Shaun the Flying Sheep – The Writer’s Way
Once upon a time in a field far, far from here, Mrs. Sheep a round pug-nosed curly haired variety had just given birth to her very first litter of lambs. The flock was gathered around supporting Mrs Sheep, fussing over the occasion as only sheep know how. It would be another sheep’s turn in the following few minutes; the lambing season was upon them, but right then it was Mrs Sheep’s turn.
Most sheep give birth to one or twins at best; but after Mrs Sheep’s second birth a third little lamb pushed its pug nose into the spring sunshine – this bundle of fluff she named Sean.
Three lambs! Murmured the flock in much merriment but the turn came for another ewe further up the field and the sheep headed off to support the next new mother leaving Mrs Sheep to nestle and nurture her new threesome.
As the lambs started to grow up Mrs Sheep noticed that her youngest, Sean had an extra pair of ears. “Oh dear!” she thought. “This is not good”. Sheep can be a little bit tough on those who look at bit different. Sure enough as the ‘extra ears’ began to notice through his fleece, the other sheep started teasing him mercilessly calling him Big Ears after an Enid Blyton character.
Sean’s siblings were the worst. After one particularly ribald ribbing, Mrs Sheep got so mad and had to be separated from the flock by a puzzled Shepherd. Now alone, Sean wandered off to the far end of the field where the bramble bushes were thick enough to hide him away from the rest of the flock.
This is the same place that Timothy Wolf most frequented. Far from being a danger, Timothy Wolf turned into the best friend that Sean never had. Their unlikely friendship grew and Timothy Wolf inadvertently set about building up Sean’s confidence. They spent a lot of time laughing over nursery rhymes like Baa Baa black sheep and fairy stories with big bad wolves in them but every so often Sean would waggle his second ears and then trip over his big bottom lip.
“What on earth’s the matter” asked Timothy Wolf one particularly pleasant summer’s day. There had been a light shower in the early morning but the warmth of the sun had dried the grass and most of the hedgerow already.
“Fancy being born with extra ears” – moped Sean. “With two sets of ears it means I can hear all the bad things that people say about me twice as much. Pah! It’s just not fair.” Puzzled Timothy Wolf said “Two ears? They are not ears! They are wings. Have you never heard of flying sheep? Every once in a while they are born into the farm for a very special purpose.”
“But I can’t fly with these” wailed Sean. “They are far too small (they look like ears) and he flapped the wings to prove his point.” Together the two spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon trying to get Sean airborne but to no avail. Then early evening Sean and Timothy Wolf strolled around the perimeter of the field, away from the rest of the flock to the small enclosed paddock where Mrs Sheep was being held.
After relating the revelations of Timothy Wolf and trying to cheer Mrs Sheep up with light-hearted stories of the afternoon’s activities; Sean and Timothy Wolf drank long and hard from a nearby animal trough. Little did they know that the draft had be spiked with Moondust and soon they were weaving their way back to the field, two steps forward, one step sideways, one step back; giggling as they went. Eventually both sank to the grass almost too inebriated to count the flying sheep that were dancing across the sinking sunset.
“Ouch – my head!” moaned Sean as a flock of crows cackled early the next morning, rudely waking the two of them up.
“Whoa! Don’t look down Sean, we’re up a tree” exclaimed Timothy Wolf far too loudly.
“Don’t be so stupid” said Sean who wobbled precariously as he looked over the side of a thick branch where he was perched.
The crows thought this was hilarious and cackled even more. They explained to the two of them that the only way that Sean and Timothy Wolf could possibly be up a tree is, if they had flown there. Sheep and Wolves can’t climb trees after all. Sean waggled his wings and looked at the crows. How can I possibly have flown here with these?” asked Sean.
The crows considered the dynamics of Sean’s wing span and the size of his rather rotund body. After much deliberation the chief crow explained.
“Aerodynamically bumble bees ought not to be able to fly. Their body weight mass is beyond the capacity of their wing span. But first of all they bee-lieve they can fly and so they do. The second trick is that the bee’s wing muscles don’t expand and contract; so much as vibrate, like a rubber band.”
When he saw Sean’s eyes glaze over the chief crow presented Sean a feather that he had plucked from his tail. He explained that holding onto the magic feather, and vibrating his wings, he would be able to fly down from the branch he was sat.
It was at this very moment that the shepherd was approached at the gate by a property developer, wearing a pin striped suit and a bowler hat. The ensuing conversation has been recorded by the Monty Python Flying Circus team, but suffices to say they were considering the commercial possibility of the land and the vague possibility that sheep could actually learn to fly.
The property developer, of course, didn’t believe in the possibility that sheep could fly and was quietly much more interested in building on the farm lands. The crows were incensed. “Sean you have to save the day” they said. Where else are we going to reap enough corn, if a housing development takes the place of these farmlands?”
Sean took the feather in his mouth, flexed his wings faster and faster and felt his body lift from off the branch where he was perched. Timothy Wolf yelled “Go Sean Go!” and Sean manoeuvred himself away from the tree hesitating only slightly whilst he took a deep breath. The shepherd and developer did not have this tree in their sights. So Sean took another deep breath, sucked on his magic and flung himself off in the direction of the two humans. He was coming in a quite a steep angle when the shepherd turned and spotted Sean the Sheep.
“Duck” he shouted and Sean just skimmed the top of the bowler hat, knocking it off the property developers head. “Good Grief” said the property developer, “That was no duck surely”. “Amazing” cackled the crows. “Yippee” yelped Timothy Wolf.
The raucous attracted a lot of interest from the flock in the adjoining field. They had been listening aghast to the Shepherd and the property developer’s conversation. They had no idea that they were going to be eaten shortly! But the thought of having to spend what few months they had left in a compound rather than roaming freely in the fields went beyond their wildest imagination.
Then just when they had no hope left, Sean hovered over their heads. Hurrah for Sean! Sean couldn’t believe his ears – and as he beamed from ear to ear the magic feather whipped out his mouth and floated earthward.
Shocked and horrified Sean was in the middle of nowhere; there was nothing to grab hold of. His eyes widened in panic, he forgot to hover and started to flap. As he began to plummet Timothy Wolf yelled “You don’t need the magic feather, spread those wings and hover.”
Timothy Wolf had always believed in Sean.
So Sean spread his short wings and hovered. As his decent slowed dramatically, he looked up to see his best friend, on the branch, in the tree he had left ten minutes earlier. He smiled warmly and hovered towards Timothy Wolf. When he got close enough, he whispered “Climb aboard Timothy Wolf!” which Timothy Wolf did. He held on tightly as Sean hovered slowly but surely towards Mrs Sheep’s solitary pen. Tonight they had a great story to tell her.
In this exercise from The Writer’s Way, Sara Maitland asks us to rewrite a well-known story, legend or fairy tale in our own words. This is my offering, which is based on Helen Aberson’s well known story Dumbo and one or two other offerings.
With thanks to:
Helen Aberson who wrote Dumbo
Monty Python’s Flying Circus