Tuesday 13 December 2022

Overcoming adversity - a lesson for us all

Peter Penguin

Image by Bethan, aged 8

When Peter Penguin hatched he looked like all the other penguin chicks and was the *fluffy sea apple of his fond parents’ eye. When he and the rest of his crèche had gained their waterproof plumage it was time to approach the sea and learn to swim.

At first, they dabbled in the shallows, becoming accustomed to the lapping waves. Gradually, the bolder ones ventured further into deeper water until they suddenly discovered they could swim. Peter was perfectly content to paddle and he was almost the last chick to immerse himself, but when he did it became apparent that he had a serious disability. While all his friends and relations confidently bobbed about on the surface or dived deep, Peter sank like a stone. His parents and aunts and uncles shook their heads. 

‘Negative buoyancy,’ they muttered. ‘What can we do?’

Peter’s parents went to consult Principal Penguin, a wise old bird, who nodded as they told him about Peter. From beneath his throne he brought out a box. Unlocking it, he withdrew five flat brightly-striped articles. ‘These are water wings,’ he intoned solemnly.

Peter’s parents glanced warily at each other. ‘Peter has wings,’ they said. ‘We all have wings and we use them in water, so are they not water wings? Peter’s water wings do not work properly. He can never be a proper penguin.’ Peter’s mother gulped and turned away so that Principal Penguin would not see her distress.

Principal Penguin regarded them gravely. ‘These wings are inflatable. They will help Peter.’ He proceeded to blow air into them and showed Peter how to wear them, one on each wing, one on each foot and one on his tail.

His parents watched open-beaked as their son flapped his colourful limbs and twitched his ornamented tail. They wondered uneasily if the rest of the colony would ostracise him for looking so different.

‘Watch and wait,’ said Principal Penguin.

Peter Penguin felt very self-conscious as he waddled to the water’s edge but to his joy he soon found that he was able to swim like the rest of the chicks. Diving was a little more difficult but with much practise he succeeded. In a short while he was able to dispense with his swimming aids and everyone forgot he had ever had a problem. 

When he returned the water wings to Principal Penguin he looked shyly at him and said, ‘Thank you, sir.’

Principal Penguin smiled kindly at the young bird and patted him on the shoulder. ‘I had the same disorder as you when I was little.’

 Peter Penguin gasped.

‘One day, you may be Principal Penguin like me. Principals are always chosen from those who have had to overcome adversity. Be happy, young man, and be kind.’

Peter Penguin pattered home with a smile on his bill and a song in his heart. Sure enough, many years later, he became Principal Penguin and was revered for his compassion and wisdom.


*Sea apples are colourful sea cucumbers. They are not fluffy!


  1. I'm glad Peter Penguin had help to overcome his adversity.

  2. Did Peter Penguin ever meet Jonathan Livingston Seagull?
    Bethan's image is lovely.

  3. Hi Janice - lovely story ... while Sean's comment rings true too ... clever lad (Bethan!) - cheers Hilary


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