Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 402

The first part of the narrative is a grounded tale of a highland father who rescues a dog. He raises her, and when she gets run over by a horse-drawn carriage, he nurses her back to health. The animal runs away when older. In a tragic reunion between the man and the dog, the dog's offspring misinterpret her aggressive affection and kill the man in front of his two teenage sons. At this point, the story smoothly transitions into the mythic.

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Trauma from witnessing their father mauled to death haunts the brothers. One turns to alcohol as a way of numbing the pain, and the other is tormented in his sleep by images of the dog. Together, they elevate the animal from a creature of flesh and blood into a figure of legend. Here, she gains a new title, "cù mòr glas a' bháis"—the big grey dog of death.

The style of the story shifts throughout, from the simpler diction in the folktale of the past to the more formal contemplation of the narrator in the present. The dog becomes an omen of death and a family heirloom. One brother sees the dog and kills himself. The other dies in a bar fight, which people connect with the dog: "The cù mòr glas a' bháis, had come again, said his family, as they tried to piece the tale together."

People tell and retell the tragedy of the owner and his dog. They glimpse the animal in the distance and speak of it like creatures such as Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. The dog is "seen on a hill in one region or silhouetted on a ridge in another or loping across the valleys or glens in the early morning or the shadowy evening. Always in the area of the half-perceived."

All of this creates a mythic tapestry of stories that are passed down to the narrator, who, in modern times, gathers with siblings at their father's death-bed. They all fear the big grey dog but refuse to say it out loud for fear that it will end their father's life.

"Bound here in our own peculiar mortality, we do not wish to see or see others see that which signifies life's demise. We do not want to hear the voice of our father, as did those other sons, calling down his own particular death upon him."

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

During the three decades before the appearance of his prizewinning novel No Great Mischief (1999), MacLeod had published only sixteen stories. However, in them he had displayed such a high level of craftsmanship that he was consistently described as one of Canada’s finest fiction writers.

MacLeod’s stylistic dexterity is evident in “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun.” He begins writing as if his story were a folktale. There is an unnamed hero living in an unspecified location. In keeping with the oral tradition, all but one of the sentences in the first paragraph are short and simple; three of them begin with “and,” the connective so often used by storytellers. However, MacLeod soon changes to a more complex and more formal style, with the modifications and afterthoughts that one...

(The entire section contains 821 words.)

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