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Literature / Featherless Buzzards

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Just another day in the local dump...

Featherless Buzzards (Spanish name: Los Gallinazos sin Plumas) is a short tale of Julio Ramón Ribeyro written on 1955.

Efrain and Enrique are two young brothers whose abusive grandfather Don Santos forces them to scavenge the local dump to bring food for Pascual, a pig the old man is fattening. He forces the boys to keep going to the dump even when they are injured of sick. While Pascual the pig demands more food each passing day...


Featherless Buzzards has the following tropes.

  • Abusive Parents: Don Santos. Not only he forces his grandchidren to scavenge in dumps, he gives their dinner to the pig when they don't recollect enough food. He doesn't even care after Efrain injures his foot with a piece of glass or after Enrique collapses from a fever and flatly says it's their fault.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Justified in that the terrible things taking place in the books - forced child labour; and the start of the era of migration to the capital city in Peru.
  • Asshole Victim: Don Santos
  • Berserker Tears: Poor Enrique has them after confronting his grandfather after the old man fed his dog to the pig.
  • Big Eater: Pascual the pig. It even eats dogs and people alive.
  • Broken Aesop: At the end Efrain and Enrique face no consequences for killing their grandfather, the old man who died was an Asshole Victim who deserved it, and it ends with them running away with an uncertain fate. The more obvious, better-supported Aesop is the stock "don't be greedy".
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Don Santos's wooden leg, which conveniently breaks during his struggle with Enrique, trapping him alone with his very crazy and hungry pig.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Enrique was broken enough after his little brother falls ill and after his abusive grandfather forced him to go to the dump while having a high fever. However, it's Pedro being eaten alive by the pig is what pushes him over the edge and makes him snap.
  • Downer Beginning: The boys live in poverty and their grandfather forces them to find food in a dump.
  • Crapsack World: Most of the locations are pretty awful.
  • Cruel Twist Ending/Downer Ending: Don Santos feds the cute little dog his grandchildren cared for to his hungry pig Pascual. This sets Enrique onto Despair Event Horizon, pushes his grandfather into the pigpen and runs away with the fatally ill Efrain. Since Don Santos was their only relative, the kids now have to live on their own and Efrain's condition has gotten worse due to lack of medical care. Ah, and Don Santos is eaten alive by the pig.
  • Eaten Alive: Poor Pedro the dog. Also, possibly the fate of Don Santos in the end.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Pedro is a sweet little dog around the boys, but growls around Don Santos.
  • Fed to Pigs: Don Santos.
  • Ill Boy: Efrain becomes this after injuring his foot with a piece of glass. His condition worsens by the end of the book and in the final scene, after their escape, Enrique has to carry him, because his feet is horribly swollen.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Pedro the dog becomes this to Efrain and Enrique. It cheers up the kids and even makes them forget about their grandfather's abuse. Also, when their grandfather feeds the dog to the pig, the kids snap.
  • Sanity Slippage: Pascual becomes more insatiable every day, demanding more and more food from the kids. By the end he's so unhinged he has no qualms about eating dogs or people alive.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: An exemplary use of the trope. Don Santos forces his grandchildren to scavenge in the dump to get enough food to fatten a pig and exchange him for a large sum of money. In the end he's eaten by the pig and abandoned by his grandchildren, making his struggle pointless.
  • The '50s
  • Title Drop: Efrain and Enrique are often compared to a pair of buzzards.