Catherine Called Birdy follows the titular teenage girl’s perseverant defiance of her father and his search for a rich suitor — one who shall marry her away and proffer a handsome dowry.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Catherine Called Birdy opens with the titular character, called Little Bird or Birdy, of the village of Stonebridge in the shire of Lincoln, in the country of England, in the hands of God.
In September of 1290, Catherine is 14 years of age and delights in the jovial and free-spirited hijinks throughout the village, with her best mate Perkin who she sees as a brother of hearts.
Birdy is daughter to Lord Rollo and Lady Aislinn; sister to Edward the Monk and Robert; charge of Morwenna the Nursemaid; dear friend of Meg the dairymaid, along with Perkin.
Leading a chaotic life characteristic of an adolescent her age, she takes great delight in causing mischief in the village, scoffing at his father’s untidy sword skills, loathing the chores, and eavesdropping through doors.
On one such prying session, she learns that her father has accumulated a hefty debt that he can be relieved of via the only monetary solution — Catherine’s marriage.
Finding an appropriately rich suitor who’ll proffer debt-ridding dowry in exchange for Birdy’s hand is Lord Rollo’s mission.
However, Birdy continues to ruin all the meetings with her suitors, sending them back home, sometimes out of revulsion, and sometimes out of fear for their lives.
Meanwhile, she keeps writing her daily journals on what she calls the “Book of Catherine” — a thing her Monk brother Edward advised her to practise. Recently, she is excited about her favourite and only uncle George.
However, her heart that swoons over her uncle gets stabbed when she spots her best friend Aelis engaging in an affair with uncle George. Meanwhile, her constant out-witting of her father and the suitors also comes to a halt.
A truly abominable and wretched man of wealth is chosen by Lord Rollo to marry off Birdy. She calls him “Shaggy Beard” and truly revulses the sight of him.
However, all her efforts at fending him off fail, while she and her friend Aelis mope over Uncle George’s marriage to an old, rich woman. Everything has gone awry and so Birdy runs off to meet her uncle.
His wife is of a similar free-spirited flair as Birdy and proposes to her that they both run far away from all this. However, Birdy thinks of her family and loved ones who’ll miss her and want to see her.
Birdy has matured on her own and returns home to a worried Morwenna. Later on, she hands the silver coins Shaggy Beard gave her to her annoying brother Robert.
The gesture is so that Robert can marry Aelis, for whom he’s had feelings for a long time.
The harrowing day arrives and Birdy takes a leave, boarding Shaggy Beard’s carriage and leaving home with teary eyes. The farewell gets to Lord Rollo’s heart and he decides to not wed her off to the unseemly man.
Shaggy Beard of Lithgow is furious and proposes they resolve this with a duel. Lord Rollo accepts the duel, despite his shabby skills and actually wins it in the end, taking his daughter back and winning her heart.
Catherine called Birdy has her freedom once again, even if for a period soon to pass by. Despite her gratefulness to her father, Birdy will continue to fight for her freedom and preserve her unadulterated sense of independence.
Catherine Called Birdy ending explained in detail:
Does Birdy get married at the end?
Birdy ends up getting a reprieve from the utter horrors when her marriage with Lord Murgaw or Shaggy Beard is cancelled by her father Lord Rollo.
The core conflict of Catherine Called Birdy is Lord Rollo trying to wed his daughter off to a rich suitor and save himself from accumulated debt.
Birdy is too much of a free spirit for that, it’s literally in her nickname and how it probably came to be. The essence of her nature is to wander off everywhere and inflict the same jovial sense of living she exhibits.
To not be bound by the wretched institution and rendered an object to be sold off, Birdy cooks up numerous recipes of sabotage.
Every time some new party of suitors interested in marrying her off arrives at the manor, Birdy fends, revulses, and scares them off with great success.
However, the series of self-sabotages comes to a screeching halt when Birdy meets her competition in the similarly chaotic Lord Murgaw, known better throughout the runtime by the name Birdy calls him — “Shaggy Beard”.
It seems like a dead end and she has no options left to avail of; no tricks she can play; no reason she can argue. Eventually, Catherine has to make peace with the morose affair and pack her bags.
However, Lord Rollo finally feels a sting in his heart when he beholds his dear daughter departing from her abode.
Putting his financial desperation aside, he favours his daughter and even duels Murgaw to safeguard his daughter from his filthy person.
At the end of Catherine Called Birdy, the Little Bird is free and grateful to her father, for he did what she could never imagine or expect from him.
Is Catherine/Birdy free from the drag of marriage and suitors?
No, Catherine is very much not relieved entirely of the cage that is marriage and the perturbation that is meeting with the suitors.
Even if she is rid of the harrowing fate that marrying Shaggy Beard would’ve unleashed upon her, the usual barrage of suitors won’t end.
Suitors will continue to visit, and the plurality of the noun here is to suggest that yes, Catherine will also keep trying her best to fend them off.
The final shot of Catherine Called Birdy sees the titular protagonist winking at the audience, suggesting her undying resolution to fight for her free spirit.
Meanwhile, behind her back is an approaching silhouetted figure of a man on a horse — a new suitor arriving to take her hand for marriage.
How does Birdy get rid of Shaggy Beard?
It’s her father’s greed, financial incompetence and proclivity to splurge on unnecessary extravagance that creates the conflict in Catherine Called Birdy.
Lord Rollo is a spendthrift and has accrued a great debt over the years. He stands at risk of losing his manor and other assets, and to prevent it he must turn to his only solution — Catherine.
Obviously Birdy is not keen on anything to do with the suitors and the prospect of marriage. She keeps deflecting all of them with ease until Shaggy Beard counters her energy with his brash and chaotically abrasive persona.
All fails and Birdy has to depart her home and board Shaggy Beard’s carriage. However, she doesn’t have to do anything now to prevent this inevitable-like fate from unfolding.
The finality of Catherine Called Birdy sees her Lord Rollo himself who stands up to protect Birdy from the brute of Lithgow, and he goes to great lengths for it as well. He wins the duel and gets Birdy out of the captivity that her fate would have entailed.
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