‘‘The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind’’ has no specific setting in time and place, but it is suggestive of ancient or medieval China. The story begins with the Mandarin questioning a messenger. In ancient China a mandarin was a bureaucrat. In this case, the Mandarin appears to be the man in charge of a city. He is distressed at the news brought by the messenger. The town of KwanSi, two miles away, is building a wall around their city, shaped like a pig. After the messenger leaves, the Mandarin talks about this news with his daughter, who at first does not understand why her father is upset. He explains that their own city is surrounded by a wall shaped like an orange, which means that the Kwan-Si pig will eat them.
The Mandarin fears that their city is in for hard times. People will think that the city surrounded by the wall shaped like a pig is prosperous and lucky, and will go there instead. The daughter suggests that the Mandarin consult with his stonemasons and those who build temples so that a solution can be found.
When the builders come, the daughter stands behind a screen, whispering to the Mandarin what he should say to them. When they hear the news about the wall being built around Kwan-Si, they are as upset as the Mandarin. Prompted by his daughter, the Mandarin tells the builders that they must change the shape of their city into a club with which to beat the pig. The men are happy to hear this and depart.
The new wall is completed within a month. Shaped like a club as ordered, it is powerful enough to drive off not only pigs but any other threatening animal, even a lion. The Mandarin is happy.
However, his happiness does not last long. The messenger arrives with the news that the town of Kwan-Si has now built its wall in the shape of a bonfire, which will soon destroy the other town’s club.
The Mandarin is alarmed, thinking that everyone will prefer Kwan-Si and think it is much stronger than their own city. Kwan-Si will flourish while his own city declines. From behind a screen, his daughter whispers that he should instruct their builders to construct their walls in the shape of a lake. The water will put out the fire of Kwan-Si.
The people of the city rebuild their walls to resemble a lake, although it takes them some time to do it. However, then comes the news that Kwan-Si has rebuilt its walls in the shape of a mouth, and the mouth will be able to drink up their lake.
The mutual reshaping of walls continues for some while. The Mandarin’s town builds its walls like a needle to sew up the mouth; KwanSi counters with a wall like a sword to break the needle. The threatened town responds with walls like a scabbard to sheath the sword, but Kwan-Si shapes its walls like lightning, ready to destroy the sheath.
The Mandarin’s city goes into decline. People get sick and die. Even the Mandarin himself becomes ill, but his daughter still gives him advice. The rebuilding of walls goes on in a titfor-tat manner just as before, but the city continues to sink more deeply into crisis.
Eventually, in desperation, the Mandarin of this city summons the mandarin from Kwan-Si for a meeting. Both mandarins are old and ill, and the daughter’s voice tells them that the current situation is intolerable and must end.
The two mandarins are taken outside and carried up a small hill. The daughter points out to the two mandarins the kites that are being flown by some children. She makes them see that a kite needs the wind in order to fully exist, and that the wind and the sky need colorful kites to create variety and beauty.
The daughter then instructs the mandarin from Kwan-Si that he must rebuild his town so that it resembles the wind. In turn, her town, she says, will build so as to resemble a golden kite. The two towns will then be able to cooperate with each other, since each will supply what the other needs.
The mandarins are happy and immediately recover some of their strength. They praise the wisdom of the daughter.
In this way, the two towns emerge as the Town of the Golden Kite and the Town of the Silver Wind. Both flourish at all levels. All the inhabitants of both cities are aware of their new cooperative relationship, and the Mandarin of the first city is satisfied.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Ray Bradbury – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.