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The Book of the Dun Cow (Chauntecleer the Rooster #1)

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,529 Ratings  ·  328 Reviews
Winner of the American Book Award, Walter Wangerin's allegorical fantasy concerns a time when the sun turned around the earth and animals could speak, when Chauntecleer the Rooster ruled over a more or less peaceful kingdom. What the animals did not know was that they were the Keeper of Wyrm, monster of Evil long imprisoned beneath the earth. And Wyrm, sub terra, was break ...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published November 1979 by Pocket (first published 1978)
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Watership Down by Richard AdamsBlack Beauty by Anna SewellCharlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteAnimal Farm by George OrwellInto the Wild by Erin Hunter
Best Animal Themed Books
322nd out of 449 books — 437 voters
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard KiplingThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterWatership Down by Richard AdamsCharlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteMisty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Animal Characters--Dogs, Cats, and Others
90th out of 206 books — 25 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 27, 2015 Sørina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults with a streak of whimsy & a sense of gritty reality
Shelves: fiction
This unique book, written in 1978, is grisly, gritty, earthy, painful, and beautiful. I have never read anything like this book before. It is a creation of great courage. Wangerin has taken stark good and evil and played them out in an almost predictable manner, unafraid of arrangements that could be called clichéd, trite, childish, overused. He uses mythology freely. It might at first seem hopelessly dated; rather, it is hopefully dated, it is searingly modern, it is genuinely classic and there ...more
Jun 30, 2007 Rosie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beast-fable, about good vs. evil. A cock named Chauntecleer is the ruler of the animals. Cosmic evil is embodied as Wyrm, who lives "sub terra," and whose son Cockatrice (a half-cock half-serpent) and his "children" (the basilisks) wage war against Chauntecleer's kingdom. Mundo Cani Dog ends up giving his life (or so it seems) to save Chauntecleer and the others, and this act of grace makes Chauntecleer see his own sinfulness (he had despised Mundo Cani). Mundo Cani turns out to still be alive ...more
May 17, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think about this book by asking this question first: did I enjoy it because it had talking animals? Definitely not. On the one hand (novel-wise) you have Watership Down, probably the unassailable apex of talking-animal books ... on the other, Redwall. The Redwall books, although also populated by talking animals, are only good for a little while before the "hur hur hur" nudge-and-wink to the reader gets irritating.

Dun Cow is an apocalyptic epic fable. It's righteous and layered. It was obvious
Dec 13, 2009 Art rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best. Cockfight. EVER!
Just by loving each other and hoping in their Creator God, a little community of farm and forest animals unknowingly holds at bay the great evil of Wyrm, imprisoned under the earth. When Wyrm sets to the task of freeing himself by destroying their love and hope: attacking them with an army of Basilisks serpents, it is up to the animals and their rooster leader, Chautecleer, to defend their community with their lives.
There's lots of little life lessons, especially for lead
Mary Crabtree
A retelling of the Aesop's Fable Chauntecleer and the Fox. It's both epic and personal and every page propels you forward. I just couldn't put it down. I recommend this for Watership Down fans, Tolkien.....
a great good vs. evil read... This book is for the faithful, for the believers in hope, in the possibility of good in us all. Yet there is something almost painfully sweet about the depth this story goes and how it will sound in your heart.....all contained in a barnyard, on the shoulders of a
Apr 11, 2012 Terence rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Read this in my early college days. I remember liking it then; not so sure I'd like it as much now.
Mar 21, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crossposted at Booklikes

The use of animals as stand in for humans, as allegorical devices, has a long history. This book is another entry into that field. It is nothing like Watership Down, which is a hero quest for rabbits, but instead in more of the tradition of Aesop or the medieval tales featuring Reynard.

And Chaucer. It owes much to Chaucer, and not just the name of the protagonist, Chanticleer.

The basic plot of the story is the threat to Chanticleer’s realm, his barnyard and surrounding
Christian Engler
Winner of the 1980 National Book Award in the category of Science Fiction (soft cover division), Walter Wangerin, Jr.'s The Book of the Dun Cow, is a work like no other.

In a fanciful plot set-up where the sun revolves around the earth, thereby enabling the animal inhabitants to have a humanness and clarity of voice, thought and feeling all their own, life is as it is for all human beings in present day times: work, family, eating, play time, et cetera. But with the casual facade of everydayness,
Sep 20, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok
Cock-a-doodle-dull? I picked this up at a local used book store because frankly, I liked the cover. The fact that it was about a fully sentient group of animals fighting evil also seemed fun.

Of the things this book was, fun was not one of them. The thing this book was most of all was dull. I read often, and I usually read quickly, but this slim 250ish page book took me almost a week. Most of the time I didn't care, but quite often the religious hammer that is so prevalent just upset me.

This bo
I'm asking for it on this one. Everyone but me loved this book.

