Class 12th Free Reading Comprehension
1-The Red Cross
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, originally known as the Red Cross, is an international humanitarian movement that aims to provide relief to human suffering. It was founded by a Swiss businessman named Henri Dunant. He was the eldest child of a well-to-do family, his father being an established merchant of Geneva and a prominent man in the affairs of the town. When he left school, his father apprenticed him to a bank and before long he was sent to the overseas branch in Algeria.
Shortly after this, he left the bank to start a business of his own and sought to obtain concessions from the French Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor, however, was in Italy engaged in a war to free the Italians from Austrian rule. The French had won a battle at Magenta in Northern Italy, but the two armies reformed and met again, just outside the little village of Solferino. This was in June 1859. Dunant did not manage to see the Emperor. Instead he witnessed the fiercest battle of the century, which resulted in 40,000 dead or wounded. Dunant found himself in the midst of all the horrors of war, hearing the anguished cries of the untended wounded calling for water, a priest or a bullet to end their suffering.
Overwhelmed by the sight of such tragedy, Dunant organized help in the neighboring town of Castiglione, where many of the wounded had been brought and were lying on straw in the streets, even though churches, schools and every available building had been turned into temporary hospitals. With the help of the women of Castiglione, Dunant made bandages and dressings and brought food and water to the wounded and helped the surgeons to tend them.
The townspeople used what little they had, tearing up their household linen for urgently needed bandages. Dunant himself worked night and day, bringing hope to the wounded and comfort to the dying. As he moved amongst them in his white tropical clothes, the soldiers called him “The Man in White”.
Everyone helped, women of the nobility, tourists and peasants working side by side, giving aid to friend and foe alike, learning by Dunant’s example that for those who are suffering there are no barriers and that “all men are brothers”. The gentleness and kindness shown by the women helped to revive a little courage and hope in the patients. Even the children lent willing hands and boys and girls ran backward and forwards fetching water from the public fountain.
Dunant went to the French army commanders and persuaded them to release captured Austrian doctors to help with the many casualties. Before long all the victims were receiving treatment for their wounds. Worn out and weary with his tremendous efforts, Dunant forgot about his Algerian schemes and went home to Geneva with a burning desire to do what he could to relieve suffering. Three years later, in 1862 he wrote a book called A Memory of Solferino, in which his vision of the Red Cross took shape and in which he pleaded for voluntary aid societies to be formed in every country, ready and trained for service in time of war. The members of a Swiss Welfare Society formed a committee of five to discuss the ideas in his book.
Dunant’s book was read in many countries and his ideas were brought to the notice of the world at large when the committee of five in Geneva called an International Conference. Representatives from fourteen countries were present, and when they returned they took back with them four proposals:
(a) The formation in each country of what later became known as National Red Cross Societies.
(b) The holding of International Red Cross Conferences.
(c) The establishment on a permanent basis of the Committee of Five who later assumed the name of the “International Committee of the Red Cross”.
(d) The nations at war should proclaim the neutrality of ambulance and military hospitals, those attending to the wounded, and the wounded themselves; and that a uniform distinctive sign be recognized for the Army Medical Services and for ambulances and hospitals.
The following year, in 1864, the Swiss Government invited Government Representatives to a conference in Geneva at which an international treaty – The Convention of Geneva – was drawn up to give effect to the fourth proposal. The Red Cross on a white ground – obtained by reversing the colors of the Swiss flag- was adopted as the symbol of protection. The Red Crescent on a white ground is now also a recognized symbol. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) was founded in 1919 and today it coordinates activities between the 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies within the Movement.
Later Conventions extended protection to sailors and prisoners of war and in 1949 the Conventions were revised and brought up to date and another clause was added which contained certain measures for the protection of civilians in wartime. The four Conventions have now been adopted by most nations in the world.
The International Red Cross movement originating from the first three proposals of the 1863 Conference is now supported by more than 85 countries, each having its own national Society which trains its members in nursing, first aid and many branches of welfare and relief work. These societies assist the sick and injured and victims of war, accidents, floods or earthquakes. Any major calamity may bring distress in its wake and the swift help from the Red Cross either in the form of relief supplies or personnel is readily available and contributes to the lessening of human suffering.
