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Literature / The Song of the Cardinal

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The Song of the Cardinal is a 1903 children's book by Gene Stratton-Porter. It tells the story of a cardinal (the red songbird) from his hatching to the hatching of his first children, interwoven with the story of the farmer on whose land he resides.

This book contains examples of:

  • Alone Among the Couples: The cardinal defends his nesting place and is surrounded by mating birds when he does not have a mate.
  • Domestic Abuse: Among woodpeckers.
    The woodpecker had dressed his suit in finest style, and with dulcet tones and melting tenderness had gone acourting. Sweet as the dove's had been his wooing, and one more pang the lonely Cardinal had suffered at being forced to witness his felicity; yet scarcely had his plump, amiable little mate consented to his caresses and approved the sycamore, before he turned on her, pecked her severely, and pulled a tuft of plumage from her breast. There was not the least excuse for this tyrannical action; and the sight filled the Cardinal with rage. He fully expected to see Madam Woodpecker divorce herself and flee her new home, and he most earnestly hoped that she would; but she did no such thing. She meekly flattened her feathers, hurried work in a lively manner, and tried in every way to anticipate and avert her mate's displeasure. Under this treatment he grew more abusive, and now Madam Woodpecker dodged every time she came within his reach.
  • Ghibli Hills: The story opens with exalting descriptions of the Limberlost's lushness and fertility with its birds, flowers, berries for the birds to eat, and beasts.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The cardinal during mating season, when all the other male birds are getting responses to their songs but he isn't.
    He envied the blackbird his glossy, devoted little sweetheart, with all his might. He almost strained his voice trying to rival the love-song of a skylark that hung among the clouds above a meadow across the river, and poured down to his mate a story of adoring love and sympathy. He screamed a "Chip" of such savage jealousy at a pair of killdeer lovers that he sent them scampering down the river bank without knowing that the crime of which they stood convicted was that of being mated when he was not.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: A human child the cardinal encounters.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: The cardinal's opinion of the dove, though part of it is, even he realizes, his envy that the dove is already mated.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: The father cardinal suspects an egg was laid by an interloper and the mother knows it for her own. (Strictly speaking an avian mother would not have the certainty of a mammalian one; her actual egg could have been tipped out of the nest by a brood parasite.)
  • May–December Romance: The cardinal's parents are described as "a tough old widower of many experiences and variable temper" and "a fine, plump young female".
  • Parental Favoritism: The cardinal. His father stuffed him with food in the nest, and his mother, more equitable, gave him only half of what she gathered.
  • Scenery Porn: Particularly the opening, which features several paragraphs of lavish description of the Limberlost.
  • The Un-Favourite: The she-cardinal.
    She had been hatched from a fifth egg to begin with; and every one knows the disadvantage of beginning life with four sturdy older birds on top of one. It was a meager egg, and a feeble baby that pipped its shell. The remainder of the family stood and took nearly all the food so that she almost starved in the nest, and she never really knew the luxury of a hearty meal until her elders had flown. That lasted only a few days; for the others went then, and their parents followed them so far afield that the poor little soul, clamouring alone in the nest, almost perished.