By Catherine Chidgey
June 8, 2023
Everywhere, the birds: sparrows and skylarks and thrushes, starlings and bellbirds, fantails and pipits – but above them all and louder, the magpies. We are here and this is our tree and we’re staying and it is ours and you need to leave and now.
Tama is just a helpless chick when he is rescued by Marnie, and this is where his story might have ended. ‘If it keeps me awake,’ says Marnie’s husband Rob, a farmer, ‘I’ll have to wring its neck.’ But with Tama came new possibilities for the couple’s future. Tama can speak, and his fame is growing. Outside, in the pines, his father warns him of the wickedness wrought by humans. Indoors, Marnie confides in him about her violent marriage. The more Tama sees, the more the animal and human worlds – and all of the precarity, darkness and hope within them – bleed into one another. Like a stock truck filled with live cargo, the story moves inexorably towards its dramatic conclusion: the annual Axeman’s Carnival.
Part trickster, part surrogate child, part witness, Tama the magpie is the star of this story. Though what he says aloud to humans is often nonsensical (and hilarious with it), the tale he tells us weaves a disturbingly human sense. The Axeman’s Carnival is Catherine Chidgey and her finest – comic, profound, poetic and true.