Among the important services carried out by the Red Cross in time of war is the tracing of wounded and missing men, maintaining contact with the captured men in prisoner of war camps and forwarding to them much needed parcels of food and other necessities. In the last world war, a Red Cross postal message scheme for civilians who were separated from their families was established.
Dunant played the part of friend and helper to the wounded from Solferino for only a few weeks, but it was long enough for him to become the hero of one of the most remarkable stories of all time.
The Red Cross has grown into a great force to relieve suffering and bring better understanding between the peoples of the world by encouraging them to help one another in time of disaster and need.
Questions on the Story
- Who founded the Red Cross?
- Where was this person born?
- Was he a poor man?
- What profession did he follow on leaving school?
- What battle did he watch?
- Between which two countries was it fought?
- In what way did Dunant seek to relieve suffering at Castiglione?
- How were bandages made?
- What name did the soldiers give Dunant?
- What service did the boys and girls do to give help?
- What was the title of Dunant’s book?
- What was the result of the publication of this book?
- Describe at least one proposal put forward at the first meeting in Geneva.
- How was the design for the Red Cross flag obtained?
- Have all countries adopted this flag?
- In what year were the Conventions brought up to date?
- What was added to them in that year?
- Name four instances when the Red Cross would act quickly to render aid to the injured and distressed?
- What particular services are performed by the Red Cross in time of war?
- What great scheme was operated in the last World War for the benefit of civilians who were separated from their families?
The construction of the largest man-made lake in the world was achieved by building a dam, four hundred and twenty feet in height, across the Zambezi River at Kariba Gorge. This huge reservoir lies partly in Zambia and partly in Zimbabwe.
The harnessing of the water of the fifteen-hundred-mile-long river will enable power to be brought to the Copper Belt and the industries of a large area of Central Africa. Apart from the wonderful engineering feat that was accomplished, over fifty thousand inhabitants and countless animals had to be removed to areas not threatened by the flood.
Transport was provided for the tribesmen, their families and their possessions and they were taken to newly-constructed villages. Boats were used to remove the animals, trapped on the many islands, which would soon disappear beneath the rising waters.
It is part of this humane story of animal rescue that you are now going to read.
Tagged Edelman decided to tackle Elephant Island on 6th June. His boat and the barge were loaded to the scuppers with as many men as possible (to act as beaters), and all the ropes, thunderflashes and whatever tackle was thought to be necessary for doing a job which most people seemed to believe was impossible: the rescue of the biggest of big game – elephants.
We started the engines shortly after dawn, put out on the pearly lake and steered into the rising sun along a crimson lane. It took only twenty minutes to get to Elephant Island, and when we did arrive the plan was for Ted, Dick Link and Noel Verander to make a first reconnaissance before putting anyone else ashore to crash about in the undergrowth and startle the quarry.
Dick Link was a new helper. A grizzled Zimbabwean of fifty or so, he was an interesting character, with the sort of story one only finds in romantic novels. Five years ago he had been critically ill in hospital. He had an incurable cancer.
One day his doctors came to his bedside and told him that he could expect to live only a few months more. “Go home,” they said, “and settle up your affairs.”
He did go home from hospital, but on the way he was startled to hear a disembodied voice say to him: “You’re going to be all right.” He took the voice at its word and never did settle his affairs. Now here he was stripped to the waist, his brown body smudged with livid scars where the sawbones had cut him up to catch his cancer. That had evaded them, and he had evaded it.
As usual, the barge was left behind and we could see its prow bumping and cutting into our wash, throwing up splinters of light as the waves broke on either side of the cutwater.
Elephant Island was a long ridge of scrub and trees through which the sun shone like a lamp through a grating. For many days the ridge had been joined to the Northern Zimbabwean bank of the new lake as a peninsula. The swelling waves, however, had lapped over a saddle in the promontory and quickly turned the peninsula into an island. The lake over the narrow strait between island and mainland was at this time some ten feet deep.
