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Friday, 6 February 2015

Review: The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr.

Is it just me, or has anyone else ever read a book that you felt you couldn't quite grasp? This was that for me, at first... I honestly didn't feel, I don't know, clever enough to get into the complex narrative of it.... I haven't felt that since I tried reading "Pride and Prejudice" when I was 13. It didn't feel easy, at first, but I am glad I persevered. It's truly a wonderful fantasy tale. 

The protagonist of the story is a rooster called Chautecleer, in charge of a flock of hens. He's proud, impatient, but does care deeply for his flock. Little does he know, however, that they have been placed upon the Earth to protect it from an ancient evil called Wyrm, who is desperate to escape but cannot just yet. 

We are then introduced to another rooster called Senex, in charge of a different flock. He's old and has long lost the respect of his flock, particularly as he has not been able to produce an heir. Wyrm speaks to him in a dream, and soon after, Senex lays his own egg that hatches into a Cockatrice. Cockatrice kills Senex and rapes the hens in order to father basilisks, with the long term plan of conquering the land in order for Wyrm to escape. 

Chautecleer soon meets a hen who has escaped from this flock, though it takes her a long time to communicate the horrors she suffered. Thereafter, they have to prepare for war. 

It's a book examining the classic good versus evil, with Wyrm perhaps representing Satan and Cockatrice his servant from Revelation in the Bible. The overwhelming message, though, is hope and the importance of unity, and even though we are flawed we can keep great evil at bay through acts of kindness, compassion, and solidarity. It seems particularly important in these times when we have witnessed multiple atrocities in the short time since the start of the year: Charlie Hebdo, the massacre in Nigeria, the ever-growing threat of so-called Islamic State, and persecution around the world. This book has served as a good reminder to keep looking out for the good in the world, especially when it threatens to be consumed by evil. 

Good stories such as this. This really shows some of the best of humanity:


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