His First Flight By Liam O’ Flahrety
The young seagull was alone on his ledge. His two brothers and his sister had already flown away the day before. He had been afraid to fly with them. Somehow when he had taken a little run forward to the brink of the ledge and attempted to flap his wings he became afraid. The great expanse of sea stretched down beneath, and it was such a long way down – miles down. He felt certain that his wings would never support him; so he bent his head and ran away back to the little hole under the ledge where he slept at night. Even when each of his brothers and his little sister, whose wings were far shorter than his own, ran to the brink, flapped their wings, and flew away, he failed to muster up courage to take that plunge which appeared to him so desperate. His father and mother had come around calling him shrilly, upbraiding him, threatening to let him starve on his ledge unless he flew away. But for the life of him he could not move.
The was twenty-four hours ago. Since then nobody had come near him. The day before, all day long, he had watched his parents flying about with his brothers and sister, perfecting them in the art of flight, teaching them how to skim the waves and how to dive for fish. He had, in fact, seen his older brother catch his first herring and devour it, standing on a rock, while his parents circled around raising a proud cackle. And all the morning the whole family had walked about on the big plateau midway down the opposite cliff taunting him with his cowardice.
The sun was now ascending the sky, blazing on his ledge that faced the south. He felt the heat because he had not eaten since the previous nightfall.
He stepped slowly out to the brink of the ledge, and standing on one leg with the other leg hidden under his wing, he closed on eye, then the other, and pretended to be falling asleep. Still they took no notice of him. He saw his two brothers and his sister lying on the plateau dozing with their heads sunk into their necks. His father was preening the feathers of his white back. Only his mother was looking at him. She was standing on a little high hump on the plateau, her white breast thrust froward. Now and again, she tore at a piece of fish that lay at her feet and then scrapped each side of her beak on the rock. The sight of the food maddened him. How he loved to tear food that way, scrapping his beak now and again to whet it.
“Ga, ga, ga,” he cried begging her to bring him some food. “Gaw-col-ah,” she screamed back derisively. But he kept calling plaintively, and after a minute or so he uttered a joyful scream. His mother had picked up a piece of the fish and was flying across to him with it. He leaned out eagerly, tapping the rock with his feet, trying to get nearer to her as she flew across. But when she was just opposite to him, she halted, her wings motionless, the piece of fish in her beak almost within reach of his beak. He waited a moment in surprise, wondering why she did not come nearer, and then, maddened by hunger, he dived at the fish. With a loud scream he fell outwards and downwards into space. Then a monstrous terror seized him and his heart stood still. He could hear nothing. But it only lasted a minute. The next moment he felt his wings spread outwards. The wind rushed against his breast feathers, then under his stomach, and against his wings. He could feel the tips of his wings cutting through the air. He was not falling headlong now. He was soaring gradually downwards and outwards. He was no longer afraid. He just felt a bit dizzy. Then he flapped his wings once and he soared upwards. “Ga, ga, ga, Ga, ga, fa, Gaw-col-ah,” his mother swooped past him, her wings making a loud noise. He answered her with another scream. Then his father flew over him screaming. He saw his two brothers and his sister flying around him curveting and banking and soaring and diving.
Then he completely forgot that he had not always been able to fly, and commended himself to dive and soar and curve, shrieking shrilly.
He was near the sea now, flying straight over it, facing straight out over the ocean. He saw a vast green sea beneath him, with little ridges moving over it and he turned his beak sideways and cawed amusedly.
His parents and his brothers and sister had landed on this green flooring ahead of him. They were beckoning to him, calling shrilly. He dropped his legs to stand on the green sea. His legs sank into it. He screamed with fright and attempted to rise again flapping his wings. But he was tried and weak with hunger and he could not rise, exhausted by the strange exercise. His feet sank into the green sea, and then his belly touched it and he sank no farther. He was floating on it, and around him his family was screaming, praising him and their beaks were offering him scraps of dog-fish.
He had made his first flight.
His First Flight Summary
This story is about a family of seagulls. There was a young child in the family who was unable to fly even after several tries. the story highlights the importance of family and friends in one’s life. It also gives message that one needs to believe in self to overcome all the hurdles of own life.
The Seagull Family
The seagull family consists of six seagulls – mother, father, three sons and one daughter. All of them except the youngest son are expert in flying high. His parents have tried several times to teach him how to fly but he is scared to do that and does not want to try anymore. He relies on the food that his parents bring back from their flights.
