Flashback Friday: ‘The Trumpet of the Swan’

Madison Gallup ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer


Chances are that most people have been fortunate enough to encounter E.B. White’s work in some capacity in their life. Charlottes Web and Stuart Little have entered popular culture in many ways. The characters have become iconic household names, and the stories are referenced frequently. Published in 1970, his novel The Trumpet of the Swan is equally as wonderful, and deserves to be read and loved by even more children. This underrated story is captivating and lovely even after re-reading it many times over. Even with an age recommendation of eight to twelve on the back, there is no reason to be ashamed of revisiting the timeless story at age eighty, or bringing it along to college in case there is a need to escape from the real world for a while.

The charm of this book lies in its simplicity. While the narrative is rich with imagination and wonder in an unmistakably E.B. White way, the way it is told feels intimate and personal. The tale is a comforting one that can easily be turned to after watching something scary or getting home after a bad day. Readers get to witness the main character, Louis the Trumpeter Swan, grow into a fine young bird as he finds what makes him special and worthwhile. This plot that centers around a journey of self discovery is not a particularly unique one, but E.B. White masterfully weaves the tale into one that feels fresh and unexpected. With a healthy dose of magical realism and a nuanced portrayal of nearly every character introduced, The Trumpet of the Swan is anything but boring and contrived. Even though E.B. White creates a world where a mute swan can learn how to write in English and play a trumpet with the skill of a masterful musician, the story is rooted in real lessons and emotions that remain relevant for any age.

E.B. White has an uncanny ability to make a reader get completely absorbed in his stories. Seeing the Red Rock Lakes, a traditional summer camp, Boston’s Public Gardens, and Philadelphia’s Zoo through Louis’ eyes makes the most everyday, normal moments shrouded in wonder. It is difficult to not think of the world E.B. White brought to life when encountering the various places the novel was set in; the sound of Louis’ trumpet can almost be heard when taking a ride on the Swan Boats in Boston. There is so much rich description accompanied by beautiful illustrations in The Trumpet of the Swan that it is easy to get totally lost in the story, and imagine each place Louis goes in great detail, even having never gone personally.

Filled with love, loss, fear, triumph, persistence, and luck The Trumpet of the Swan is captivating to the heart and mind. Whether reading it aloud chapter by chapter to a child or curling up alone and quickly devouring the pages until the story comes to a satisfying, happy end, this book can bring a smile to anybody’s face. Allow a seemingly silly story about a trumpet playing swan to become a source of inspiration and comfort. The genuine and real nature of this story is one that makes it worthwhile to revisit again and again.


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