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Printable Columbus Day Story for kids - The True Story of Christopher ColumbusColumbus Day Stories

The True Story of Christopher Columbus
- A Chapter Book

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14


Christopher Columbus True Stories for Teachers
Printable Children's Literature


Home > Holidays > Columbus Day > The True Story of Christopher Columbus > Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - A Boy With An Idea

Men who do great things are men we all like to read about. This is the story of Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered America. He lived four hundred years ago. When he was a little boy he lived in Genoa. It was a beautiful city in the northwestern part of the country called Italy. The mountains were behind it; the sea was in front of it, and it was so beautiful a place that the people who lived there called it "Genoa the Superb." Christopher Columbus was born in this beautiful city of Genoa in the year 1446, at number 27 Ponticello Street. He was a bright little fellow with a fresh-looking face, a clear eye and golden hair. His father's name was Domenico Columbus; his mother's name was Susanna. His father was a wool-comber. He cleaned and straightened out the snarled-up wool that was cut from the sheep so as to make it ready to be woven into cloth.

Christopher helped his father do this when he grew strong enough, but he went to school, too, and learned to read and write and to draw maps and charts. These charts were maps of the sea, to show the sailors where they could steer without running on the rocks and sand, and how to sail safely from one country to another.

This world was not as big then as it is now--or, should say, people did not know it was as big. Most of the lands that Columbus had studied about in school, and most of the people he had heard about, were in Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. The city of Genoa where Columbus lived was a very busy and a very rich city. It was on the Mediterranean Sea, and many of the people who lived there were sailors who went in their ships on voyages to distant lands. They sailed to other places on the Mediterranean Sea, which is a very large body of water, you know, and to England, to France, to Norway, and even as far away as the cold northern island of Iceland. This was thought to be a great journey.

The time in which Columbus lived was not as nice a time as is this in which you live. People were alwaysquarreling and fighting about one thing or another, and the sailors who belonged to one country would try to catch and steal the ships or the things that belonged to the sailors or the storekeepers of another country. This is what we call piracy, and a pirate, you know, is thought to be a very wicked man.

But when Columbus lived, men did not think it was so very wicked to be a sort of half-way pirate, although they did know that they would be killed if they were caught. So almost every sailor was about half pirate. Every boy who lived near the seashore and saw the ships and the sailors, felt as though he would like to sail away to far-off lands and see all the strange sights and do all the brave things that the sailors told about. Many of them even said they would like to be pirates and fight with other sailors, and show how strong and brave and plucky they could be.

Columbus was one of these. He was what is called an adventurous boy. He did not like to stay quietly at home with his father and comb out the tangled wool. He thought it would be much nicer to sail away to sea and be a brave captain or a rich merchant.

When he was about fourteen years old he really did go to sea. There was a captain of a sailing vessel that sometimes came to Genoa who had the same last name--Columbus. He was no relation, but the little Christopher somehow got acquainted with him among the wharves of Genoa. Perhaps he had run on errands for him, or helped him with some of the sea-charts he knew so well how to draw. At any rate he sailed away with this Captain Columbus as his cabin boy, and went to the wars with him and had quite an exciting life for a boy.

Sailors are very fond of telling big stories about their own adventures or about far-off lands and countries. Columbus, listened to many of these sea-stories, and heard many wonderful things about a very rich land away to the East that folks called Cathay.

If you look in your geographies you will not find any such place on the map as Cathay, but you will find China, and that was what men in the time of Columbus called Cathay. They told very big stories about this far-off Eastern land. They said its kings lived in golden houses, that they were covered with pearls and diamonds, and that everybody there was so rich that money was as plentiful as the stones in the street.

This, of course, made the sailors and storekeepers, who were part pirate, very anxious to go to Cathay and get some of the gold and jewels and spices and splendor for themselves. But Cathay was miles and miles away from Italy and Spain and France and England. It was away across the deserts and mountains and seas and rivers, and they had to give it up because they could not sail there.

