The Book of the Dun Cow, Walt Wangerin

By

Walt Wangerin is a name I’ve seen in print many times. My dad had Ragman and Other Cries of Faith lying about at home for years and I remember thumbing through it at Christmas or Thanksgiving, reading bits here and there, and being intrigued by the style of writing; the words on the page had a canter to them, and a sparseness that gave them strength.

When my buddy Jason Gray let me borrow his first edition copy of The Book of the Dun Cow I was appreciative. Jason has recommended and/or given several books to me (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Father Brown Omnibus, Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War to name a few), and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. When he told me that he and his family had read The Book of the Dun Cow aloud at Easter I was even more interested. I’d been working on songs with an Easter theme for a while, so I was curious to see how a novel about a boisterous rooster and his coop would tie in.

Chauntecleer, the main character, is unforgettable and utterly unique. I’ve read a lot of books over the years and I’ve never come across a character quite like Chauntecleer: admirable, courageous, self-sacrificing, irritable, cranky, and loud. (He reminded me of certain members of my family, to be honest.)

I’m sitting on the tour bus right now and it’s a little too distracting to dissect the book’s finer points. But I’ll tell you that the story is epic; the writing precise, colorful, masterful even; and while it’s no allegory for Christ’s death and resurrection (which I think is a good thing), it is a story of light overcoming a great darkness.

I just might read it again next year, around Easter.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


18 Comments

  1. Jodi

    I appreciate the music and book reviews here. In just this short time I have made some priceless discoveries.

    Saw your show in Wausau, WI. Thanks so much for taking the time to come to a small community in the cold Northwoods. Please also thank your families for the hardships they endure at home and on the road.

  2. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    It was a hard sell for me to read a book featuring a rooster as the main character. It helped that the back cover sported quotes praising the book as comparable to Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. I reluctantly read it when I was on tour with Sara Groves a number of years ago and couldn’t put it down. It’s one of the few books that I’ve read more than twice. It’s funny, moving, and beautiful – one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

    The sequel, “The Book Of Sorrows” is equally as good. Glad you liked it Andrew!

    I read Danielle Steele’s book “Sisters” per your recommendation, and I know you loved it, but I just wasn’t able to get into it.

    Jason Gray

  3. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Jason,

    I meant to thank you for the subscription to Ladies’ Home Journal. I know how much that magazine means to you, and though I don’t read it, my wife does.

    AP

  4. euphrony

    Wasn’t Chauntecleer a character in Chaucer’ Canterbury Tales?

    Sounds like an interesting book.

    I saw your show last night (Friday, 11-30) in Houston. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We decided to sponsor a 4-year old girl from Brazil, as someone our girl could relate with and write letters to over the coming years. And I loved the (missing) toe song from Andy Gullahorn! After that, my wife commented that it was no wonder I like the music of all of the people who were up there – we have the same sense of humor.

  5. Drew

    Walter Wangerin has quickly become one of my favorite authors. After reading his book, As For Me and My House in preparation for being married I started reading some of his fiction work. His Book of God (the Bible as a novel) as wells as his novel on Paul and Jesus breathe some new insight into scripture that we sometimes lose in the 3-points-and-a-poem messages on Sunday mornings. I was wondering with my fiance just the other day what it would be like to take Wangerin’s The Book of God and make it into a musical filled with Andrew Peterson songs. Simply beautiful I think. The best songwriter and best storyteller (aren’t these two artists almost one in the same) in one production. Wow.

  6. Caleb Land

    I agree that Chauntecleer is one of the most unforgettable characters you will ever encounter. This is an exceptional book.

    I was also going to mention to all of you contributors, if you have not read the new novel by Jefferey Overstreet (who writes movie reviews for Christianity Today) you have to read it ASAP. It’s called Auralia’s Colors and is a fantasy novel that is exceptionally well written and layered with meaning. The reason I particularly want to recommend it to you is because one of the major themes of the book is the redemptive value of beauty, creativity and art. (and I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishing company, it’s just that good) I’d love to see a review of it on here one day.

    My wife and I are looking forward to seeing the show in Augusta tomorrow.

  7. becky

    Finished this book today, and loved it. Thanks for recommending it. It is not something that I would ever have picked up otherwise, and it was well worth the time and effort. I want to read it again, and get the sequel. I also read Gilead after seeing it recommended here, and it is perhaps my favorite book of all time. Certainly in the top three. So keep it up, please.

  8. The Rabbit Room

    […] last few weeks have commented to me about how glad they are that they discovered Wangerin’s The Book of the Dun Cow here in the Rabbit Room.  It really is a remarkable book, and I still can’t recommend it […]

  9. Daniel

    While I have yet to read this book, I can say that I greatly enjoyed its cartoon movie…Rock-a-doodle. Creative, sassy, and fun for the whole family.

    Let me say a preemptive “Joking” so as to avoid the cyber-tomatoes that will be thrown my way otherwise.

  10. Tony Heringer

    Finally got around to reading this book and as has been noted, it was a great read. Here’s some trivia from the Web which confirms some speculation by prior posts: “The Book of the Dun Cow is a novel by Walter Wangerin, Jr., loosely based upon the beast fable of Chanticleer and the Fox and named after the common name for Lebor na hUidre, an ancient Irish manuscript of stories.” To read more about it, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Dun_Cow_(novel)

    May read the sequel at some point, but my summer reading list is full. Keep up the great recommendations.

  11. Jim A

    I threw this book into an order at Christmas time (based on this discussion to that point) to round up an order for free shipping and just got around to it. I could not put this down.

    This novel is without a doubt one of the best reads I’ve ever had and that on the heels of Godric that I had just laid down. I’ve heard the sequel is more sorrowful in tone and I really can’t imagine it. There were so many poignent moments in this book that just sucks the air from your lungs and leaves you with a silent sobbing scream. There were other points where you wanted to haul Chauntecleer behind the coop and wring his neck! Heck even the weasle grew on me. The fox could have done without though, probably cause everytime he came up in the story I heard Dora the Explorer’s Swiper song pop in my head. 🙂 just kidding.

  12. Allison

    Just finished this book today. Why did it take me so long to read it?! Remarkable!

    I especially loved the way the Rooster crowed in the seven times of day, the “canonical crows” as they are called in the book, which are said to have “blessed the moment in the ears of the hearer.” Those reminded me of the liturgy and how it gives our lives “direction and meaning and a proper soul,” as Wangerin says of the Rooster’s crows. They give the day, or the year, “the right kind of clothes” and without it our lives would have no purpose or direction.

    Beautiful. Thanks for the recommendation, Andy!

  13. The Rabbit Room

    […] of Faith and came across his essay on preaching. Wangerin, whose writing I was first exposed to here in the Rabbit Room, had this to say: “It is not insignificant that my first apprehension of the love of God was […]

  14. Terry K

    I know this is an older post but thought I might try to encourage somebody to read more Wangerin. He definitely is one of the best. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written but came across a wonderful personal story I had never seen, in a book called “In the Days of the Angels”. It concerns an elderly aunt (Moravia) who lived at his house as he grew up – a beautiful story of love, tragedy, and Christmas. Highly recommended. Just reread it yesterday aloud with my wife and we had a good cry together. Amazing how words can move our hearts.

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