The Edelman’s hope was that any elephants marooned on the island could be driven by beaters into taking to the water at the straits and so would either wade or swim across. For elephants can swim, and usually do so with most of their body and head submerged, while the end of the trunk pokes vertically above the surface and acts as a snorkel tube for breathing.
We were careful to approach the island from the leeward side for an obvious reason. If the elephants were still there, we didn’t want to alarm them by allowing the wind to carry our scent in their direction. As usual, there were tree-tops sticking out of the lake, drowning before their neighbors a little higher up the slopes. Taped shut off the engines and our boat glided noiselessly among the trees, where we moored to remain hidden. Then he, Dick and Noel waded ashore while the rest of us waited.
After half an hour, the reconnaissance party returned with the news that there appeared to be three full-grown cow elephants and two babies still on the island.
We all disembarked from the launches and a line of thirty Africans and five Europeans, spaced out at intervals, began to move through the crackling brush and trees. Everybody made as much noise as possible and every now and then someone would let off a thunderflash in hope of driving the elephants in front of us. There was extra danger in the situation because the presence of the babies meant that one of the strongest of all animal instincts, the mother’s instinct for protecting her young, would be called into play.
The babel of noise moved slowly forward, a sort of creeping barrage of dust and din which seemed to be driving the three elephants and their calves up to the point of the island reaching out to Northern Zimbabwe and freedom – if they had only known it.
The mother was in a terrible predicament; for she was no doubt terrified of the racket, but she was probably even more terrified of having to force her infants into the waters of the lake. Suddenly one of the beaters rushed forward in a burst of wild enthusiasm. Her mind made up, she flung forward her trunk like an uncurled watch spring and charged at the frantic brown body which had tantalized her to breaking point. Her thick stumps of legs crisscrossed at what seemed to me incredible speed and I thought the African was done for. How he escaped that moving mountain I just wasn’t able to see, but he did so; and as his neighbors fell over each other to right and to left, thinking now only of escape, a gap of some twenty yards appeared in the beaters’ line. The first elephant was already crashing through it, followed closely by her bouncing daughters and, in a flash, the others had crossed the gap.
Tagged called a halt for a meal. As we ate, he expounded another plan. The splitting-up of the herd seemed to be fairly easy to achieve, but the next and most difficult phase of the operation was to separate one of the baby elephants from its mother; to keep the mother out of the way and capture the daughter-literally capture her by fastening ropes around her legs so that she could be led into the water and forced to cross the strait. Once she was on the mainland she would be freed. Her bellowings would attract her mother; she would swim the narrow channel of water and the other two cows and baby would probably follow. It all seemed so simple – and so dangerous. It was decided to try it.
As it turned out, this plan worked, more or less. It was, in fact, the lake itself which really helped. The mother kept her offspring behind her at some distance, always making certain that her huge bulk was between us and the two young cows. This was really her undoing, for the rising lake quite suddenly formed an islet between the mainland and the larger island and, by a stroke of good fortune for us, the older baby was cut off and left stranded on this islet. Mother and daughter were separated and the young elephant was overwhelmed by a bunch of twelve natives who splashed over to the little island, urged to by Tom and Noel. An almost continuous roar of thunderflashes kept the others running.
The young elephant spun this way and that, charged forwards, jumped backward, not daring to enter the water, and men hung on to the trunk, tail, ears and legs. There were so many people on her that she disappeared like a ball in a rugby scrum. When they let her get up, she was held at six points – ropes round each leg, a rope around her neck and one boy held her tail. Now she looked like some grotesque spider at the center of her web or like Gulliver, when the Lilliputians bound him with threads.
The rope-holders forced her to the water’s edge and, wrench and jerk as she might, she had to go in. For fifty yards she was able to walk, then she had to swim for it; so did the elephant tamers. In five minutes Jumbo had reached the mainland bank, and, a little exhausted and stupefied, she stood quietly letting the water trickle off her grey hide, while the captors, breathing heavily, freed her of the ropes.
The tired beaters loaded into the launches and drew away a little. At first Jumbo did nothing but stand. Then, she seemed to come to her senses, realized she was on her own, and with a little skip turned towards the mainland jungle. There were groans as she disappeared into the bush. After a minute she reappeared. She seemed to have got the scent of her mother and there were further groans as she made to enter the water again to get back to the island. But the lake was too much for her. She stopped, turned back, stood irresolute on the bank and just like a baby – yelled.