At last a man whose name was Marco Polo, and who was a very brave and famous traveler, really did go there, in spite of all the trouble it took. And when he got back his stories were so very surprising that men were all the more anxious to find a way to sail in their ships to Cathay and see it for themselves.

But of course they could not sail over the deserts and mountains, and they were very much troubled because they had to give up the idea, until the son of the king of Portugal, named Prince Henry, said he believed that ships could sail around Africa and so get to India or "the Indies" as they called that land, and finally to Cathay.

Just look at your map again and see what a long, long voyage it would be to sail from Spain and around Africa to India, China and Japan. It is such a long sail that, as you know, the Suez Canal was dug some twenty years ago so that ships could sail through the Mediterranean Sea and out into the Indian Ocean, and not have to go away around Africa.

But when Columbus was a boy it was even worse than now, for no one really knew how long Africa was, or whether ships really could sail around it. But Prince Henry said he knew they could, and he sent out ships to try. He died before his Portuguese sailors, Bartholomew Diaz, in 1493, and Vasco de Gama, in 1497, at last did sail around it and got as far as "the Indies."

So while Prince Henry was trying to see whether ships could sail around Africa and reach Cathay in that way, the boy Columbus was listening to the stories the sailors told and was wondering whether some other and easier way to Cathay might not be found.

When he was at school he had studied about a certain man named Pythagoras, who had lived in Greece thousands of years before he was born, and who had said that the earth was round "like a ball or an orange."

As Columbus grew older and made maps and studied the sea, and read books and listened to what other people said, he began to believe that this man named Pythagoras might be right, and that the earth was round, though everybody declared it was flat. If it is round , he said to himself, "what is the use of trying to sail around Africa to get to Cathay? Why not just sail west from Italy or Spain and keep going right around the world until you strike Cathay? I believe it could be done," said Columbus.

By this time Columbus was a man. He was thirty years old and was a great sailor. He had been captain of a number of vessels; he had sailed north and south and east; he knew all about a ship and all about the sea. But, though he was so good a sailor, when he said that he believed the earth was round, everybody laughed at him and said that he was crazy. "Why, how can the earth be round?" they cried. "The water would all spill out if it were, and the men who live on the other side would all be standing on their heads with their feet waving in the air." And then they laughed all the harder.

But Columbus did not think it was anything to laugh at. He believed it so strongly, and felt so sure that he was right, that he set to work to find some king or prince or great lord to let him have ships and sailors and money enough to try to find a way to Cathay by sailing out into the West and across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now this Atlantic Ocean, the western waves of which break upon our rocks and beaches, was thought in Columbus's day to be a dreadful place. People called it the Sea of Darkness, because they did not know what was on the other side of it, or what dangers lay beyond that distant blue rim where the sky and water seem to meet, and which we call the horizon. They thought the ocean stretched to the end of a flat world, straight away to a sort of "jumping-off place," and that in this horrible jumping- off place were giants and goblins and dragons and monsters and all sorts of terrible things that would catch the ships and destroy them and the sailors.

So when Columbus said that he wanted to sail away toward this dreadful jumping-off place, the people said that he was worse than crazy. They said he was a wicked man and ought to be punished.

But they could not frighten Columbus. He kept on trying. He went from place to place trying to get the ships and sailors he wanted and was bound to have. As you will see in the next chapter, he tried to get help wherever he thought it could be had. He asked the people of his own home, the city of Genoa, where he had lived and played when a boy; he asked the people of the beautiful city that is built in the sea--Venice; he tried the king of Portugal, the king of England, the king of France the king and queen of Spain. But for a long time nobody cared to listen to such a wild and foolish and dangerous plan--to go to Cathay by the way of the Sea of Darkness and the Jumping-off place. You would never get there alive, they said.

And so Columbus waited. And his hair grew white while he waited, though he was not yet an old man. He had thought and worked and hoped so much that he began to look like an old man when he was forty years old. But still he would never say that perhaps he was wrong, after all. He said he knew he was right, and that some day he should find the Indies and sail to Cathay.


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