Young Seagull’s Fear of Flying
The youngest son is afraid of flying as he thinks that if he flies, his wings would not support him and he would fall down in the sea below and drown. Even his parents have rebuked him. They even threatened him if he doesn’t fly, he would die of hunger, but he does not try.
Parents Leave Young Seagull Alone
After so many failed attempts, his parents leave him alone on the rock without food. They even taunt him for his cowardice. The young seagull looks at his brothers and sisters enjoying swimming, diving in the sea water for fish to feed themselves, but no one comes near him to offer food.
Hunger and Heat Increase
As the time passes, the young seagull could not tolerate the hunger and the heat. He moves closer to the ledge and pretends to fall asleep but nobody takes notice of him. His brothers and sisters have already had hearty breakfast and father seems busy in admiring and cleaning the feathers on his back. The mother looks at him and tries to tempt him with pieces of fish. His begging and crying does not affect her.
Young Seagull Dives for Food
The young seagull was very hungry. He as surprised enough at his mother’s ignorance of his pitiful condition. Thus, he dives for food. He begins to fall down with a scream as soon as he dives.
The young seagull begins to fall in the sea. He is afraid of drowning, so he tries to spread his wings outwards and beings flying. He feels a little dizzy but all his fear vanished (disappeared). He soars slowly downwards and upwards. He could finally fly on his own.
Joy of Flight and Reunion of Family
The seagull becomes so happy and soars higher calling ‘ga, ga, ga’. It was really a joyous moment for the whole family; his brothers and sisters alongwith his parents come near to encourage and cheer him. The young seagull successfully made his first flight.
About the Characters
Family of Seagulls : 6 members in the family of seagulls.
Young Seagull : One who is unable to fly due to fear.
- Seagull family consists of 6 members.
- The young seagull is afraid of flying and family has concern of his food and fear of flying.
- Cajoling (entrap) and provoking him by family.
- Family leaves him alone at the rock, so he cries because of heat and hunger.
- No one looks at him except the mothers who tries to tempt him for a piece of fish.
- Everybody taunts him for his cowardice, so the young seagull dives to catch a fish to feed himself.
- He tries to spread his winds outwards and begins to fly slowly downwards and upwards.
- He is not no longer afraid of flying and falling down in the sea. He soars with a joyous scream.
- Seagull family came near to him and encourage him.
- He had made his first flight successfully.
ledge : a narrow horizontal shelf
brink : edge
attempted : tried
flap : to move wings up and down
muster up : gather
plunge : dive
shrilly : sharply
upbraiding : rebuking
starve : die of hunger
skim : moving lightly over an area, surface
dive : plunge
herring : a kind of fish
devour : eat at a great speed
cackle : cackling sound
taunting : jeering
cowardice : lack of courage
blazing : shining with great heat, burning
dozing : feeling sleepy
preening : smoothing feathers with beak
scrapped : rubbed
maddened : was made mad
whet : sharpening
derisively : mockingly
plaintively : sorrowfully
leaned out : knelt
tapping : beating lightly
halted : stopped
monstrous : very fearful
seized : caught
headlong : head downwards
soaring : flying upwards
dizzy : confused, spinning
swooped : pounced
curveting : moving with an action resembling a horse’s leap
banking : flying with one wing higher than the other
commended : praised
ridges : wavy edges
cawed : made a cawing sound
beckoning : signalling
Questions and Answers
Thinking about the Text (Page 36)
Question 1 : Why was the young seagull afraid to fly? Do you think all young birds are afraid to make their fist flight? Do you think a human baby also finds it a challenge to take its first step?
Answer : The young seagull was afraid to fly because it was his first flight and he feared of falling and hurting himself. He thought would not support him while flying.
Yes, it is natural that doing something for the first time is a bit challenging and fearful. Similarly, a human baby is also afraid of taking the first step and finds it challenging when he learns to crawl or stand up without support.
Question 2 : “The sight of the food maddened him.” What does this suggest? What compelled the young seagull to finally fly?
Answer : The young seagull was very hungry. It was his hunger that ultimately compelled him to fly. His hunger intensified when he saw his mother tearing at a piece of fish that lay at her feet. He cried to her, begging her to get some food. When his mother came towards him with food in her beak, he screamed with joy and anticipation. However, she stopped mid-way. He wondered why she did not come nearer. Not being able to resist or control his hunger any longer, he dived at the food in his mother’s beak. At that moment, his hunger overpowered his fear of the great expanse of sea beneath the cliff. Finally, this plunge was followed by the natural reaction of his body, i.e. to fly.
Question 3 : “They were beckoning to him, calling shrilly.” Why did the seagull’s father and mother threaten him and cajole him to fly?