As darkness curtained the lake, we chugged back to camp feeling hot, dusty, scratched and tired out. We had to return to the island at a later date for the impala and other creatures that had still to be rescued.
From Operation Noah by Charles Lagus
Interesting Facts on Hydroelectric Schemes
- Electricity generated by water power is used in practically every country in the world. Some countries, like Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Scotland and the Scandinavian countries, have an abundant supply of water which makes hydroelectric schemes easier to operate, but in dry, flat countries artificial means of storing and raising water have to be used. Engineers seek to trap as much water as they can in order to get sufficient force to drive a turbine. This is a type of water-wheel, consisting of curved blades on a central axis, which is turned by the rushing water. The idea of using the energy in mountain torrents to drive turbines was first adopted by a French paper manufacturer, Aristide Berges, in 1869.
- A good example of the use of water power is at Loch Sloy in Scotland. The original small loch was in a valley high above the beautiful Loch Lomond. This small loch was dammed at one end and, by draining several nearby valleys, the level of the loch was raised. Pipes carry the water down to the powerhouse. The descending water turns the blades of the turbines which in turn drive the dynamos. The electricity thus generated is carried by overhead wires to all parts of the country where, its voltage reduced, it is used in homes and factories.
- At Kitimat, in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, the River Nechako had to be turned around through the mountains from east to west, instead of west to east, in order to obtain sufficient water for the reservoir. This hydroelectric scheme was created to provide electric power for the huge factories engaged in the smelting of aluminum. Two tunnels, down which a train could be driven, and ten miles in length, had to be bored through a mountain to join the reservoir with the power-house. There is electric power to spare at Kitimat and this is being used to attract new industries to the Pacific coast of Canada.
- Hydroelectric plants also play a great part in the industrial progress of Eastern Canada. The natural fall of water Niagara, with its reservoir of the Great Lakes behind it, allows many power-houses to be built at the base of the falls. Further north, the Saint Lawrence Seaway has been adapted for power at Shawinigan, near Montreal, and this, together with the hydro-station at Arvida, provides the electrical power needs for much of the industry of the province of Quebec.
- In the United States of America, the Tennessee Valley Authority created dams and power stations to control and use the waters of the Tennessee River. Their schemes were so successful that land and industries were acquired and the result was that this area was turned into one of the most prosperous farming and industrial districts in the country. On the border of Arizona and Nevada was built the huge Hoover (Boulder) Dam. Each spring the Colorado River used to run wild. The winter’s snow from the Rockies melted and the river would overflow its banks to flood farmlands and cities, while in summer there would not be enough water. Now the river is regulated to supply households and factories with electricity as well as water for irrigation.
- One of the most remarkable dams in the world is the Aswan Dam in Southern Egypt. Its great walls hold up the floodwaters of the River Nile, which are released as required through sluice gates to maintain, during the dry season, a flow through the irrigation canals of Egypt. A hydroelectric power station is now being built onto the dam. This scheme has meant that barren desert wastelands are now cultivated, and that thousands of people, who might otherwise have starved, have plenty of food and work.
- Because of its cheapness, countries with many industries, like Russia, try to obtain as much water power as they can. On the River Dnieper, which flows into the Black Sea, a great dam has been constructed, and this not only provides electricity, but has made the upper part of the Dnieper navigable for river traffic. The Russians also have a large generating station on the bend of the river Volga at Kuibyshev.
- In hot, dry countries rivers are usually a blessing, but some have proved disastrous because of flooding. In China the Yellow River was called “China’s Sorrow” because of the number of people drowned each year. This has been controlled by dams and its turbulence converted for electrical and irrigational purpose. The completely automatic hydro-station at Kuanting provides electricity for China at one-third of the cost of steam-driven machines.
- India has also benefited greatly from such schemes, the Massanjore Dam (also called the Canada Dam) in West Bengal and the Hirakud Dam in Odisha being among the largest in the world. The high dam on the River Sutlej in Punjab towers over 750 feet to span the Bhakra Gorge. This project provides, in addition to electric power, irrigation for an area greater than Holland.
