The Book of the Dun Cow is a children's novel written by Walter Wangerin, Jr. It follows the story of Chauntecleer, a rooster from before the creation of man. He's the leader of a small coop and the land that surrounds it, as he tries to get accustomed to an unwelcomed guest, Mundo Cani, and stop somebody who's eating the eggs. But, after that's over with, he receives refugees fleeing from the land to the west, ruled by Cockatrice. Senex, the former ruler, wanted a son, even though he was impotent, and went about solving his problem the wrong way. Thus, his son, Cockatrice, was born of him and the giant evil Wyrm locked under the Earth by the natural goodness of the animals on the surface. Eventually, Cockatrice kills everything in his land with his basilisk offspring. God sends his messenger, the Dun Cow, to Chauntecleer, and then seals off Earth from the rest of the universe with rain clouds. Eventually, Cockatrice starts attacking Chauntecleer's land with basilisks, and Chauntecleer calls the animals of his land to defend it. Bloodshed ensues.If the plot above seems a bit complicated for a kid's book, it's not just you. If anything is reminiscent of anything from the Good Book, then don't be surprised. If anything isn't reminiscent of the Good Book, you're obviously not trying hard enough. Got the New York Times's Best Children's Book of the Year, and the National Book Award. A lot of people die.A sequel was written titled The Book of Sorrows, which is about as cheerfulas you expect. It was later rewritten and reissued as The Book of the Dun Cow: Lamentations and followed by a third book, Peace at Last, published 23 years after the second book..Now includes a character sheet.
This book and The Book of Sorrows provide examples of:
Altum Videtur: Wyrm and the Dun Cow both speak in Latin, "the language of the powers".
Carnivore Confusion: The Talking Animals do prey on each other, such as John Wesley Weasel and Ebenezer Rat, but predator animals and prey animals can trust one another, as Chauntecleer is willing to leave his children alone with Lord Russel the fox.
The Dragon: Cockatrice is Wyrm's representative on Earth, and is the overt villain for most of the book.
Dream Sequence: Chauntecleer has a dream, implied to be sent by Wyrm, in which he wishes death on his animals, who he accuses of betraying him, and sees their dead bodies floating down the river. He is very relieved to find that it was All Just a Dream.
Fisher King: As this is before the creation of man, the animals are the rulers of the Earth. Their natural goodness is what keeps Wyrm trapped in the Earth, and his plan of escape naturally involves corrupting and killing them. The corruption of Senex is what allows Cockatrice to be born.
After the final battle, both John Wesley Weasel and Chauntecleer suffer from this. The last chapter is devoted to Pertelote breaking them out of it, Chauntecleer via Tear Jerker, John Wesley Weasel via Crowning Moment of Funny.
Chauntecleer also suffers a Heroic BSOD before the final battle with Wyrm, losing hope and accusing all of his closest allies, an angel of God, and his own wife of betraying him.
Heroic Sacrifice: Mundo Cani dives into the Earth, piercing Wyrm's eye and sealing both of them under the Netherworld Scar.
Hive Mind: Scarce, Chauntecleer's mosquito messenger. All mosquitoes are named Scarce and think of themselves as one being, and their (usually irritating) tendency to be almost everywhere comes in very, very useful for summoning the animals to prepare for war.
Hope Spot: After an entire winter of heavy rain, Chauntecleer gets married and has kids. Then, there's one relatively fresh day of spring. Then, basilisks kill Chauntecleer's children.
I Shall Taunt You: Mundo Cani gets Wyrm to look at him and expose his eye by insulting him, insinuating that Wyrm is too cowardly to face such a small opponent.
Mundo Cani: Oh, Wyrm! Great Wyrm-afraid to look at a nothing, a nose, a flea! Such evil, to split the earth, but from a Dog-a Dog to hide!"
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chauntecleer is bad tempered and officious and constantly abuses Mundo Cani, but his efforts to save the Wee Widow Mouse's children and the Beautiful Pertelote from drowning cement his status as the hero of the story.
Last Stand: What Chauntecleer sees the final confrontation with Wyrm as.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Cockatrice breeds his enormous army of basilisks by systematically raping Senex's hens, draining the spirit out of most of them (except for Pertelote, who keeps her sanity by using a stone to break the basilisk eggs in her body) in the process.
Reverse Psychology: Pertelote gets John Wesley Weasel out of his Heroic BSOD by implying that he isn't brave enough to burrow into the Netherworld Scar.
Rousing Speech: Subverted the first time. Chauntecleer's speech only frightens the animals, and only Pertelote's singing calms them down. The second Rousing Speech is more successful.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Chauntecleer doesn't fight in the first battle, but uses his crowing to disorient the basilisks. Later, he fights and kills Cockatrice on his own. Senex, although old and impotent, tries to embody this trope, but it doesn't end well.
Rule of Symbolism: Wangerin's other genre is religion. With that, it doesn't take much to know that this entire book's an allegory.
Savage Wolves: Played with. A wolf tormented and eventually killed Chauntecleer's mother, but another is one of the animals who is part of the (failed) revolt against Cockatrice. Several more (Boreas, Eurus, Chinook, Favonius, and Notos) cause a great deal of trouble in The Book of Sorrows, their machinations partially responsible for Chauntecleer's descent into madness.
Say My Name: Chauntecleer rouses his warriors' outrage by naming their children and screaming the name of Cockatrice.
Talking Animal: All of the characters are talking animals, with the exception of Ebenezer Rat, although he presumably doesn't speak by choice.
Third-Person Person: John Wesley Weasel often refers to himself as "John Double-u of the Double-us", or some variation of this.
