Literature / The Trumpet of the Swan

One day on a Canadian lake, a cob (male swan) and a pen (female swan) are saved by a boy named Sam from a fox. Sam is allowed to watch the swans' cygnets (baby swans) hatch, and it is discovered that one of them is mute. Instead of chirping to greet him, the mute cygnet pulls Sam's shoelace. Awww. Thus begins an Odd Friendship between swan and boy.

The story focuses on the swan, named Louis, and his efforts to overcome his handicap. Sam takes Louis to school so the bird can learn to read and write, and Louis's father steals a brass trumpet to give his son a voice. Louis feels guilty about the theft, so at Sam's suggestion he takes several jobs across America to pay for the trumpet. Adventures are had by all.

There is an animated film adaptation by the director of The Swan Princess.

Compare to E.B. White's more famous novel, Charlotte's Web.

This work provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: In the novel, Serena refuses to interact with Louis because of his disability, and Louis wins her over simply by revealing that he can play the trumpet. In the film, Serena is much more sympathetic to Louie and a jerkass rival named Boyd is added instead.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Due to Lost in Translation. Louis is mute, and Serena can't read, so his attempts to talk to her fall flat and she assumes he's not interested in her.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: To a lesser extent. In the film a lot of swans have some additional color on their feathers besides white. For instance, Louis has yellow, his sisters have peach pink and green, and Boyd has bright red.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Louis and others. When his father breaks into a shop to steal the trumpet, he flies away feeling guilty for the crime.
  • Animal Talk
  • Award Bait Song: "Touch the Sky" from the film.
  • Babies Ever After
  • Big Words: Occasionally Sam or another human character will stop and explain what a certain word means.
  • The Bully/Jerk Jock: Boyd in the film.
  • Conspicuous CG: In the film.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Serena just happens to get blown by storm all the way to the Philadelphia zoo.
  • Dee Bradley Baker: Voiced Louis' thoughts in the film.
  • Disability Superpower: Because he is mute, Louis learns to read and write English, skills the other swans do not possess.
  • Distant Finale: Sam is 11 in the beginning and 20 by the end of the novel. Averted in the film, which ends with him still a kid.
  • Edutainment Novel: Like Moby-Dick for kids, but with swans instead of whales.
  • Fat Bastard: The Big City Agent.
  • Fat Idiot: The agent is this too.
  • Funny Animal Anatomy: The book doesn't exactly say how Louis, who has no lips, can play a trumpet (though it is at least mentioned that it takes him a while to figure out for himself).
    • Feather Fingers: Played straight in the film adaptation, but averted in the novel, where Louis uses his foot instead. At one point he even asks Sam to cut the webbing between his toes so he can use the valves more easily — the narrative stresses that this is painless, though it does make his swimming stroke a bit weaker).
  • Genius Bruiser: Not only is Louis pretty smart for an animal, but according to the novel, a trumpeter swan can swat you with the force of a baseball bat. Louis doesn't hesitate to use his strength to defend Serena.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the film, Louie holds a bottle and thinks "This pound water is kind of fizzy."
  • Gonk: The Big City Agent.
  • Green Aesop: E.B. White sneaks a few in there.
  • Grudging Thank You: Averted. Applegate is more than happy to be saved by a "stupid dirty bird".
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Allow yourself a free snicker when Serena hears Louis's trumpet and thinks "What a gay bird!"
    • A somewhat more innocent example happens in-universe. Louis's father has to explain to him that he meant "mute" when he said "dumb," reassuring Louis that he doesn't regard his son as stupid.
  • Large Ham: Louis's father.
  • Lost in Translation: Louis initially tries to communicate with Serena with his chalk and slate. Unfortunately, Serena can't read.
  • Meaningful Name: Louis plays a trumpet, like a certain other jazz musician. This is lampshaded in the book, when a boy says he'll name him Louis after said musician, only for the swan to write on his chalkboard "That actually is my name."
  • The Napoleon: Boyd and the agent.
  • Odd Friendship
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Boyd's character plays up the All of the Other Reindeer aspect from the novel, as to be expected.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Louis with his chalkboard.
  • Race Lift: In the book, Sam Beaver is implied to be Native American. In the film, he's a generic white kid.
  • The Rival: Boyd in the film.
  • Satellite Love Interest: We never learn anything about Serena other than that she wasn't interested in returning Louis's feelings for her until she saw how well he could play the trumpet.
  • Shout-Out: In the film, there are twin blonde pens who fawn over Boyd much like the Bimbettes fawn over Gaston.
  • Single Pen Seeks Good Cob: In the film, Serena prefers Nice Guy Louie over jerkass Boyd.
  • Spiritual Predecessor: The film could be considered one to Happy Feet.
  • Stealth Pun: Louis's species is a Trumpeter Swan, but due to his condition you could also say he's a "Mute" Swan.
  • Summer Campy: Camp Kookooskoos.
  • Swan Boats: Louis at one point gets a job on the real life Swan Boats in Boston.
  • Talking Animal: Subverted with Louis, who can't talk, but can read and write. Played straight with all the other animals (at least when humans aren't around).

Alternative Title(s): The Trumpet Of The Swan