Synopsis of Toy
They’re diamond-shaped, triangular and even rectangular; they look like dragons, starbursts and butterflies; they have long streaming tails, or none at all; they’re plastic, paper, silk and foil; they turn, twist, fly and soar with the greatest of ease—they’re kites, and we love them. Man has always strove to harness flight, and guiding a plastic or paper bird tied to a string is almost as good as being up there yourself.
Kites have a long history, dating as far back as 200 B.C. when Chinese General Han Ssin of the Han Dynasty used a kite as war implement to fly over enemy walls, and the Japanese flew them over fields to ward off evil spirits and ensure rich harvests. The crazy flying contraptions became popular in India when lovers used kites for more romantic aspirations, attaching love letters to the kites and sailing them over walls to their beloved.
Kites flew into the modern world, and became infamous when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity when he attached a key to his kite, and lightning struck. He was shocked to discover that his experiment worked, and he couldn’t have done it without the classic diamond-shape kite. Kites continued to be used for all sorts of early flight studies with weather balloons and aerial surveying, and the Wright brothers even tried them out as early flying machines. In 1882, George Pocock used kites, instead of horses, to pull his carriage at a speed of 20 miles an hour. The power of wind, and the joy of flight converged when kites became all the rage of the 70’s.
Kites were a popular at-home hobby, but after Peter Powell designed a special stunt kite in 1972, the art of kite flying took off. Before long, everyone was waiting for a windy day to try their hand at the new-fangled pastime. The Delta kite, the simple triangular shaped kite, was the easy beginners style that took off with little effort, and required minimum skill. As kite flying escalated, Chinese-inspired Dragon kites featured long flowing tails in rainbow colors and created a shimmering monster gliding through the sky. It became the thing to do at picnics in the countryside, or during breezy summer days in suburbia (where one would also learn the skill of dodging electrical wires and trees).
There are simple plastic kites you can buy at Toys ‘R Us for $1.99—the ones printed with Spider-Man or Barbie or Pokémon and featuring a simple spool of string that got knotted up within the first five minutes—and then there are the super-duper kites for professionals only. Fancy aerodynamic wonders built for speed, stunts and power, these high performance machines perform aerial flights of fancy that would make eagles jealous. Some kites don’t even need sticks to create sails to catch the wind. These parafoil kites are like small parachutes that fill up with air to fly and are guided by multiple strings.
Although it is possible to fly a kite by oneself, it’s much better and way more fun to have a partner. One person holds onto the kite, while the second holds onto the string. Put enough distance between the two, and on the count of three, the kite holder shoots the kite up into the air while the string holder takes off running to catch some wind. If the wind gods are on your side, your kite takes off up into the sky, soaring in a wind ballet: but beware of the tree monster, who likes to snatch trees from the sky and trap them in their lair of branches. Everybody loves kites, but nobody said it was a risk-free hobby.