Too Dumb to Live: All of the Wild Turkeys. In fact, all of them do die before the first battle.
Took A Level In Bad Ass: Mundo Cani, who at first seems to be a self-hating whiner, is one of Chauntecleer's most faithful allies, saves John Wesley Weasel from Cockatrice, and last of all takes on Wyrm himself, with nothing but the horn of the Dun Cow. And wins.
Two Lines, No Waiting: The story switches from the exploits of Chauntecleer to the events concerning Senex and Cockatrice, then back again.
Unstoppable Rage: John Wesley Weasel during the the attack on the basilisks after the death of the Wee Widow Mouse.
Unwitting Pawn: Wyrm preys on Senex's despair and desire for respect to persuade him to cooperate in fathering Cockatrice. Needless to say, this doesn't go well for Senex, who realizesa little too late just what he created.
The Voiceless: Ebenezer Rat never speaks, and it's unclear whether or not he does this by choice. It's implied that his secretive and criminal nature contributes to this.
The War Has Just Begun: After the basilisks are driven away and Cockatrice is killed, Wyrm reminds the animals that he is still there, temporarily driving the already exhausted Chauntecleer into delirium and giving Wyrm an escape route in the process.
Wham Episode: Chapter 11, featuring Cockatrice's oppressive reign, marks a firm transition from a mostly comic Funny Animal story to a dark Epic Fantasy.
Later, after several months of constant rain and snow, the sky finally clears up and we're treated to a lighthearted chapter wherin Chauntecleer's three sons try to amuse themselves with games, as their overprotective nurse Beryl tries to keep them out of trouble. And then we cut to the fox Lord Russel discovering their and Beryl's dead bodies.
Wicked Weasel: Averted with John Wesley Weasel, who, although violent at times and is implied to be a Reformed Criminal, is also extremely brave and firmly on Chauntecleer's side. He has an extreme distaste for sneaky characters like Ebenezer Rat and the cowardly House of Otter.
You Dirty Rat: Ebenezer Rat, although he is far from the most evil character in the novel.
Lamentations and Peace at the Last provide examples of:
Ascended Extra: Eurus was just one of the pack of wolves who threatened Chauntecleer in the original Book of Sorrows, and not even the most powerful one at that. He becomes Peace at the Last's main villain and the most evil of the wolves.
Big Bad: Arguably, the worms that infect Chantecleer are the main villains in Lamentations, but Eurus takes this role in Peace at the Last.
The Atoner: Selkirk is very sorry for what he did to Ratatosk, and is implicitly forgiven, since he's seen in the afterlife at the end.
Carnivore Confusion: Selkirk's eating Ratatosk the squirrel in Lamentations, which is treated as an extremely evil act in-universe, even by Selkirk himself, even though squirrels are part of a marten's natural diet. The wolves are exiled for killing an ewe, although wolves are obligate carnivores and must kill and eat other animals to survive. Jasper's exile partly comes from her request to eat Baby Blue's dead body, which is not out of a hen's natural diet, either. The issue may have come from the characters in question feeding on other Coop members.
Dark Is Evil: Eurus, the most evil of the wolves, has black fur.
Death Equals Redemption: Jasper is allowed into the afterlife, restored to her kinder self, and is forgiven by Pertelote.
Dragon with an Agenda: Rutt to Eurus. She has no loyalty to him whatsoever due to his vicious treatment of her, and as soon as he's dead, she commands a mob of corrupted animals to attack Pertelote's group. She is much more successful than he was.
George Lucas Altered Version: Lamentations alters the books' continuity significantly, introducing new characters (Selkirk and Ratatosk), cutting others (Black Lazarus), and changing entire plot points. Most significantly, in the revised version Boreas survives and Eurus is not blinded by Chauntecleer. The sequel follows the Lamentations version of events.
Given Name Reveal: The Bird With No Tongue gets her voice back in the afterlife and reveals that her real name is Least.
Heel-Face Turn: Boreas falls in love with Wantanga and sides with Pertelote's group.
Kill 'em All: The Meek (the animals led by Pertelote) are implicitly killed, although their implied reunion with Chauntecleer and the other animals in the afterlife may soften the blow.
My God, What Have I Done?: Selkirk the Marten is horrified by his own behavior after he kills and eats Ratatosk, and leaves the Coop in disgust with himself.
Predators Are Mean: All of the corrupted animals that attack Pertelote's group are predators or scavengers. It's implied that predation and scavenging are a result of the infection caused by Wyrm's maggots.
Remember the New Guy: Some characters, like Selkirk, are unique to the new continuity and did not appear in The Book of Sorrows.
Boreas and his pack openly attempt to join Chauntecleer's Coop and are exiled for killing Sweet Baby Blue, an ewe. Boreas does not die at the end of the book as he did in the original version, and is more sympathetic overall, especially when Watanga is introduced.
In The Book of Sorrows, Jasper appears at the end with Chauntecleer's other animals to be with him, and her bad behavior is less intentionally malicious. In Lamentations she is forced to leave for her more severe crimes.
Eurus and Jasper were also infected by Chauntecleer's maggots, which implicitly spread evil into the world. In The Book of Sorrows, only Chauntecleer was affected by them and he killed them all with his suicide.
Savage Wolf: Eurus and his pack, especially Eurus himself and Ruttus.
Token Evil Teammate: Jasper's bad behavior is worse in Lamentations, and unlike The Book of Sorrows she is exiled from the Coop after trying to scavenge off the meat of a killed ewe and attempting to kill Pertinax the squirrel. Eurus the wolf and his pack are even worse - while Jasper is ultimately forgiven, he is not.