Fly, Eagle, Fly is my toddler’s favorite book at the moment. A farmer (in the Transkei region of South Africa) goes in search of a lost calf. Instead, he recues an eagle chick, brings it home to his family and proceeds to raise the eagle, “the king of birds”, as a chicken. A friend of the farmer’s, on seeing the bird among the chickens, remarks that the bird is not a chicken but an eagle. To which the farmer replies:
Of course it’s a chicken. Look – it walks like a chicken, it talks like a chicken, it eats like a chicken. It thinks like a chicken. Of course it’s a chicken.
The friend resolves to show the farmer that the bird is still an eagle and has not forgotten how to be an eagle. The friend tries twice to get the eagle to fly; first by catching the bird and holding it above his head, and then by carrying the eagle up the tallest thatch hut in the village. He tries to convince the bird:
You are not a chicken but an eagle. You belong not to the earth but to the sky. Fly, Eagle, Fly.
Each time, the eagle finds its way back to the chickens. On the third day, the friend wakes the farmer up in the early hours of the morning. He plans to take the eagle to the mountains where the farmer found the bird so that the “eagle may see the sun rise over the mountain and follow it into the sky where it belongs”. When they reach the top of the mountain:
the friend talked on, telling the bird about the sun, how it gives life to the world, how it reigns in the heavens, giving light to each new day.
“Look at the sun, Eagle. And when it rises, rise with it. You belong to the sky, not to the earth”
The story concludes with the flight of the great eagle into the sky to greet the sun as it rises in the east. The eagle will never again live among the chickens.
My toddler loves this book and I quite enjoy it myself. The illustrations are good and depict the daily rituals of a typical African village. Fly, Eagle, Fly, retold by Chrisopher Gregorowski and illustrated by Niki Daly, is based on the story The Eagle That Would Not Fly by Dr. James E. Kwegyir Aggrey (1875-1927). He was an intellectual and a missionary, had a profound influence on his native country, Ghana, and concerned himself quite dearly with issues of race relations and the education of African people. The book has a foreword written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Fly, Eagle,Fly is truly inspirational and a real treat. We are reminded that we were all born to soar.