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the King, standing before the paintings of the Shepherdess and the Sweep.

They are going to work. What best could happen to them? Work is liberty.
~ King Charles (sentencing the Mockingbird and the Chimney Sweep to slave labour)

King Charles V and III make VIII and VIII make XVI of Tachycardia is the villain of the classic French animated movie Le roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird); loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep. Le Roi et l'oiseau is widely regarded as one of the best animated feature films ever made, and is described by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata themselves as their major influence.


King Charles rules the Kingdom of Tachycardia (Tachycardie in French): an immense and wondrous tower-like city, inspired of Venice and many other beautiful cities, with his huge palace standing at the very top. He is a lonely and extremely egomaniacal tyrant, who hates his subjects and is hated by them. He imposes a veritable a cult of personality by having countless statues, paintings and other representations of himself everywhere in the kingdom, (often imitating famous real-life artworks but always "omitting" his strabismus).

Everyone who displeases the King is condemned to work as a slave in the factory where the statues and portraits of him are made, if not worse. His rule is enforced by a ruthlessly efficient and blindly devoted State Police, and his entire kingdom is filled with trap doors, with which he can dispose of anyone. No one knows the fate of those who fell through these trap doors it is obviously not pretty. (Amusingly, the trap doors can pursue their targets throughout a room.) Moreover, he owns a monumental, humanoid robot of tremendous strength as a last resort.

King Charles is very fond of hunting but terribly bad at it due to his strabismus. Yet, he once shot dead the wife of the eponymous Mockingbird, who nests over his keep with his family. Since then, the Mockingbird does everything he can to taunt and annoy the tyrant; including singing very loud lullabies to his children over and over, with the obvious intent of preventing the King from sleeping. As such, the King hates the Mockingbird and has birds drawn on his targets when he practices his aim with guns. (Since he always misses, his servants always pierce holes on the target themselves before bringing it to him.)

The King's only positive trait (relatively speaking) is his fondness for art. He owns an immense collection of statues and paintings in his bedroom, whose subjects come to life by night and become real people. The King wants to marry a Shepherd girl represented in one of his paintings, but she in turn is in love with a Chimney Sweep from a painting on the opposite wall.

Role in the Story

The film first displays King Charles' daily life and his conflict with the Mockingbird. The story begins when an artist draws a portrait of King Charles for his private collection. Unfortunately, the portrait shows the monarch's obvious strabismus, leading him to dispose of the artist after giving him a medal, before retouching the portrait himself.

Later this night, as the paintings of the Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep are professing their love to each other, the painting of King Charles comes to life and states that he will be the one to marry the Shepherdess, since "it is written in books that shepherdesses always marry royalty".

Disgusted, the children escape their paintings and flee, pursued by the painted King. The ensuing ruckus awakes the real King, who frantically calls for his State Police to get rid of his painted double.

However, the painted King (who is more level-headed and arguably even worse) disposes of his model through one of his own trap doors and takes his place before the police arrive. He then tells his men that a Shepherdess he is in love with was taken away by a "lowly, worthless Chimney Sweep" and orders them to find her.

Le robot du roi

King Charles captures the trio

The Mockingbird takes a liking to the Sweep (who rescued his youngest son from a cage) and the Shepherdess, helping them to escape the police thrice, much to the King's displeasure. The fleeing children reach the subterranean Lower City, the slums of the kingdom, and tell its inhabitants about the wonders of the outside world, which they could never see.

Unfortunately, the King himself takes part in the chase using his gigantic robot and they get caught. They call for the Mockingbird but in vain, as he was captured earlier. The King takes the Shepherdess with him and prepares their wedding, while the Mockingbird and the Sweep are sent to the factory, forced to make even more representations of the tyrant. (The King's sinister quote "work is liberty" is very likely a reference to the gloomy slogan of the extermination camp of Auschwitz "Arbeit Macht Frei".)

The Sweep and the Mockingbird soon begin to sabotage the portraits, only to be thrown in a pen full of lions, tigers and panthers. However, the Mockingbird speaks feline fluently and he and a blind musician thrown earlier in the pen enlist their help to break out. King Charles coerces the grieving Shepherdess into marrying him (and then disposes of his Chief of Police), but the Mockingbird and the Sweep quickly barge in to the rescue, backed up by the felines.

The King flees back to his giant robot, taking the Shepherdess with him, but the Mockingbird and his sons carry the Sweep towards them. As the Sweep engages a fistfight against the King, the Mockingbird hijacks the robot and uses it to destroy the entire Upper City, freeing the denizens of the Lower City and the felines in the process while everyone else escapes.

The Sweep promptly defeats the King and reunites with the Shepherdess, but the tyrant attempts to kill him from behind with a dagger. The Mockingbird then catches the King in the robot's hand and uses the giant ventilator in its mouth to blow the defeated villain to the farthest corner of the sky.

The movie ends with the giant robot sitting on the ruins (mirroring the statue Le Penseur (The Thinker) by Auguste Rodin), who frees the Mockingbird's son (who was captured once again) and smashes his cage, apparently moving on its own.