Answer : Seagull’s parents had tried everything but he was reluctant to fly due to fear of falling down. He looked at his brothers and sister but wouldn’t make any efforts. That’s why the whole family had left him alone and threatened and cajoled him to come but every effort went in vain.
Question 4 : Have you ever had a similar experience, where you parents encouraged you to do something that you were too scared to try? Discuss this in pairs or groups.
Answer : Yes, I had a similar experience while leaning to ride a bicycle in class VI. In my initial attempts, I fell down every time and developed a fear of cycling which was difficult to overcome.
No amount of provoking and cajoling could let me try it again, but my father encouraged me to overcome the fear and helped me as he was adamant on my learning cycling. He took me on a mound near village and made me sit and asked me to put my hands on the handle and feet on the paddle. It sped down and I enjoyed it without fear which developed my confidence. This, I overcame my fear of cycling and started riding a cycle after a few practice sessions.
Question 5 : In the case of a bird flying, it seems a natural act and a foregone conclusion that it should succeed. In the examples you have given in answer to the previous question, was your success guaranteed, or was it important for you to try, regardless of a possibility of failure?
Answer : We face some problems in the initial stage while learning new skills. Due to the fear of failure, we hesitate to perform a task or to do something new. In case of the seagull, his parents cajoled him to fly. In the example, I have given in the answer of previous question, I was cajoled by my father to learn cycling. So, at that stage, I was to learn cycling as it was very important for me to overcome my fear. Yes, my success was guaranteed because if someone is determined to do something then success is assured. Moreover as said, practice makes a man perfect.
Extract Based Questions
Read the following extracts carefully and choose the correct option.
Question 1 : The young seagull was alone on his ledge. His two brothers and his sister had already flown away the day before. He had been afraid to fly with them. Somehow when he had taken a little run forward to the brink of the ledge and attempted to flap his wings he became afraid. The great expanse of sea stretched down beneath, and it was such a long way down – miles down. He felt certain that his wings would never support him; so he bent his head and ran away back to the little hole under the ledge where he slept at night.
i) What was the young seagull afraid of?
ii) What did the young seagull feel about his wings?
a) They are too heavy
b) They are too light
c) They would never support him
d) They are perfect
iii) Pick the word in the extract that means the same as ‘verge’
iv) What does the phrase ‘on his ledge’ signify in the extract?
a) That the seagull is the owner of the ledge
b) That the ledge is his prized possession.
c) That the seagull wants to own the ledge
d) That the seagull lives on a narrow flat piece of rock, termed as ledge
Answer : i) a) Flying
ii) c) They would never support him
iii) b) Brink
iv) d) That the seagull lives on a narrow flat piece of rock, termed as ledge
Question 2 : That was twenty-four hours ago. Since then nobody had come near him. The day before, all day long, he had watched his parents flying about with his brothers and sister, perfecting them in the art of flight, teaching them how to skim the waves and how to dive for fish. He had in fact, seen his elder brother catch his first herring and devour it, standing on a rock, while his parents circled around raising a proud cackle. And all the morning the whole family had walked about on the big plateau and mid-way down the opposite cliff taunting him for his cowardice.
i) For how much time has the young seagull been alone?
a) For 45 minutes
b) For twenty four hours
c) For three days
d) For one week
ii) Why was the whole family taunting the young seagull?
a) For his foolish act
b) For his lying
c) For his bravery
d) For his cowardice
iii) Which word in the extract means the same as ‘consume’?
iv) What does ‘his cowardice’ in the extract signify?
a) Courage of fight
b) Weakness of wings
c) Fear of flying
d) Act of running
Answer : i) b) For twenty four hours
ii) d) For his cowardice
iii) a) Devour
iv) c) Fear of flying
Short Questions and Answers
Question 1 : How did the seagull’s parents try to make him fly?
Answer : The young seagull was afraid of flying. Even after several tries, he was unable to fly. Except him all his brothers and sister were expert in flying high.
He always relied on the food that his parents brought back from their flights.
So to make him fly they screamed, scolded and threatened to let him alone and starve on the ledge unless he flew away. They did not offer him food and let him look them while having their food.
Question 2 : Why did the young seagull feel very miserable on the ledge?
Answer : The young seagull feel very miserable on the ledge as he was alone and his family had already flown away. He was feeling very hungry and had nothing to eat. His condition was worsening because he could not even dive for fish.
Question 3 : What had the young seagull watched his parents doing the day before?
