Hezârfen: The Story of the First Human Flight, Animated
What kvetching chickens have to do with the history of aviation and Turkish folk heroes.
By Maria Popova
One fine day in 1632, legendary Ottoman inventor Ahmed Çelebi took the first sustained unpowered human flight, which earned him the name Hezârfen, meaning “thousand sciences” — an ancient term for “polymath.” His flight was brief, but epic:
The veracity of the incident has been disputed for centuries, but the writing of 17th century Turkish traveler and historian Evliyâ Çelebi describes it as follows:
First he practiced by flying over the pulpit of Okmeydani eight or nine times with eagle wings, using the force of the wind. Then, as Sultan Murad Khan (Murad IV) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower and landed in the Do?anc?lar square in Üsküdar, with the help of the south-west wind. Then Murad Khan granted him a sack of golden coins, and said: ‘This is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people,’ and thus sent him to Algeria on exile. He died there.
This lovely 3D animated short film, the collaborative effort of a team of animators, artists and sound designers, captures the story of Hezârfen with wonderful, poetic romanticism — the kind of rewriting of history we often see in folk hero tales which, inaccurate as it may be, is the fundamental storytelling fabric of human civilizations.
For more on Hezârfen’s story and the human hunger for the azure, Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation from Ancient Times to the Present is worth a look.
Published January 21, 2011