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Literature / The Trumpet of the Swan

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One day on a Canadian lake, a cob (male swan) and a pen (female swan) are saved by a boy named Sam Beaver from a fox. Sam is allowed to watch the swans' cygnets 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 Louie, and his efforts to overcome his handicap. Sam takes Louie to school so the bird can learn to read and write, and Louie's father steals a brass trumpet to give his son a voice. Feeling guilty over the theft, Louie leaves home to earn enough money to pay for the trumpet. Adventures are had by all.

In 2001, an animated film adaptation was released by Richard Rich (the director of The Swan Princess).

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

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This work provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Louis doesn't interact much with his swan peers in the novel. In the animated adaptation, he has a case of All of the Other Reindeer because his peers (sans his family and Serena) find him weird that he's mute.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the novel, Serena doesn't interact with Louis because of his disability (Louis' mother points out that his muteness means he can't communicate in the usual way and of course Serena can't read), and Louis wins her over simply by revealing that he can play the trumpet. In the film, Serena is much more sympathetic to Louis 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.
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  • 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: The swans 'talk' to each other, and Louis can understand English, but no one can understand him until he learns to write.
  • Award-Bait Song: Kenya Hathaway's "Touch the Sky" from the film.
  • Babies Ever After: The story ends with Louis and Serena starting a family of their own.
  • The Bully: Boyd, the swan added for the film.
  • Camp Wackyname: Camp Kookooskoos. According to the camp director, it actually means "great horned owl" in Native American. When a camper asks him why it's not called "Camp Great Horned Owl", the director says it sounds better for a camp to have a kooky name.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Serena just happens to get blown by storm all the way to the Philadelphia zoo while Louis is staying there.
  • Disney Death: Louis and his dad fly to the music store to pay for the stolen trumpet and smashed window. Unfortunately, the store owner thinks they're back to steal again and shoots at Louie's dad, who falls the ground. After the misunderstanding is cleared up, the music owner instantly regrets what he just did. Fortunately, the swan was only stunned from shock. The music store owner then decides to use the money to not only pay for the trumpet and the damages to his shop, but also to preserve all Trumpeter Swans.
  • 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.
  • Fat Bastard: Monty, Louie's con-artist agent in the film, who takes advantage of Louie's skills and uses him for his own selfish gain.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Genius Bruiser: Not only is Louis pretty smart for an animal (being able to read and write English and learn to play the trumpet without assistance), but he has the strength of a trumpeter swan (which, true to life, can hit with the force of a baseball bat and give a nasty bite besides). Louis doesn't hesitate to use every natural weapon at his disposal to defend Serena from the Philadelphia zookeepers (who want to amputate part of her wing and render her permanently flightless).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the film, Louie holds a bottle and thinks "This pond water is kind of fizzy."
  • Green Aesop: E.B. White seldom misses an opportunity to mention how human carelessness makes life difficult for wild swans.
  • Grudging "Thank You": Averted. Applegate is more than happy to be saved by a "stupid dirty bird". He still doesn't care for birds, though.
  • Hate Sink: Boyd is a magnet of resentment, embodying nearly all mean-spirited hardships that come from Louie's mute condition, from needlessly taunting him during childhood to forcing Serena to marry him instead of voiceless Louis. And when Louis rightfully earns Serena's love, Boyd spites him by throwing his trumpet in the water.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Allow yourself a free snicker when Serena hears Louie's trumpet and thinks "What a gay bird!"
    • A somewhat more innocent example happens in-universe. Louie'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: Louie's father in the animated adaptation — voiced by Jason Alexander.
  • 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."

Alternative Title(s): The Trumpet Of The Swan

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