A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"
Original title "Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes"
Translator Gregory Rabassa
Published in Leaf Storm and Other Stories
Publication type Book
Publisher Harper & Row (1st English edition)
Publication date 1955
Published in English 1972

"Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" (Spanish: Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes) is a short story by author Gabriel García Márquez written in 1955. It falls within the genre of magic realism, and is included in the book Leaf Storm. Amongst many other books, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" was inspired by a young boy named Armand Tait and his life as a farmer.[citation needed]

Plot summary[edit]

At the start, it had been raining for 3 days and crabs were everywhere. Pelayo and Elisenda's child was supposedly sick because of the crabs' stench. An old sickly man is found on the shore with enormous wings. When the couple attempts to communicate with the old man, his incomprehensible language (which is never identified) leads the couple to believe he is a castaway. A neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death tells the couple he is an angel. Pelayo decides to lock the angel in a chicken coop overnight and then send him on a raft to his fate. Early the next morning the local priest, Father Gonzaga, comes to the home, followed by the rest of the community, to test the old man and determine whether or not he truly is an angel. Ultimately, Father Gonzaga finds many reasons why the man cannot be an angel, such as the fact that the old man cannot understand Latin, and also because he has too many mortal characteristics. Elisenda, tired of cleaning up the visitors' messes, decides to charge an entrance fee of 5 cents to see the angel, which eventually allows them to amass a fortune.

The crowd soon loses interest in the angel because another freak has risen to fame. The new attraction is a woman who disobeyed her parents when she was young, and has since been transformed into a tarantula. In order for her to continue telling her story, the people of the town toss meatballs into her mouth, which was "her only means of nourishment." Though the people of the town no longer see the angel, the family had saved up enough money to build a mansion with balconies and gardens and nets. The angel's health declines, and it seems he is on the verge of death. When his last winter in the chicken coop is over, he suddenly becomes more healthy and grows a few new feathers. At first, he roams around the house, but Elisenda keeps shooing him out of the rooms with a broom. One day he leaves the house and begins to fly away.[1]


  • Pelayo

The Old Man landed on Pelayo and Elisenda's property. Pelayo is the husband to Elisenda. He discovered the Old Man in his backyard.

  • Elisenda

Elisenda first comes up with the idea to charge people to see the Old Man.

  • The Old Man

The Old Man is "Dreaming" in the story. He first appears in the backyard in the mud. The family is first hesitant about what he is, so they make him live in the chicken coop. He is very dirty and he speaks an incomprehensible language that no one understands. When the crowds first start to come around, he is absentminded and patient about what's going on. The crowds come from all over the world to see him so he becomes a celebrity. Later, the crowds burn him with a branding iron and he flaps his wings in pain. In the end, he grows all of his feathers back and he flies away.

  • Father Gonzaga

Father Gonzaga is the town priest and the authority figure of the town. He contacts the Church and awaits verdict from authority. He later says he thinks that the Old Man is an imposter, or a phony because he doesn't know Latin. (The language of the God). He also had a calming personality.

  • The Neighbour

The Neighbour was known for being wise, intelligent and helpful. She thought that the Old Man was an angel who had fallen from the sky and had come for Pelayo's son. While her advice for clubbing the Old Man wasn't used, she still attempted to help her neighbors Pelayo and Elisenda.

  • Spider Woman

The Spider Woman essentially comes and takes the Old Man's fame. She is a troublemaker who got kicked out of her parents' home for disobeying. After disobeying her parents, she got turned into a tarantula with the head of a woman. The people then forget about the Old Man and focus their interests on the freak show named Spider Woman. In contrast to the Old Man, who doesn't talk and move much, she is always open to tell about her story, therefore the villagers abandon the Old Man when she comes.

  • The Child

The child is Pelayo and Enlisenda's newborn baby, who is ill when the story opens. The Neighbor tried to tell the family that the Old Man came to take the baby. The Old Man and the child are somewhat connected. They are ill at the same time and play together.


A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings was published during the "La Violencia". Scholar John Goodwin argues that the text of the story can be read as a commentary on the events in Colombia at the time. The opinions of the villagers reveal an idealized view of religion as government; their treatment of the angel, however, betrays their reaction to rule by religious authorities.[2]

Stage Play[edit]

This piece was adapted to the stage by Nilo Cruz in 2002, which he published in the journal Theater.[3][4]


  1. ^ McFarland, Ronald E (Fall 1992). "Community and Interpretive Communities in Stories by Hawthorne, Kafka, and Garcia Marquez". Studies in Short Fiction 29 (4): 551. 
  2. ^ Goodwin, John (Winter 2006). "Marquez's A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings and Bambara's The Lesson". Explicator 64 (2): 128–130. 
  3. ^ Cruz, Nilo (2003). "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings". Theater 33 (2): 64 (28p). 
  4. ^ Munk, Erika; Nilo Cruz (2003). "The Children are the Angels Here". Theater 33 (2): 62. 

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