In my childhood and youth, troubled as I was with burdens of a dysfunctional family and father there were several authors that wrote books that lead me persistently to Christ through a distant shore or land I did not rally know but never the less longed for. One of those writers beside J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis was Walter Wangerin Jr.
His book The Book of the Dun Cow came out in 1978 ( I was 20 years old) and helped me and I am sure many others see Christ in the darkness. Its sequel "The Book of Sorrows was equally profound for me. A third volume rounded out the trilogy: The Third Book of the Dun Cow: Peace at Last.
The Book of the Dun Cow (1978) is loosely based upon the beast fable of Chanticleer and the Fox adapted from the story of "The Nun's Priest's Tale", Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. There were two sequels: The Book of Sorrows (1985) and The Third Book of the Dun Cow: Peace at the Last (2013).
I was 7 years old when J.F.K was killed and I remember the announcement at elementary school and being sent home. Little did I know that C.S. Lewis had also died that day and the impact he would have on my mind and soul later in life.. When J.R.R. Tolkien died I was 16 years old ( Sept. 2, 1973) and was aware but not impacted by his death. I had been reading the LOTR with great joy. Then there was Richard Adams and Watership Down, Shardik, Richard Adams died in 2016. “Well, there’s another place—another country, isn’t there? We go there when we sleep, at other times, too, and when we die.” was a quote from "Watership Down". Walter Wangerin Jr. died this past August 5th.
If you never read any of Walter Wangerin's writing do so. You will be enriched and pointed to Christ in life and that distant shore that he now walks with our Lord.
Down to Hell and Up to Heaven by Walter Wangerin, Jr. Video from Walter Wangerin Jr.
"Wangerin was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006. Based on that experience he authored the book, Letters from the Land of Cancer (Zondervan, 2010), in which he wrote:
“When … we remain unprepared for the Ultimatum certainly to seize us, then the death that interrupts our daily lives is monstrous. Fight against it with all your might. Hate it. Be filled with envy and anger for those who are still healthy. Wail, plead, beg, make deals with friends and with the Infinite. Sink into despair. Lie down in hopelessness. Die, then—even before you die. Or else, prepare. Long before that final confrontation, prepare.” And “Never in isolation, the body/individual exists ever and only in relationships: to elements of creation; to a people, a tribe, a family; to God. Suffering a physical sickness, then, is to experience the effects of breakage in the body’s significant relationships. Sickness is not an enemy. It is a rooster’s crow, calling me to the truth of myself and to the precise condition of my relationships–God, society, nature.” From the Bible Gateway Blog on Walter Wangerin Jr.
"Thousands and ultimately millions of readers responded (To The Book of the Dun Cow). The late Eugene Peterson, sometimes called “the pastor’s pastor,” credited Wangerin’s first book with helping to clarify his understanding of the pastor’s life. The Book of the Dun Cow, a fantasy novel based loosely on a tale from Geoffrey Chaucer, stars a rooster and a basilisk, along with such supporting characters as a rat, a fox, a toad, and a melancholy dog. Peterson explained that this unlikely tale diagnoses what’s wrong with modern culture, infected as it is by covert evils that also threaten to undermine the Christian community. Other pastors happily borrowed Wangerin’s stories from Ragmanand Miz Lil and The Chronicles of Grace. from the article: Philip Yancey: My Benediction to the Beloved Storyteller, Walter Wangerin Jr.
Good bye Walter, I look forward to hearing your stories again someday!