"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" (Spanish: Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes) is a short story by Gabriel García Márquez first published in 1955. It falls within the genre of magic realism and is included in English in the book Leaf Storm and Other Stories.
At the beginning of the story, it has been raining for 3 days and crabs are everywhere. Pelayo and Elisenda's child is sick, supposedly because of the crabs' stench. An old sickly man with enormous wings is found in their backyard. 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 knows 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 that 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 has 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.Pelayo
Pelayo is Elisenda's husband. He discovers the Old Man in his backyard.
Elisenda is the one who comes up with the idea of charging 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; as the crowds continue to come from all over the world to see him, 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 back all of his feathers and flies away.
Father Gonzaga is the town priest and the authority figure of the town. He has a calming personality. 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.
The Neighbour is known for being wise, intelligent, and helpful. She thinks that the Old Man is an angel who has fallen from the sky and come for Pelayo's son. While her advice for clubbing the Old Man is not taken, she still attempts to help her neighbors Pelayo and Elisenda.
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 was transformed into a tarantula with the head of a woman. The people forget about the Old Man and focus their interest on her. In contrast to the Old Man, who does not talk and move much, she is always open to tell about her story, so the villagers abandon the Old Man when she comes.
The child is Pelayo and Elisenda's newborn baby, who is ill when the story opens. The Neighbor tries 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 "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."
This piece was adapted to the stage by Nilo Cruz in 2002, which he published in the journal Theater. Also, Theatre Formation Paribartak of India made another adaption of this story into a play and has been staging it since 2005.