- In Australia the flow of the Snowy River was for a huge diverted to join the sources of other three rivers – Murray, Murrumbidgee and Tumut – hydro scheme in the Snowy Mountains. This project not only brought an abundance of cheap electrical power, but also supplied much-needed water for the dry western plains and fruit farms of New South Wales and Victoria.
New Zealand, too, has made good use of her natural resources. The Karapiro Power Station in the North Island uses the waters of the Waikato with its reservoir at Lake Taupo. In the South Island, the River Clutha provides electricity at the Roxburgh Dam. These two stations, with several other smaller units, supply New Zealand with power and light, so that the lack of coal in the country is not as serious a problem as it might have been.
Questions on the Story
- On what river was the Kariba Dam built?
- What is the length of this river?
- What industry would benefit greatly from the power provided by the Kariba Dam?
- Why were the tribesmen around Kariba removed and where were they taken?
- Why was time an important factor in the rescue of the animals?
- From what book has this story of Kariba been taken?
- Can you think of a reason for the extraordinary title of this book?
- Name the three men in charge of the expedition to Elephant Island.
- How did they propose to bring the elephants to the mainland?
- How does an elephant swim?
- Why did the rescuers approach the island from the lee side?
- How many elephants were marooned on the island?
- Why was the presence of the baby elephants considered an added danger?
- What problem faced the mother elephant when the babies reached the end of the island?
- Describe the drive and account for the failure of the first plan.
- Give an outline of the second plan.
- In what way did the rising lake help the second plan?
- Describe how the young elephant was caught and tied.
- What did the young elephant do after the rescuers had left her on the mainland?
- Why did the rescuers have to return to Elephant Island?
Questions on the Interesting Facts
- (a) Name three countries where hydroelectric schemes are easy to operate.
(b) What is a turbine?
(c) Who first used mountain water to produce electricity?
- (a) Name a water-power scheme in Scotland.
(b) By what means is the electrical power carried to homes and factories?
- (a) For what purpose was the Kitimat Scheme created?
(b) What had to be done to the River Nechako?
- (a) Name two hydroelectric stations in Eastern Canada.
(b) What constitutes the reservoir for the Niagara power stations?
- (a) What work is done by the Tennessee Valley Authority?
(b) What river does the Hoover Dam control?
- (a) On what river is the Aswan Dam situated?
(b) Why is this dam of great benefit to the Egyptian people?
- (a) What extra value had the Dnieper Dam, besides producing electricity?
(b) On what river is there another great Russian power station?
- (a) Why was the Yellow River called “Chin Sorrow”?
(b) In what way was the Kuanting power station different from others?
- (a) Where is the Massanjore Dam?
(b) In which state of India is the Bhakra Gorge Dam?9.
- (a) What Australian states are being served by the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme?
(b) Why is hydroelectric power of immense value to New Zealand?
- Point out on the map of the world
(a) where each of the dams mentioned in the Interesting Facts is situated.
(b) British Columbia, Yellow River, Zimbabwe, Black Sea, the North Island, River Nile, New South Wales, West Bengal, Tennessee River, Great Lakes.
- If you were photographing the rescue of the elephants for television, which shots would you consider the best?
- An elephant trumpets. What sounds are made by the following animals?
(a) donkey (b) hyena
(c) monkey (d) horse
- Aristide Berges was the first to use waterfalls for electric power. Find out who invented
(a) the steam-engine.
(b) the gramophone.
(d) the miner’s safety lamp.
- The young elephant is described as being in a similar situation to that of “Gulliver”. Who was Gulliver and who made him famous?
- A reservoir is used for storing water. What name is given to the store for each of the following?
(a) grain (b) airplanes
(c) books (d) gas
- Make a list of all the household uses of electricity.
- (a) Water-power is a compound word. Explain the meaning of the following compounds that include the word water.
(i) watermark (ii) water biscuit
(iii) water polo (iv) watercolors
(b) Explain each of the following sentences:
(i) Tom poured oil on troubled waters.
(ii) She threw cold water on the plane.
