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Bill's Pete Townshend Pages › The Coming Of The Iron Man

THE COMING OF THE IRON MAN

The opening chapter of the original book - THE IRON MAN
By Ted Hughes © 1968


The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
How far had he walked? Nobody knows.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
Taller than a house, the Iron Man stood at
the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness.

 The wind sang through his iron fingers. His
great iron head, shaped like a dustbin but as
big as a bedroom, slowly turned to the right,
slowly turned to the left. His iron ears turned,
this way, that way. He was hearing the sea. His eyes, like headlamps,
glowed white, then red, then infa-red, searching the sea.
Never before had the Iron Man seen the sea.

He swayed in the strong wind that pressed against his back.
He swayed forward, on the brink of the high cliff.
 And his right foot, his enormous iron right foot, lifted-up, out,
into space, and the Iron Man stepped forward, off the cliff, into nothingness.
 CRRRAAAASSSSSH!

Down the cliff the Iron Man came toppling,
head over heels.
CRASH!
CRASH!
CRASH!

From rock to rock, snag to snag, tumbling slowly.
And as he crashed and crashed and crashed.
His iron legs fell of.
His iron arms broke off, and the hands broke off the arms.
His great iron head fell off.
All the separate pieces tumbled, scattered, crashing,
bumping, clanging down to the rocky beach below.
A few rocks tumbled with him.
Then
Silence.

Only the sound of the sea, chewing away at
the edge of the rocky beach, where the bits
and pieces of the Iron Man lay scattered far
and wide, silent and unmoving.

Only one of the iron hands, lying beside an
old, sand-logged washed-up seaman's boot,
waved it's fingers for a minute, like a crab
on it's back. Then it lay still.

While the stars went on wheeling trough
the sky and the wind went on tugging at the
grass on the cliff-top and the sea went on
boiling and booming.

Nobody knew the Iron Man had fallen.
Night passed.

Just before dawn, as the darkness grew blue
and the shapes of the rocks separated from
each other, two seagulls flew crying over the rocks.
They landed on a patch of sand. They had
two chicks in a nest on the cliff.
Now they were searching for food.

One of the seagulls flew up- Aaaaark!
He had seen something.
He glided low over the sharp rocks.
He landed and picked something up.
Something shiny, round and hard.
It was one of the Iron Man's eyes.
He brought it back to his mate.
They both looked at this strange thing.
And the eye looked at them.
It rolled from side to side
looking first at one gull, and then at the other.
The gulls, peering at it, thought it was a
strange clam, peeping at them from its shell.

Then the other gull flew up, wheeled around
and landed and picked something up.
Some awkward heavy thing.
Finally, the gull dropped it beside the eye.
This new thing had five legs.
It moved, The gulls thought it was a strange crab.
They thought they found a strange crab and
a strange clam. They did not know they had
found the Iron Man's eye and the
Iron Man's right hand.

But as soon as the eye and hand got
together the eye looked at the hand.
It's light glowed blue.
The hand stood up on three fingers
and it's thumb, and craned it's forefinger
like a long nose. It felt around.
It touched the eye. Gleefully it picked up the eye,
and tucked it under his middle finger.
The eye peered out, between the forefinger and thumb.
Now the hand could see.

It looked around. Then it darted and jabbed
one of the gulls with it's stiffly held finger,
then darted at the other and jabbed him.
The two gulls flew up into the wind with
a frightened cry.

Slowly the the hand crept over the stones,
searching. It ran forward suddenly, grabbed
something and tugged. But the thing was
stuck between two rocks. The thing was one
of the Iron Man's arms. At last the hand left
the arm and went scuttling hither and thither
among the rocks, till it stopped, and touched
something gently. This thing was the other
hand. This new hand stood up and hooked
it's finger round the little finger of the hand
with the eye, and let itself be led. Now the
two hands, the seeing one leading the blind
one, walking on their finger tips, went back
together to the arm, and together they
tugged it free. The hand with the eye
fastened itself on the wrist of the arm.
The arm stood up and walked on its hand.
The other hand clung on behind as before,
and this strange trio went searching.

An eye! There it was, blinking at them
speechlessly beside a black and white
pebble. The seeing hand fitted the eye to the
blind hand and now both hands could see.
They went running among the rocks.
Soon they found a leg.
They jumped on top of the leg and
the leg went hopping over the rocks
with the arm swinging from the hand that
clung to the top of the leg. The other hand
clung on top of that hand. The two hands,
with their eyes, guided the leg, twisting it
this way and that, as a rider guides a horse.

Soon they found another leg and the other
arm. Now each hand, with an eye under its
palm and an arm dangling from its wrist,
rode on a leg separately about the beach.
Hop, hop, hop, they went, peering among
the rocks. One found on ear and at the same
moment other found the giant torso.

Then the busy hands fitted the legs to the
torso, then they fitted the arms, each fitting
the other and the torso stood up with legs
and arms but no head. Ii walked about the
beach, holding its eyes up in its hands,
searching for its lost head. At last, there was
the head. eyeless, earless, nested in a heap
of red seaweed. Now in no time the Iron
Man had fitted his head bock, and his eyes
were in place, and everything in place
except for one ear. He strode about the
beach searching for his lost ear, as the sun
rose over the sea and the day came.

The two gulls sat on their ledge, high on the
cliff. They watched the immense man
striding to and fro over the rocks below.
Between them, on the nesting ledge, lay a
great iron ear. The gulls could not eat it. The
baby gulls could not eat it. There it lay on
the high ledge.

Far below, the Iron Man searched.

At last he stopped and looked at the sea.
Was he thinking the sea had stolen his ear?
Perhaps he was thinking the sea had come
up, while he lay scattered, and had gone
down again with his ear.

He walked towards the sea. He walked into
the breakers, and there be stood for awhile,
the breakers bursting around his knees.
Then he walked in deeper, deeper, deeper.
The gulls took off and glided down low over
the great iron head that was now moving
slowly out, through the swell. The eyes
blazed red, level with the wavetops, till a big
wave covered them and foam spouted over
the top of the head. The head still moved
out under water. The eyes and the lop of the
head appeared for a moment in a hollow of
the swell. Now the eyes were green. Then
the sea covered them and the head.

The gulls circled low over the line of bubbles
that went on moving slowly out into the
deep sea.


WDK 2008

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