I can hardly contain my delight at this book. The writing style itself sends me into pure bliss! And then there are the characters, the storyline, the humor… it’s all nearly too wonderful for words.
But I shall use words anyhow (what would a blog be without them?).
A cast of characters:
Chauntecleer: the good, courageous, sometimes-vain leader of the Coop
Mundo Cani Dog: the sad, humble, enormous-snouted, ‘marooned’ hound, who calls Chauntecleer “Master of the Universe”
John Wesley Weasel: the turned-good inhabitant of a hole under a certain maple tree; a fierce warrior in time of need
Beryl: the nanny hen
Ebeneezer Rat: the first threat to the Coop
Wee Widow Mouse: the mother of seven, saved by Chauntecleer
Pertelote: the beautiful hen, wife of Chauntecleer, who is humble and wise
Lord Russell, the Fox of Good Sense: “uncle” of Chauntecleer’s children
Ten Pin, Five Pin, and One Pin: Chauntecleer’s children
Foolish, hilarious turkeys
Tick-tock: leader of the black ants
The Dun Cow
These are the Keepers.
Then, there is the enemy:
Cockatrice: the half-snake, half-rooster who does evil on behalf of Wyrm
Wyrm: the giant snake imprisoned within the earth
Things I love about this book:
The pouting turkeys (“The magnificent Ocellata, let it be known, made an art of superb politeness. Ocellata had manners. He excused himself even to the trees – when he could be sure that it was he, and not the tree, who had bumped into the other… After a long investigation, he found out where this Dog was lying in the camp, and he took up his pout nowhere else but there. ‘POUT!’” – p. 174-175)
The honest wrestling with God over sufferings endured (137-139, 153, 214, etc.).
A rooster who commands the skill of rhetoric (196, and others)
The creation of empathy with characters. In all seriousness, I normally do not empathize much with all-animal books. This time, I did. Here’s one passage that really did it for me: “‘Speak to me,’ he [Chauntecleer, to the Dun Cow] said bluntly and loudly in the night. ‘Have you nothing to say to me? Who are you? Why are you here? Where do you come from?’ And then, a question which Chauntecleer never formed on his own, nor ever would have asked, had he thought about it first: ‘–Why do I love you?’” (189)
Beautiful language such as this: “The sky was a stone – hollowed underneath, hard, pure white, hot, a lid locked over the whole earth… There was no sun. The sky was a sun. And this day did not dawn. It hit the earth with a fury. It struck every animal in the face. It woke each one with pain and with the sound of hissing.” (190)
“The chasm was drinking the entire sea before it, and the sea rushed into it like suicide.” (238)
The questioning of war: “Battles, battles – how many to make a war? And when you have won one, then what have you won?” (207) “But it is entirely possible to win against the enemy, it is possible even to kill the enemy, and still to be defeated by the battle.” (224)
Pertelote, the wise one, forcing Chauntecleer and John Wesley Weasel both to confront their experiences, and Chauntecleer to admit his failure, rather than avoiding them: “[Chauntecleer:] ‘I want my land made new again. I want the past scrubbed out of my soul. I want never to think of it again.’ ‘You can’t help thinking about it,’ Pertelote said. ‘And you are not, Chauntecleer, able to clean out of your soul the thing that has changed you.’” (249)
…and much, much more.
Read it! I recommend it with my highest praise.