Review: Book of the Dun Cow

The Book of the Dun Cow

Walter Wangerin




What’s better than a cockfight between one rooster with eagle’s wings and a serpent’s tail and another with spiked spurs on his ankles? Well if you know the answer to that question then you should write that book. Until then, pick up Dun Cow and lose yourself in a mythical world ruled by roosters who keep the evil Wyrm at bay underneath the earth.

The Book of the Dun Cow is an animal fantasy novel in a similar vane as Animal Farm or Watership Down, though the mythology is perhaps more along the lines of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The story is in fact a retelling of Aesop’s Fable “Chauntecleer and the Fox,” and the fable elements are certainly strong in the book. The battle lines are clearly drawn in this good versus evil tale, but there’s no simplistic moral. The “good” characters are not knights in shining armor, but struggle with pride, self-doubt, shame, self-pity, fear, and uncertainty. In this way, surprisingly, it is the humanity of these animals in the midst of struggle that makes Dun Cow special.

If you’ve ever led anything, you’ll laugh at the behavior you see from the turkeys.  Man’s best friend, Mundo Cani, is perhaps the best character in the book.  And the mysterious and ever-present Dun Cow reminds you that you are not alone in your fight against opposition.

This is an older book, written in 1978.  It didn’t quite make “classic” level, but its storytelling value and depth of insight have caused it to endure as a good read and somewhat of a cult classic.  It’s not a page-turner, but it’s worth the investment.  The story will stay with you longer than most.

(It should be noted that there is a sequel to The Book of the Dun CowThe Book of Sorrows.  This reviewer, however, would not recommend it.  It is much sadder than the first book (as you may guess from it’s title, and one of the instances where the sequel actually takes away from the quality of the original story.)

About Luke

Luke learned to read at the age of two, whereupon he decided, like much of the male population, that it was a chore to be done only when absolutely necessary. Then suddenly at age nineteen, he discovered good books—he has been reading voraciously ever since, earning multiple literature and writing degrees. At any given moment you'll find him reading at least one book, smoking a cigar, up fifty feet in a tree he free-climbed.

Currently Reading:
Collected Stories by Alexander Pushkin
-Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
The Mystery of Being by Gabriel Marcel

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