(iii) It was enough to make one’s mouth water.
(iv) Still waters run deep.
(v) Jim said he would go through fire and water for her.
3-The Adventure with the Farmer
We love to dream, for in our dreams we are magnificent beroes. In dreams we have the power to do anything we want, be in any place we like, and possess everything we desire. But dreams end, and we eventually wake up to the reality.
Have you ever dreamt with open eyes? Let’s read about a person who lived in a dream even when wide awake. The following is a chapter from the novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, originally written in Spanish by Miguel de Cervantes.
Many years ago in Spain, there lived a gentleman called Alonso Quijano. A retired country gentleman, Mr Quijano lived in La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper, and was liked by most of his neighbors. However, some of his habits were very strange, which often amused the people of La Mancha.
The lanky and grey-bearded Mr Quijano with a long nose did not have much work, and liked to spend his time reading. He read not about Caesar and Alexander, oceans and rivers, but about tales of brave knights and their adventures. And somehow, Quijano came to believe that he was also living in their time. One day, he thought, “Why should I not go out and valiantly fight evil like the knights I read about?” So the very next day, he became Don Quixote, the knight. He got himself a horse as lanky as himself and called him Rocinante. He donned an old suit of armor, and, brimming with the bravery of a knight, rode off on Rocinante’s back in search of adventure.
Quixote rode gallantly, feeling like a true knight, his mind lost in thoughts of adventure. Rocinante cantered along just as gallantly, for he knew he was carrying the bravest of the brave men. They had not gone very far when Don Quixote remembered that he must provide himself with some money, and a few clean shirts. “That will be truly in the manner of heroes,” he said to himself. “Yet, there is one more thing that I lack. I need a faithful squire to ride with me and serve me. All the knights I have read about had squires who followed them in their journey and looked on as they fought.” “It was not befitting of a knight to do any of his work on his own,” he mused.
As Don Quixote and Rocinante were passing through a lonely place, the knight thought that he heard someone’s painful cries. They seemed to come from the midst of a woody thicket near the roadside.
“I thank Heaven for this lucky moment!” he exclaimed. “I shall now have an adventure. No doubt I shall rescue someone who is in great danger.” Saying this, he rode as fast as he could in the direction of the sound. Suddenly, Rocinante seemed to have a new life put into his lean body. He trotted so fast that his heels barely seemed to touch the ground.
At the edge of the forest Don Quixote saw a horse tied to a small oak tree. Not far away, a young boy was tied to another oak tree. The boy’s shoulders and back were bare, and he was wailing painfully. A farmer was beating him mercilessly with a horsewhip.
“Hold! Hold!” cried out Don Quixote, advancing to the scene. “It is an unmanly act to hit one who cannot hit you back.”
Frightened by the sudden appearance of a knight on horseback, the farmer dropped his whip. He stood thunderstruck, unsure of what to expect.
“Come, sir,” said Don Quixote. “Let us settle this matter by a fair trial. Mount your horse, and we shall fight a duel.” The farmer answered him very humbly. “Sir,” he said, “this boy is my servant, and his business is to watch my sheep. But he is lazy and careless! I have lost half of my flock because of his neglect. I beat him only to make a better boy of him. He will tell you that I do it to cheat him out of his wages but that is nothing but a lie,” he pleaded.
“What?” cried Don Quixote. “You wrongly accuse him right before my face? I have a good mind to run my lance through your body. Untie the boy and pay him his money. Obey me this instant, and let me not hear one word of excuse from you.” ropes that bound.
Pale with fear, the farmer loosened the the boy to the tree. “Now, my young man,” said Don Quixote, “how much does this fellow owe you?” “He owes me nine months’ wages at seven dollars a month,” the boy answered. “Sir, you owe this lad sixty-three dollars, don’t you?”
roared the knight. “I am sure you would wish to pay it at once and save your life.”
The farmer was now more alarmed than before. He fell upon his knees, and lifting his hands, begged for mercy as he trembled and sobbed with fear.
“Noble sir,” he cried, “that is too much. I have been paying for all his expenses all these months. I even took him to the doctor twice when he was sick!”
