David and the Phoenix

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David and the Phoenix
EdwardOrmondroyd DavidAndThePhoenix.jpg
Cover of a recent paperback edition with original Raysor artwork
AuthorEdward Ormondroyd
IllustratorJoan Raysor
Cover artistRaysor
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's fantasy novel, adventure fiction, humor[1]
PublisherFollett Publishing Company
Publication date
October 1, 1957[2]
Media typePrint (hardcover), audiobook (2002)
Pages173 pp[1][3]
ISBN1-930900-00-7 (2000 hardcover ed.)[3]
LC ClassPZ8.O7 Dav[1]
PZ7.O635 Dav 2000[3]

David and the Phoenix is a 1957 children's novel about a young boy's adventures with a phoenix. The first published book by American children's writer Edward Ormondroyd, it is a tale of friendship between two different species—a young boy and a mythical bird—and focuses on David's education in the ways of the mythical world. The book ends with the phoenix's rebirth.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel begins with David moving to a new house at the base of some beautiful mountains. The next day, rather than settle into the new house, he decides to climb the mountains. Upon reaching the summit, he encounters the Phoenix. At first they are frightened of each other, as the Phoenix had been chased by a Scientist for several weeks and David had, of course, never seen anything like the Phoenix before. The Phoenix seems quite flattered by David's attentions, and takes a shine to him. Thus, the Phoenix decides that he should educate David about the various legendary creatures in the world to round out his knowledge. But years of hiding from scientists have made the Phoenix's wings flabby, and David has to coach the rather comical bird on his flying.

The first adventure in the Phoenix's curriculum for David involves seeing the Gryffins, said to be the friendliest of three similar races: the Gryffins, Gryffons, and Gryffens). On this journey, they first meet a Witch who goads the Phoenix into a race, which he later wins. Though David never actually meets a Gryffin on his first journey, the Phoenix attempts to talk to a lazy Gryffen. But they get captured by the violent and arrogant Gryffons, who sentence the Phoenix to death for bringing humans into their magic world.

After escaping the Gryffon Cave through combined ingenuity, the Phoenix keeps his appointment with the Witch. David returns home to meet the unpleasant Scientist visiting his parents. David's evasiveness makes the villain suspicious. David warns the Phoenix as he unceremoniously shows up later that night, exhausted from his race. The two friends begin implementing various plans to avoid the Scientist, firstly by finding some buried treasure with the help of a gruff, but friendly Sea Monster, and spending the gold coins on magic items to foil the Scientist's plot to capture the rare bird.

While visiting the magical world to buy necessities, David has a brief adventure with a prankster Leprechaun, meets a cantankerous potion-selling Hag, and even makes friends with a Faun, who races and plays with the boy before joining his people for an alluring dance in the Forest. However, the Phoenix rescues David from remaining too long in this world, which could absorb those beings who are not magical.

Using their collected magical items, the Phoenix and David sabotage the Scientist's equipment and frighten him into leaving town—at least for the moment. However, the old Phoenix celebrates his 500th birthday, and soon reveals he must "bow to tradition," and build himself a pyre of cinnamon logs. David tearfully complies with his friend's wishes, buying the necessary items from town.

Unfortunately, the Scientist shows up and follows David up the mountain trails. The Phoenix is reborn, but as a hatchling, does not yet comprehend its peril. David appeals to the young Phoenix, who dimly recognizes a friend, and flies away to avoid captivity. David watches as the Old Phoenix's token, a blue feather, changes to a golden hue.


  • David – a young boy, protagonist. Highly inquisitive, he begins the story fascinated by the mountain and learns much about life from his adventures with the Phoenix.
  • The Phoenix – a mythical bird with a tendency toward arrogance. The Phoenix is wise and seems to care about David. Near the end of the book he turns 500 and is reborn.
  • Scientist – The antagonist, seeks to capture the Phoenix for experimentation—uses guns and traps.

Major themes[edit]

The book might be interpreted as an extended metaphor for the supposed inability of Science and Mythology to coexist. The Scientist represents a certain aspect of science which seeks to destroy things outside its paradigm. However, as the scientist uses a gun and deadly traps, it also might be a criticism of the hunting of endangered species. The author is also a known environmentalist who has long fought to preserve the Finger Lakes region of New York, where he currently resides.

However, Edward Ormondroyd's major theme seems to be the ongoing conflict between childhood and adulthood. Instead of putting away "childish things," the older Phoenix seeks to educate David (and the reader) that adults can also have imaginations, and can enjoy fantasy on its own merits. Too often, parents and teachers discourage fantasy literature as being frivolous and unprofitable. The Phoenix argues that without mythology, David's education is not complete.

David meets many mythological creatures, including; The eponymous Phoenix, Griffins, Fauns, Sea Monsters, a Banshee, Nymphs, and Leprechauns. However, the author concludes that fantasy should not be confused with reality. The Phoenix actually rescues David from falling permanently under the influence of the magical world; instead, he returns the boy to his home.


This book enjoyed a resurgence of popularity early in the 2000s in the wake of Harry Potter and the filming of Roald Dahl novels. As of October 2005, there had been negotiations between the author and a private animation-film company to produce a feature-length "David and the Phoenix" screen adaptation. [needs update]

In 2002 Full Cast Audio released an unabridged[a] recording of the novel read by a cast of ten actors and Ormondroyd as the narrator. The production was hailed by AudioFile magazine, which said, "Every line of the book's warmth, humor, and gentleness comes to life in [Full Cast founder] Bruce Coville's superb multicast production."[citation needed]

David Weber used the book as a recurring motif in the Honor Harrington novel At All Costs (2005), with a brief footnote about his own childhood love for the book. In fact, the original cover of At All Costs shows Honor Harrington reading from David and the Phoenix to her infant son Raoul. Weber's 2010 novel Out of the Dark also mentions the book—as a favorite of one of the main characters' children.


Some Dark Shadows fans have speculated as to the surface similarity between Ormondroyd's whimsical novel, and the 1967 subplot featuring Laura Murdoch Collins, who reveals her true sinister nature as Laura the Phoenix, as she tries to claim her estranged nine-year-old boy—named David. However, writer Malcolm Marmorstein has never been asked whether this book might have inspired his decision to make Laura Collins into this mythological creature.

Release details[edit]

At Project Gutenberg: index; title page verso (v of viii+173+2); final image.
2007, Playaway edition (playawaydigital.com) of the Full Cast Audio production (ISBN 1-60252-525-0), May 2007


  1. ^ a b According to the 2007 Playaway edition, "This recording is unabridged except for the deletion of some attributives (he said, she said, etc) made unnecessary by having a full cast. Not one single sentence has been omitted."


  1. ^ a b c d "David and the Phoenix" [1957 edition]. LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress (lccn.loc.gov). Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  2. ^ a b "David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd". Kirkus Reviews. Publication date missing; October 1, 1957, publication date for the reviewed book. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  3. ^ a b c d "David and the Phoenix" [2000 edition]. LC Online Catalog. Retrieved 2015-12-04.

External links[edit]