Jonathan Livingston Seagull
White and gray feathers
Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a special seagull. While the only thing in life for the other seagulls was eating, Jonathan loved to fly more than anything else. He kept pushing himself to be faster and better, often ending with him getting hurt, and he learned to fly like no other seagull in his flock. His parents kept trying to get him to act like a normal seagull, and for a while he really tried, but in the end the love for the flight made him start again. In one of his attempts at flying as fast as possible, he reached terminal velocity, only to fly thru a flock of seagulls. Luckily no one was hurt, but after the episode the Elders of the flock banished him.
Continuing his life as an outcast, Jonathan kept on flying and discovered that living without boredom and fear, seagulls could live much longer than they normally did. One day while he was flying, he was met by two other seagulls, who took him to a "higher plane of existence", where he met other gulls who loved to fly. His new friends taught him how to be even better at flying, and his friend and mentor Chiang taught him how to take the flight a step further, making him able to move in time and space.
One day Chiang disappeared, and for a while Jonathan thought long and hard about what he had learned by his mentor Chiang and his best friend Sullivan. He came to the realization, that what he wanted to do was go back to the real World and start teaching the seagulls what he knew.
Jonathan went back to his flock where he met the seagull Fletcher Lynd Seagull. Like Jonathan, Fletcher was getting into trouble with the flock for liking to fly, and Jonathan started teaching Fletcher how to be better, like Sullivan and Chiang had taught him before. At first the flock tried to make Jonathan and his followers go away, but they stayed, and as their numbers grew, they became tolerated but not accepted.
When the time came, and Fletcher had learned to fly like Jonathan, Jonathan left the flock, vanishing in thin air before Fletchers eyes. With Jonathan gone, Fletcher then took over as teacher, teaching other seagulls how to really fly.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
Movie: Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
Country of origin:
The story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull can be approached by several angles. The story in itself is a fable in the classic tradition with animals and a morale, going back hundreds of years. It is also a product of the 1950's and 1960's with the rebellion against the norms as seen in movies like The Graduate
from 1967 and Rebel without a Cause
from 1955. The late 1960s and early 1970s was also a time of experiments with drugs and expansion of the mind or awareness, mixed with religion and spirituality (e.g. Doors
from 1991), which is the ascension to a higher plane part of the story. As a story about the time it was written, the story works really well, even by today's standards, but for those not familiar with the era it was written, it may not make a lot of sense compared to the classic fables telling stories about more basic aspect of humanity like anger, happiness, envy, honesty, etc.
The story has resulted in several discussions, analysis and books about the story and the symbolism, offering all sorts of interpretations and views on the story. Getting into the details of these discussions is outside the scope of the article.
The story was transformed into a movie in 1973. Jonathan was given voice by James Franciscus, and the seagulls were a mixture of footage of live seagulls and stuffed birds being moved around by wires to get the right illusion. By today's standards, the special effects seem both poor and very dated, but back in 1973, they were cutting edge.