“Those dollars will compensate for the beatings you have given him without cause,” said Don Quixote. “Come, pay him the whole amount.” “I would gladly do so,” said the farmer, “but I don’t have even a penny in my pocket. If you will let the boy go home with me, I will pay him every dollar.”
“Go home with him!” cried the lad. “Not I. He would beat me to death and not pay me!”
“He won’t dare to do it,” answered Don Quixote. “I have commanded him and he must obey. His money is at his house. I give him leave to go and get it. His honor as a knight will make him pay his debt to you.”
“A knight!” said the lad. “He is no knight, he is but an ordinary farmer! Which noble knight would not pay his debts?” “Pay you he will, for I have commanded him,” said Don Quixote.
Then turning to the farmer, he said, “Go, and make sure that you obey me. I will come this way again soon, and if you have failed, I will punish you. I will find you wherever you may hide. I am the valorous Don Quixote de la Mancha, the righter of wrongs and the friend of the downtrodden. So, goodbye!” Having said this, he spurred Rocinante and galloped away.
The farmer watched him until he was quite out of sight. Then he turned and called to the boy. “Come, Andrew,” he said. “Come to me now, and I will pay you what I owe you. I will obey this friend of the downtrodden.”
“I am sure you will obey him,” said the boy. “He is a knight, and if you fail to pay me, he will come back and make things difficult for you.”
“Yes, I know,” answered the farmer. “I will pay you well and show you how much I love you.”
Then, without another word, he caught hold of the boy and tied him to the tree again. The boy yelled to raise an alarm, but Don Quixote was too far away to hear his cries. The farmer fell upon him and beat him with fists and sticks until he was almost dead. Finally he loosened him and let him go.
“Now, Andrew, find your friend of the downtrodden,”
he said. “Tell him how well I have paid you.”
Poor Andrew said nothing. He limped away slowly, while the farmer mounted his horse and rode homeward.
In the meanwhile, Don Quixote was speeding towards his own village, very much pleased with himself and with his first adventure as a knight. And thus he rode gallantly onward, his lance clanging against his coat of mail at every motion of his horse.
Miguel de Cervantes
Interesting Facts about Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote
- Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), the creator of Don Quixote, had a very adventurous life. His father was a barber and surgeon – in those times surgeries were done by barbers. Their household was poor. As a young man, Cervantes went to Italy and fell in love with its art, architecture and poetry. He joined a division of the Spanish Navy that was stationed in Italy. The brave soldier received many wounds in a battle with the Turks, and one of them left his left arm paralyzed.
Onboard a ship from Naples to Barcelona, Cervantes was taken captive by Algerian pirates and was forced into slavery. He tried unsuccessfully to escape and was finally freed when his parents paid a ransom. In Spain Cervantes lived the life of a nomad for almost 20 years, working as a purchasing agent and tax collector. He was also imprisoned for irregularities in his accounts.
- Many of Cervantes’s early works of literature failed to become popular. These included a romance, several plays and a poetic work.
- The Spanish title of Don Quixote is El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, or The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. It was published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, and later came to be recognized as the greatest literary work from Spain. The influence of Cervantes on the Spanish language is so great that it is often called “the language of Cervantes”.
- Chivalric romances, or stories of heroic knights, was the most popular form of literature at that time. Don Quixote was written to satirise and challenge those romances. Unlike the rich and heroic knights in chivalric romances, Don Quixote wears old clothes and eats ordinary food. He is quick and inventive in his imagination and actions. He prefers fantasy over the real world. Don Quixote intervenes with the matters which are totally out of his concern and does not pay his debts. These habits result in problems including humiliation and injuries.
- Sancho Panza is a poor, pot-bellied peasant who acts as the squire to Don Quixote. Unlike Don Quixote, who always lives in a fantasy world, Sancho Panza is more practical and lives in the reality. Sancho Panza often bears the worst consequences of Don Quixote’s actions.
- Rocinante is an unusual horse that would engage in tasks beyond his capacity, just like his master, Don Quixote.
- The character of Don Quixote became so popular that many languages adopted the word quixotic to refer to great imaginative ideas that are not usually practical.