Those 2 stars are for originality. I have never read a book like this, not even close. (All that talk about Watership Down? Forget it. WD is nothing like this - oh, except it has animals in it.)

I hated it until page 124, after that, I could see that the theme was excellent, the writing unique - it was as if I liked the person, but not the clothes.

Not for me. My brain is just not suited to it. Can't explain.
Apr 26, 2015 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr. San Francisco, Harper Collins, 2003 (25th Anniversary Edition).

Summary: This modern animal fable portrays a conflict between the beasts of the Earth with Wyrm of the underworld and his evil surrogates, and the heroism of a rooster, a dog, and the other beasts.

"Marooooned". This modern-day animal fable (first published in 1978) begins with this mournful and persisting cry from Mundo Cani Dog who, against the will of Lord of the Coop Chauntecleer, fi
Emily Peters
Jan 24, 2015 Emily Peters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Christmas, I was given this book by a close friend. "I'm giving you this book because I've always wanted to read it myself," he said. So of course, not reading it wasn't an option. I set to work straight away. It was slow going.

It took me about 72 pages before I realized the book was genius.

The Book of the Dun Cow follows the adventure of Chauntecleer the Rooster, leader of his section of the animal world. It's about their first encounter with Evil, and how Chauntecleer and his animals seek
Mar 30, 2015 Sami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was actually assigned reading for my English Comp II class. I was worried it would be dull. Boy was I wrong. I absolutely loved this book. While I think it may have been of Christian origins, I saw many belief systems melded here in this tale. I also feel like a person who held no spiritual beliefs at all could enjoy this tale. It was a sort of cross between Charlotte's Web and The Chronicles of Narnia. It was a fast, easy read and impossible to put down once you get into it. I highly ...more
Nov 01, 2008 deLille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to deLille by: Good Reads author
I stumbled across this book on Good Reads when an author mentioned this book as THE book that got him hooked on reading. I wish I could find the quote again, but he said the book made him walk around in a daze for days afterwards, thinking about the book all the time. I love books like that, the kind that sweep you off into another reality that can seem more real that your own real world.

I've never been one to get into beast fables, or any of the Tolkien books, so I wasn't sure if this book wou
Jun 14, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality.” – Flannery O’Connor, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”

I was inundated with recommendations to read this book. It’s “brilliantly written,” and a “joy to read out loud,” and a “forgotten modern classic.” I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype, so I ordered a used copy online for a few bucks. It’s all of the above, and then some. This is a truly remarkable book.

It details
John Gardner
May 24, 2012 John Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted at Honey and Locusts.

If you're wondering what in the heck a "dun cow" is, you're not alone. As it turns out, dun is a color("gray-gold or tan", in fact), which in this case describes a cow. Don't you love learning new things?

Here's something else you may not know: This is a TERRIFIC book!

The Book of the Dun Cowis a novel which in many ways defies classification. Though the New York Timesendorsement quoted on the back cover refers to the book as an "allegorical fantasy", that is
Sep 05, 2014 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing. It is everything and nothing that you want it to be. The author says it is no allegory. And I agree because an allegory places a meaning on a text based on a point of view (as the author says it that POV is usually the author's). This text can literally wear anything. It is the Marilyn Monroe of books. Put her in glasses and muss her hair; she is the nearsighted average tale of love and loss. Dress her up a bit and watch the struggle; she is a metaphor for the drowned human ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The first two-thirds of the book was good, but the last third was gripping—I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed this and some of the symbolism of the book. Wangerin, however, didn't write it as an allegory.

He writes, "What the Book of the Dun Cow is not—nor was ever intended to be—is an allegory. Allegories ask an intellectual analysis...The Book of the Dun Cow invites experience...Allegories are reductive in meanings; they bear a riddling quality...But a good novel is first of all an event
Mar 09, 2013 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange tale about a rooster, his coop, and his demesne of fellow beasts as they war against the evil Wyrm under the earth. The author employs several memorable medieval devices that will keep literature lovers fascinated. Unlike many fantasy novels, the outline of cultures, history, and geography remain sparse, though the characterization is more in-depth (and thus somewhat more modern). Wangerin--perhaps from his own pastoral experience--provides some of the best descriptions about the felt ...more
May 06, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know that I can write an informative review, which always seems to be the case with books I really like. All I can say is, it made me cry multiple times it was so beautiful.
It is a beast fable without any sense of parody. The characters have such human emotions and struggles that, yes, you will cry with them, yet somehow you never forget their animal-ness.
Ryan Spencer
Jul 08, 2015 Ryan Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most underrated novels I have ever discovered. The story of Chauntecleer and Cockatrice is highly relatable, allegorical, and is written in such a way that describes each event in particular descriptiveness, yet not exhaustive. Highly recommended to anyone seeking a great story.
Wayne S.
Mar 20, 2016 Wayne S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a new Afterword, author Walter Wangerin Jr., a Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University, specifically says that The Book of the Dun Cow, which won the National Book Award, “is not—nor was ever intended to be—an allegory.” It is simply a fantasy of good and evil. The story draws upon Geoffrey Chaucer, the early church fathers, medieval cosmologies, romances like Le Morte D’Arthur, various mythological figures, and Biblical patterns. On the one hand, there is a moderate amount of cur ...more
Matt McClure
Wangerin's The Book of the Dun Cow is a unique work of fantasy, and his witty and emotionally savvy narrative complements the book's themes concerning good and evil rather well. Although Wangerin does little to explore the origins of the world and its characters, it serves more or less as a fairy tale.