Answer : The day before, the young seagull had watched his parents flying about with his brothers and sister, perfecting in the art of flying and teaching them how to skim the waves and how to dive for fish.
He had in fact, seen his brothers and sister enjoying swimming, catching the fish to feed themselves.
Question 4 : When did the seagull get over his fear of flying over the sea?
Answer : The seagull was afraid of flying over the sea because he thought that he would drown. His family decided to teach him a lesson. They left him unattended. The mother tore a piece of fish that lay at her feet now and then in his front. Since the seagull was hungry too much, he was compelled to attempt his first flight in order to get food. He was successful.
This is when he got over his fear of flying over the sea.
Question 5 : How did the young seagull and his family celebrate his first flight?
Answer : The young seagull dived at the fish due to hunger and fell outwards and downwards into space. He moved downwards and outwards and landed safely on the sea and floated on it without any fear. When the young seagull started flying and got over his fear, his family screamed around him out of joy. They praised him and offered him scraps of dog-fish out of delight as he made a successful attempt.
Long Questions and Answers
Question 1 : “They were beckoning to him, calling shrilly.” Why did the seagull’s parents threaten him and cajole him to fly? Compare it with your experiences when your parents encouraged you.
Answer : I can compare the situation with the way my parents cajole and sometimes pressurise me to focus on my study. Excess of either love or pressure will not do well for anyone. So a mix of carrot and stick always gives the desired results. Probably saegull’s parents have learnt this lesson through their experience. That is why they are following the carrot and stick policy. There can be variety of examples of our lives, like learning to ride a bicycle, or getting goose-bumps on a ferry wheel, or the apprehension while travelling alone for the first time. But parent’s pressure can give us a boost to excel in our lives though it seems bad many a times but the result can be seen with the example of the young seagull.
Question 2 : How did the mother make the young seagull come out of his fear and teach him the art of flying?
How did the seagull family help the young seagull overcome his fear and fly?
Why was the young seagull afraid of flying? What compelled the seagull to finally fly?
Describe the tricks used by the seagull family to help the young seagull overcome his fear and fly.
Answer : The young seagull was afraid of flying because he thought that his wings won’t support him and he would drown.
When his family left him alone on the ledge, he felt alone and was very hungry. They tried hard to make him fly but he never showed the courage to try. His mother knowingly tore a piece of fish near him and flew across to him with it. She came close to him but did not go nearer.
Already mad by hunger, he dived at the fish but fell into space. After sometimes, his wings spread outwards and he began to fly. His family landed on the sea ahead of him. They beckoned (attracted) him so he landed on the sea and began to sink into water but when his belly touched the water, he floated without any fear and difficulty.
Question 3 : Do you think that the seagull’s family loved him? Justify their attitude towards him?
Answer : The young seagull had two brothers and a sister. His parents flew with them to leave him alone on the ledge as he could not muster (gather) up the courage to fly with them. His parents could have fed him, but they refused to give him any food. They wanted him to fly and dive for food. They threatened to let him starve. They did so because they loved him. The parents were right in what they did because they wanted to teach him the importance of confidence and self-reliance. One can’t depend on one’s parents all one’s life to be fed. Thus, it was important for him to learn to fly, dive and search his own food. So, the attitude of the seagull family showed to him was actually their love, care and concern for him.
Question 4 : Why as the young seagull pretending to be asleep? What did he actually observe while doing so?
Answer : The young seagull came to the brink of the ledge. He stood there on one leg with the other leg hidden under his wing. He closed his one eye, then the other, and pretended to be falling asleep. He did so because he wanted to know whether they were interested in him or not but he observed that his family was not noticing him. He saw his brother and sister lying on the plateau (elevated plain). They were dozing (sleeping). His father was preening the feathers on his white back. Only his mother was looking at him. Now and then, she tore a piece of fish that lay at her feet. Then she scrapped each side of the back on the rock.
Question 5 : Fear and lack of confidence stop one from learning new things. Do you agree? How did these two traits of the young seagull make him coward? How did he overcome these shortcomings?
Answer : Yes, it is true that fear and lack of confidence stop one from learning new things as in the story, the young seagull lack the value of courage, and confidence in his character. He was too scared of flying. His family tried hard to make him fly but he refused to do so because of his fear of sinking in the seawater. They even scolded him for his cowardice. They tried to tempt him with food but he was not willing to learn flying. Once he dived, his fear disappeared and he enjoyed his first flight. It is a fact that unless we try for something and overcome our fear, we can’t learn anything.
Confidence and motivation are two most important traits that make any learning possible. These traits also give a person courage to face any situation and he can overcome his fear.