Book of the Dun Cow

Book of the Dun Cow

by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Publisher: HarperCollins
Mass market paperback, 246 pages
Price: $16.99

A new favorite. Walter Wangerin's fantasy (best, we think, for adults) is the story of Chaunticleer, the rooster-king of the barnyard, and his epic war with Wyrm and the Cockatrice. The cover boldy states that this belongs on the shelf with Lord of the Rings; this is one of few books we've read that live up to the claim. Wangerin manages to incorporate nearly every human emotion into the story—humor, sorrow, joy, fear, excitement—as well as amazing literary and biblical allusions.

Walter Wangerin's profound fantasy concerns a time when the sun turned around the earth and the animals could speak, when Chauntecleer the Rooster ruled over a more or less peaceful kingdom. What the animals did not know was that they were the Keepers of Wyrm, monster of evil long imprisoned beneath the earth ... and Wyrm, sub terra, was breaking free.

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I don't have any sort of animal theme around my house, but if I did, it would be roosters, and this book--Book of the Dun Cow--is the reason why.

I read this about ten years ago for the first time. I was floored, and to this day it remains my all-time favorite fantasy novel. Simple story: Chauntecleer the rooster, king of the barnyard, along with his wife Pertelote, Mundo Cani dog, John Wesley Weasel and their band of farm animals fight an epic war against Wyrm, the Cockatrice and a host of basilisks.

This basic summary doesn't begin to capture the depth of the book. Wangerin's amazing writing brings these animals fully to life, completely animal yet exploring the entire range of human emotions--love, rage, fear, joy, despair, peace. He incorporates fantastic allusions to Chaucer, the book of Job, and Saul's Damascus road conversion, among others. You'll see a beautiful expression of liturgical worship, and--if you're watching--an incredible expression of Christ's and the Holy Spirit's work. I can't really express my admiration enough.

It's not for everyone, though: others disagree, telling me they've gotten frustrated enough to throw this book against a wall! But no one has said it didn't affect them at all.

Review by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Animal violence, nominal language
Summary: With the help of his fighting spurs, Chaunticleer must do battle with a dragon and its offspring to protect the peace-loving farm animals.

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  Simple Story, Profound Writing
Eli Evans of Mulino, OR, 10/16/2018
I don't have any sort of animal theme around my house, but if I did, it would be roosters, and this book--Book of the Dun Cow--is the reason why.

I read this about ten years ago for the first time. I was floored, and to this day it remains my all-time favorite fantasy novel. Simple story: Chauntecleer the rooster, king of the barnyard, along with his wife Pertelote, Mundo Cani dog, John Wesley Weasel and their band of farm animals fight an epic war against Wyrm, the Cockatrice and a host of basilisks.

This basic summary doesn't begin to capture the depth of the book. Wangerin's amazing writing brings these animals fully to life, completely animal yet exploring the entire range of human emotions--love, rage, fear, joy, despair, peace. He incorporates fantastic allusions to Chaucer, the book of Job, and Saul's Damascus road conversion, among others. You'll see a beautiful expression of liturgical worship, and--if you're watching--an incredible expression of Christ's and the Holy Spirit's work. I can't really express my admiration enough.

It's not for everyone, though: others disagree, telling me they've gotten frustrated enough to throw this book against a wall! But no one has said it didn't affect them at all.

There are sequels. Book of Sorrows was also beautifully written but far more depressing. So when I heard there was a third volume, Peace at the Last, I eagerly bought it. But now I'm afraid to read it! I've heard that Book of Sorrows was rewritten to make the third book make sense and that the writing took a serious downhill turn. If that's true, I'll have to say just stick with the first book!