Focusing on Chauntecleer the Rooster (an irascible but noble character) and his exploits in the animal kingdom he rules, as well as stopping a predetermined evil creature living at the center of th
Hock Tjoa
Feb 11, 2014 Hock Tjoa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a fable, a parable, a Christian barn yard fantasy--whatever you call it, it is tale well told.

Once Upon a Distant Time / When Ultimate Evil Still Lay Imprisoned /in the Earth, and in Their /Innocence and Might the Beasts /Were Keepers of the Gate, the /World's Greatest Battle Began....

The Beasts were led by a rooster named Chauntecleer who did not realize the Evil had arisen. He thought he had only to contend with Mundo Cani, a dog with an over-sized nose who interrupted his sleep, or with
May 18, 2016 Holly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chauntecleer the Rooster rules his clan of talking animals with wisdom and fairness (it is a time before humans i.e. before Genesis?). However, evil is afoot; Wyrm, a huge subterranean monster/dragon/snake, has found weakness in leadership in a nearby farm and has started to breed. Little do the animals know that they are the protectors of the earth, a case of the small/meek as mighty. The fate of the imaginary world hangs on "normal" and physically small characters, who alone can make a stand a ...more
Trey Jackson
Jan 29, 2012 Trey Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, classic
Excellent fantasy with talking animals. Similar in tone to a Watership Down or Animal Farm, but better I think. The way the author describes battles, and the emotional toll victory takes, the way the lead character (a rooster) exhibits bravery, dignity, self-pity, and vanity within the space of a few minutes, the buildup of a series of battles he and the other animals fight against evil, it's compelling and involving. Good stuff.
Michele Casper
Apr 10, 2016 Michele Casper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I had never heard of this book until someone chose it to read for a book group I attend. It was published in 1978. On the cover it says, "belongs on the shelf with ...The Lord of the Rings." It's an interesting and entertaining little fantasy, but I wouldn't put it up there with Tolkien. The main characters are animals with humorous idiosyncrasies. Their leader is a testy, but dependable rooster. His unwanted sidekick is a sad dog with a very large nose. The animals end up in a battle against an ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Lora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What seems to be a very docile book, just like the farm animals in it, has turned out to be incredibly deep, moving, and thought provoking. The chapters are short, making it a quick read, but the very real struggle between good and evil sticks with you throughout the day. I'd highly recommend this book, as I continue to mull over the ideas and reminders presented here.
Sep 05, 2015 Bekah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful picture of leadership and what it actually costs the leader and those who follow him. There is a classic story of the struggle between good and evil, however, victory comes at a great cost to all involved. Each character was rich and entertaining, ranging from the comic to the tragic. Wangerin seamlessly weaves multiple elements of mythology into his world, a beautiful hook for those who value the importance of folklore and story. Occasionally, the word structure and language used fel ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Dale rated it it was amazing
A simple fable, but so much more

The Book of the Dun Cow
is a simple fable of Chauntecleer, a rooster. He is in charge of a small animal kingdom and is confronted by the evil Coctrice, a half snake/half rooster who is the son of the devil, an evil serpent that is trapped beneath the surface of the earth but is trying to get out to destroy God's creation. The book revolves around the efforts of the animals to come together to confront the evil threat and the costs that such action entails. It also
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Read by Theme: The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. 2 18 Feb 03, 2013 08:59AM  
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Walter Wangerin Jr. is widely recognized as one of the most gifted writers writing today on the issues of faith and spirituality. Starting with the renowned Book of the Dun Cow, Wangerin's writing career has encompassed most every genre: fiction, essay, short story, children's story, meditation, and biblical exposition. His writing voice is immediately recognizable, and his fans number in the mill ...more
More about Walter Wangerin Jr....

Other Books in the Series

Chauntecleer the Rooster (3 books)
  • The Book of Sorrows (Chauntecleer the Rooster, #2)
  • The Third Book of the Dun Cow: Peace at the Last

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“Her ballad did nothing to make the serpants lovely. Her ballad hid nothing of their dread. But the music itself spoke of faith and certainty; the melody announced the presence of God.” 4 likes
“Sorrow spoken lends a little courage to the speaker.” 3 likes
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