, too. There were roosters crowing at the break of dawn, waking up their neighbors in the crowded city. There were cows mooing, sheep braying, and horses neighing at all hours of the night, and the grownups weren’t getting as much sleep as they used to.
So very quickly, all the other kids in the neighborhood started bringing their animals back to Black Ina's land. With Black Ina gone, the children decided together that his old place would now be known as The Children's Animal Farm.
Soon it was all back the way it used to be, except without Black Ina. It was just like it was before, but now the children were running everything themselves. Kids were getting up really early so they could go milk the cows and feed all the animals before they went to school.
After school they came back, rode the horses and cleaned out the stables.
Some well-meaning grownups tried to help the children. They thought surely children could not run a farm all by themselves. But that’s exactly what they were doing, and the children said they didn’t need any help. And furthermore, they said this place was just for kids – run by kids, for kids. And animals, of course.
Then one day the police came back. This time it wasn’t just one cop, it was a whole bunch of them. They were very stern with the kids. They said, “OK, kids, you’ve had your fun. Now you have to stop this and take your animals somewhere else. The City of Copenhagen has plans for this land. They’re going to build a big house here.”
Before they left, the police said, “You have one week to leave or we’re going to come and evict you.” And then they left.
Some of the kids were scared. They were afraid the police might hurt them. Others were sad. They thought there was nothing they could do, and their dream would be over by next week.
Others were mad. Billie was one of them. At a meeting of all the kids, she made a speech.
“We kids have to stand up for ourselves. The grownups have lots of places all over the city to do all kinds of things. But this is the only farm in the city run by kids, and we should keep it. We have taken good care of these animals, and they also need a home. So for the kids and the animals, we should stay. They can build their big house somewhere else.”
“But what about the police coming to evict us next week?”, some practical-minded boy asked.
“We've got to have a demonstration and show them we’re serious,” someone else said.
And so that day they called up all the TV stations, all the radio stations, and all the newspapers. They told them all: “We have started The Children’s Animal Farm and we aren't going away. It's a place for children and animals now. Tomorrow we’re having a demonstration at City Hall.”
Some well-meaning grownups who had organized protests before offered to help, but the kids said they could do it themselves.
The people from the TV and radio and newspapers were all intrigued by this unusual news, and they all showed up the next day at City Hall to see what was going to happen.
Then, from around the block, they heard the sound of horses neighing, and the clompety-clomp of horses’ feet hitting the cobblestones.
And then, coming towards the City Hall, there were twenty children riding twenty horses! It was quite a sight. They rode up the steps of City Hall.
One of the smallest kids, riding the smallest pony, cleared her throat. All the reporters pointed their cameras and microphones at her. Then she spoke. She already knew what she wanted to say, and she had practiced her speech while they were all riding to City Hall.
“We represent the children and animals of the Children’s Animal Farm. It’s a place for children and for animals, and we think it should stay that way. We think the City can build their big house somewhere else, and we’re not leaving.”
With that, the children rode the horses back down the stairs and tromped through town back to the stables at the Children’s Animal Farm.
Over the next few days, the children went about their lives running the farm, riding the horses, and playing with each other, but they were worried. What was going to happen when the police came back the next week?
The next week, all the TV crews and the radio people and the reporters for the newspapers were at the farm with the children, wondering the same thing.
But the deadline came and passed, and the police never showed up.
The people at City Hall had been very impressed by the kids and the horses and all the TV crews. They were worried that they would look very bad if they were seen on TV making the children leave the farm, and they decided the best thing they could do was to do nothing at all.
Maybe they hoped the kids would lose steam, get bored and abandon the farm. But they never did. And still today, if you go to the outskirts of Copenhagen, you will find it there, still filled with trees, bushes, animals, and children. The Children’s Animal Farm.