Literature / The Mockery Bird

The Mockery Bird is a novel by Gerald Durrell, published in 1981. Unlike most of his books, which are autobiographical non-fiction, this book is completely fiction.

The book's protagonist, Peter Foxglove is sent to the island of Zenkali, a small British colony, as an assistant to the native King's (or, as he prefers to call himself, Kingy's) advisor. After meeting the many eccentric inhabitants of the island, he discovers that a thought-to-be-extinct bird, the Mockery Bird, worshiped as a deity by the island's natives, is Not So Extinct after all. But the valley where the bird lives is about to be flooded to build a dam to provide energy for Zenkali's airport, and Peter and his friends need to stop this plan to save the bird.


This book provides examples of:
  • Adipose Rex: Kingy, the benevolent ruler of Zenkali, is a huge, fat man.
  • Author Tract: The book is largely about what colonialism and uncontrolled industrial development does to small, exotic islands and their ecosystem.
  • Big Fun: Kingy is a large, overweight man with a lot of charm and a great sense of humor. He's so laid-back that he asks his subjects to call him "Kingy" instead of "Your Majesty".
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Pappas is a cheerful man - just don't get on his bad side.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Both the Fangua and the Ginka, Zenkali's two native tribes, used to be this.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The biologist Dr. Droom, who discovers that amela moth caterpillars feed on ombu leaves, and thus destroying the valley would ruin the island's economy.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Zenkali is a place where quirky people from all over the world end up, blending in with the equally quirky natives.
  • Cool Old Lady: Reverend Judith Jaeger is this combined with Badass Preacher: an American priestess, who is obsessed with guerilla warfare.
  • Corrupt Politician: Looja uses his political power to make massive profit from building Zenkali's airport.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hannibal is easily the snarkiest character in the book.
  • Evil Chancellor: Looja is a powerful politician who assists Kingy, and is easily the most evil person on Zenkali.
  • Expy: Captain Pappas is basically Spiro from Durrell's earlier book, My Family and Other Animals, while Kingy is the Fon of Bafut from The Bafut Beagles.
  • Funny Foreigner: Since Zenkali is a multi-cultural island, many characters show traits of this, but Captain Pappas is the best example with his over-the-top Greek accent and comically tactless moments.
  • Funetik Aksent: Captain Pappas and the Zenkali natives.
  • Green Aesop: As usual in Durrell's books. The main message is that every creature, including humans, are connected through ecological relationships, and destroying even one species can lead to a cascade that ultimately harms human society.
  • Hobbes Was Right: Kingy is a benevolent dictator.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Pappas constantly misnames other people like Peter, but someone mispronounces his name is his Berserk Button.
  • I'm a Humanitarian / Black Comedy Cannibalism: The idea of cannibalism is Played for Laughs. The Zenkali natives used to be cannibalistic, and Kingy sometimes suggests to Hannibal they should reintroduce it, just to make him cringe.
  • Large Ham: Captain Pappas, Hannibal Oliphant and Kingy all speak and act in an over-the-top manner.
  • Last of His Kind: The last ombu tree, dubbed "Stella". At least until Peter discovers a valley full of them.
  • Lean and Mean: Looja is a very skinny and fragile person, and a complete sociopath.
  • Lemony Narrator: The guidebook that Peter reads about Zenkali in the first chapter is written in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek style. The last chapter reveals that the author was Hannibal.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Kingy went to college in England before returning to Zenkali and becoming the king.
  • Micro Monarchy: Zenkali is a tiny island on the Indian Ocean, run by a benevolent monarch. It is part of the British Empire, but is almost completely autonomous.
  • Multipurpose Monocultured Crop: The amela tree, which is the only plant Zenkali produces and exports.
  • Only Sane Man: Considering the Cloudcuckooland nature of Zenkali, Peter, the protagonist gets to play this part. Hannibal also sees himself as this.
  • Physical God: The Mockery Bird itself was believed to be this by the Fangua, until its apparent extinction.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Kingy is a smart and benevolent leader.
  • Species Lost and Found: The Mockery Bird is believed to be extinct, but is re-discovered by Peter Foxglove and his friends.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheMockeryBird