Friday, February 3, 2012

The Story of Chanticleer

Today’s story is indeed old as it appears throughout English folklore in various forms. The original story of Chanticleer and the Fox is comparable to Aesop’s “The Fox and the Crow” and has been retold as a fable for years. Then there was the Nun’s Priest’s Tale from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” which retold the story in verse. French author Edmond Rostand (best remembered for “Cyrano de Bergerac”) wrote a play telling a new version of the story which was then translated by a Ms. Florence Yates Hann into a novella for children.

Tragically, the closest thing most people have to an understanding of this fable is the Don Bluth film Rock-A-Doodle which is, let’s face it, pretty much unwatchable and has about as much to do with the real Chanticleer story as the poop of a mouse who shook hands with another mouse who ate a nice piece of cheese in the home of a dentist has to do with dentistry…anyway, here’s how I think the story should go:

The rooster flapped his wings as he lit on the top of the fence. He gazed across at the horizon, waiting for just the right moment. Then, as though he could feel it in his bones, he knew his time had come. He filled his lungs with cool, early morning air and with all his strength he crowed. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The tiniest glimmer of light danced on the edge of the world. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Faint rays of sunlight shone from the east. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” And just as it had a million times before, and would a million times again, the sun came up. And Chanticleer’s duty was fulfilled for another day.

Yes, Chanticleer was the king of the farmyard. He made sure the hens stayed on their nests, he saw to it that the animals had everything they needed, he kept things running smoothly. Everyone treated him with great respect and reverence. The young cockrels wanted to grow up to be just like him, all the hens wanted him for their husband, even the barnyard dog, Patou, counted himself among the rooster’s loyal subjects. And why was Chanticleer so admired and famous? His voice. For, you see, everyone on the farm, from the dog and the cat all the way down to the chicks and the goslings knew that it was Chanticleer’s crow that told the sun when to come up every morning. Without him, everything would be shrouded in darkness all the time. So it’s no wonder that Chanticleer was the most important and beloved figure in the farmyard…

Though not to everyone.

Some of the animals in the forest just beyond the farm resented Chanticleer for singing his song and waking the sun every day. The bats hunted by night. The mole worked at night, but his eyes were too sensitive for the bright sunlight. Even the barnyard cat preferred to sneak about in the dark and tended to sleep most of the day. And the owls, of course, lived in the darkness, worshipped the darkness. The only thing they didn’t like about nighttime was the moon and the stars, but they preferred that to the bright, piercing, inescapable sunlight. For several nights in a row, these animals would hold meetings in an old hollow tree where they conceived a plan to get rid of Chanticleer and his song once and for all.

They were the ones who sent the fox.

One morning, as Chanticleer was preparing himself for his morning duty he heard a voice calling his name from beyond the fence. He looked down and saw a fox looking up at him.

“Excuse me, sir,” said the fox, “but my name is Reynard, and I am a great admirer of your singing.”

“Oh, thank you,” said Chanticleer. He was proud, as who wouldn’t be, but humble.

“But may I make one suggestion? The best singers always close their eyes before they begin.”

Willing to try anything once, Chanticleer shut his eyes. This proved to be a mistake as the fox leapt up the fence, grabbed Chanticleer in his jaws and ran into the woods. Luckily, Patou saw the whole thing and started barking, waking the farmer, who took his shotgun and, with Patou at his side, chased the fox. A gunshot went off a few feet from Reynard’s path.

“They can’t do that to you!” said Chanticleer to the fleeing fox. “Tell them they’ll regret shooting at you!” The proud fox did so, but when he opened his mouth to speak, Chanticleer slipped out and ran madly for home. The fox cursed himself for his stupidity, then ran into the woods never to be seen again, at least not by anybody in this story.

So, Chanticleer escpaed being eaten by the fox. But, as he returned to the farmyard, he realized something was wrong. He sensed light on the horizon, the first dancing rays of the sun. Chanticleer stared with wide, incredulous eyes as the sun rose…without his having sung a single note.

Poor Chanticleer. He had really believed that it was his singing which woke the sun every morning. Now he saw that it wasn’t true. And to make matters worse, all the other animals in the farmyard starting laughing and mocking him for thinking he made the sun rise (though they had all believed it, too) and began asking, rather loudly, what they even needed him for, anyway.

Defeated, dejected and despondent, Chanticleer hung his head in shame and did what he thought was the only thing he could do and left. He went to the forest, vowing never to return to the farmyard as long as he lived.

Without Chanticleer, things on the farm were going quite smoothly…for the first few days. But running a farmyard is not as easy as Chanticleer made it look. Patou tried running things, but being an old hound dog, he didn’t quite have the strength for command. The hens found the pressure overwhelming and none of the other birds felt up to the challenge, either. Things began to fall apart pretty quickly. But the worst part was the mornings. The sun came up without Chanticleer’s crowing, that much was true, but the sun wasn’t the only thing that needed to rise every morning. The farmer, his sons and the animals all needed waking. And without the encouraging, inspiring song of the rooster, they rose, but did so without any great enthusiasm. It’s like their bodies woke up, but their hearts never did. A general malaise settled over the farm as, one by one, every animal came to realize how much they missed—


Yes, the rooster had returned and he was welcomed as a hero. They asked him what had happened to him after he left. “I went into the woods,” he said, “where I stayed with a very nice pheasant. At first I wept when I saw the sun rise without my song, but then I came to accept it. I didn’t sing at all anymore. I thought, what was the point? Until I met a nightingale.

“The nightingale knew me and asked, ‘Aren’t you Chanticleer, the rooster with the famous voice?’

“‘Not anymore,’ I said.

“‘Yes, I heard about the incident with the fox. But you can’t let that stop you from singing. Look at me. I know that my singing doesn’t make the moon rise, nor does it make the stars shine. But without my song, the night would seem empty and incomplete. There is more to daybreak than light, just as there is more to nighttime than darkness.’

“And so, this very morning, I crowed with the sunrise. And even though I know I didn’t cause it to rise, I got the same feeling of joy and fulfilment that I always used to. From now on, I’ll sing for the joy of singing and I’ll praise the dawn with my song every morning.”

From that day on, Chanticleer returned to his job on the farm, and every morning he crowed, just as he always had, which is why he, and all the other animals on the farm, lived happily ever after.


If You Liked My Story, Then, For Pete's Sake, Do NOT Ever See:
  • Rock-A-Doodle (1991) I really can't think of enough bad things to say about this movie. It's interesting to note that the Disney Company had worked on this story for years before it was suddenly shot down and abandoned. Don Bluth, the director of this awful movie, worked at Disney during that time. Sadly, the closest thing Disney ever made to an animated version of this story was the Silly Symphony Farmyard Symphony which Walt introduced on TV with a short history of Chanticleer.
  • If, however, you are interested in the story as written by Rostand and Yates, it can be read for free right here


"Don Demonio"


  1. i love it !I learn some lessons. THANKS!

  2. i LOVE it! I've also learned a lesson, too!THANKS!

  3. I want to see rock a doodle.

  4. Such a fucking tale chanticleer is a bitch

  5. Perfect! I wanted to tell my students a rooster story today in honor of the Year of the Rooster, and this fit the bill. Thank you for writing this and sharing!

  6. Now that i live next door to a 'real live Chanticleer', really enjoyed your take on the classic French fairy tale.

    ...'When the rooster crows at the crack of dawn
    Look out your window - i WON'T be gone...'
    (Sorry Bob...)
    Too much respect for Chanticleer...

    Thanks for posting

  7. What warning did Pertelote remind Chanticleer of?