- The expression tilting at windmills derives from one of the knightly adventures of Don Quixote. It means attacking imaginary enemies. In the novel, Don Quixote fights the windmills that he imagines to be giants.
- Several quotes from Don Quixote now have proverbial status. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” means that you can judge if something is good or bad only when you have tried it. “He who walks much and reads much, knows much and sees much” and “The pen is the tongue of the mind” are some other popular quotes from Don Quixote.
- Famous writers like Gustave Flaubert, Henry Fielding and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were greatly influenced Don Quixote. The story of Don Quixote has been adapted in many ways, including the popular musical the Man of La Mancha and a painting by Pablo Picasso. The Spanish euro coins of €0.10, €0.20, and €0.50 bear a bust of Cervantes. There is a bronze statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the Plaza de España in Madrid.
- Miguel Cervantes and the English playwright William Shakespeare are erroneously thought to have died on the same day, 23 April. While Shakespeare indeed died on 23 April, Cervantes died a day earlier and was buried on that date. This date, in fact, refers to two days as Spain and England followed different calendars. There was in fact a gap of 10 days between the deaths. Since April 23 relates to two great literary masters, this day is celebrated as the International Day of the Book.
- The Cervantes Institute (Instituto Cervantes) is an international organization created by the Spanish government to promote Spanish language and culture across the world.
Questions on the Story
- Where did the story take place?
- Who was Mr Quijano?
- Was Mr Quijano popular among the people? Explain.
- Describe Mr Quijano’s appearance and character in your own words.
- What was Mr Quijano’s favorite pastime?
- How did Mr Quijano’s reading habit influence him?
- How did Mr Quijano prepare himself to become Don Quixote?
- Find out the meaning of the name “Rocinante”.
- Why did Don Quixote feel that he needed a squire to ride with him?
- Why did Don Quixote thank the heavens?
- What scene was awaiting Don Quixote at the edge of the forest?
- Was the farmer frightened to see Don Quixote? Why?
- What was the farmer’s charge against the boy?
- What was the farmer’s excuse for having beaten him up?
- What is your view on the farmer’s treatment of his servant? Elaborate.
- What was the farmer’s excuse for not paying the boy his wages?
- Why did Don Quixote order the farmer to pay the boy’s wages?
- Why did the farmer say that he would the pay at his home?
- Why did the boy refuse to go with the farmer to his home?
- Why was Don Quixote firmly convinced that the farmer would pay the boy’s wages?
- Did the farmer realize that Don Quixote was not a real knight? Explain.
- Did the boy expect his master to pay his wages? Why?
- Was Don Quixote’s visit of any help to the boy?
- How did Don Quixote feel about his first adventure as a knight?
- Do you think Don Quixote ever realized his folly?
Questions on the Interesting Facts
- What is curious about the occupation of Cervantes’s father?
- What influence did Italy have on Cervantes?
- How serious were the injuries Cervantes received in the battle with the Turks?
- What happened to Cervantes during the voyage from Naples to Barcelona?
- How was he freed?
- What led to his imprisonment in Spain?
- How did the early works of Cervantes fare?
- What is the unique distinction Don Quixote has achieved?
- What phrase sums up the influence of Cervantes on the Spanish language?
- With what purpose was Don Quixote written?
- Contrast Don Quixote with other literary knights of that time.
- Describe Sancho Panza.
- What does the word quixote mean?
- What is the origin of the expression tilting at windmills?
- Give a few proverbial quotes from Don Quixote.
- Name some later writers who were influenced by Cervantes.
- Name an illustrious English contemporary of Miguel de Cervantes.
- What is the importance of the date 23 April?
- Locate Spain on the map. Collect information about Spain.
- Most of the heroic military leaders had horses to accompany them on battles and expeditions. Find out the names of the horses of the following historical leaders.
(a) Alexander the Great
(c) The Duke of Wellington
(d) Robert E. Lee
- The Don in Don Quixote is a Spanish title used before a man’s name. Most languages have similar titles that are prefixed to male and female first names. Complete the following table by filling in the equivalents of the English Mister (Mr), Mrs and Miss (Ms) in some other languages and cultures.