People have always believed that Cosimo is mad, but Biagio says that it’s undeniable now. Cosimo begins to wear feathers on his head and clothes, and he stops hunting to instead advocate for birds. He declares that he’s a bird and speaks out against humans—and the birds, sensing this change, fly close to him. He decorates his trees with written pages, posters, and various other items. Biagio says that in his opinion, the collection only functioned to make people understand that uncommon ideas can be correct.
Biagio’s assessment of the purpose of Cosimo’s collection of items is one of the most overt statements of support for Cosimo’s lifestyle choices that Biagio ever makes. It suggests that Biagio’s purpose in writing this novel is to ask the reader to also understand that uncommon ideas—such as living in the trees—can lead to great insight.
Cosimo also begins to write and print pamphlets, which eventually turns into in The Biped Monitor. Biagio worries about Cosimo, especially since that winter, Cosimo does little but sleep and accept bowls of minestrone. Biagio finds this unbecoming of the Baron di Rondò, so he sends a servant out with turkey and wine one evening, fully expecting Cosimo to refuse it. Cosimo accepts, and Biagio sends food whenever he can. He says that in all, Cosimo is undergoing a harsh decline.
Just as with his books, writing these widely distributed pamphlets shows how entrenched Cosimo is in the Enlightenment era spread of ideas. Meanwhile, Biagio’s suggestion that Cosimo accepting charity is unbecoming shows that Biagio is becoming more like Baron Arminio every day, even as Cosimo continues to assert his independence.
Fortunately for Cosimo, wolves descend on the valley that winter and terrify everyone. People lament in front of Cosimo that these days it’s on them to protect him, but he hoarsely tells people to tie sheep in the trees. He gets out of his sleeping sack and shows people where to tie the sheep. He dresses as a sheep too and settles in with a gun. Everyone thinks he’s truly mad until the wolves attack that night. Cosimo shoots many of them and hunters kill the rest. Later, he tells fantastical stories about fighting off wolves singlehandedly. He becomes extremely sick and as the community cares for him, they begin to speak of him as one of the greatest minds of the age. When Cosimo recovers, it’s unclear if he’s still mad. He stops doing many odd things, but prints a weekly pamphlet titled The Reasonable Vertebrate.
Whether Cosimo is truly mad or not, he still has the knack for bringing people together around a common cause and making them all feel useful and needed while that cause exists. The aside that people begin to talk about Cosimo as one of the greatest minds of the age—but only while he’s gravely ill—suggests that it’s around this point that Cosimo begins to represent the past, rather than the future or the present. Giving Cosimo this distinction also speaks to the normalization of his ideas, which happened, to a degree, after the French Revolution.