Famous Literary Dogs

lassie come home book cover

FAMOUS LITERARY DOGS: PART 5/5

It’s been quite the journey over the last few months. We’ve met dogs you’d want to hug (Toto), dogs you’d share a beer with (Snoopy) and dogs you’d sprint several miles to avoid (the Hound of the Baskervilles and Cerberus). Yet we haven’t celebrated two of dogkind’s most notable characteristics: their loyalty and intelligence. Our last Literary Dog can lay claim to being the first canine superstar. Since her debut in 1938, she’s been loved the world over. From travelling five hundred miles to be reunited with her owner to rescuing him, there’s nothing this plucky heroine can’t do. Yes, you’ve guessed it, she’s…  *** LASSIE The phenomenon that is Lassie began with a short story, Lassie Come-Home, published in The Saturday Evening Post. Her creator, British journalist Eric Knight, realised the character’s potential and expanded it into a full length tale. Numerous dogs are cited as the original: the cross breed Lassie who saved the life of a sailor during World War I and Bobbie, a collie who was separated from his owners on holiday in Indiana and trekked the 3,000 miles home, being the most convincing. A runaway success, the story was adapted into a feature film in 1943. After that the sheepdog was unstoppable: further films, a radio series and- the best known incarnation of the character- the Lassie TV series, running from 1954 to 1973. Although Lassie’s female, every version has been played by a male dog, mainly because the male collie’s coat looks better onscreen. The secret to Lassie’s popularity is simple: she embodies her species’ finest qualities. As intelligent as she is beautiful, she shows tremendous resourcefulness and courage. In many ways she conforms to American ideals of the perfect mother in that period. Yet her appeal goes beyond a time and place; it speaks to us about the love between a dog and its owner, and how nothing can shake it.  *** Dogs are amazing. Since their relationship with humans is like no other, it isn’t surprising that they’ve had a unique influence on our culture. They’ve served as an endless source of inspiration, whether as faithful companion or terrifying bogeyman. As we said before, there are far too many literary dogs to do them justice. Since The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the language’s most adapted novels, the eponymous beast had to get a look in. And who rivals Snoopy and Lassie for celebrity? Here ends our round up of Famous Literary Dogs. I hope they’ve given you paws for thought!

Dog-School-Logo-resized

FAMOUS LITERARY DOGS: PART 4/5

It should come as no surprise that here at Dog School Ltd. we dote on dogs. The companionship they offer, their quirkiness. Going for a ramble with your dog or playing with them can be one of the highlights of your day. At these times it’s difficult to remember their kinship with wolves. Literature has never forgotten the link. For every guardian of the hearth or man’s best friend, there are plenty who’d give you sleepless nights. Bill Sikes’ bull terrier Bullseye.  The Frankendog in Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog. Mr Chartwell, the personification of Winston Churchill’s depression. Where would these fearsome beasts be without a forerunner? Lying behind every sinister canine in literature is the original and best…  *** CERBERUS As befits a world where gods freely mingle with men, the Greek underworld was like an airport lounge, heroes flitting in and out. To prevent unwanted outgoing traffic, Hades had to appoint a guardian. And what a guardian! Cerberus is a paperboy’s worst nightmare. Multi headed (usually three), with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes and lion’s claws, he was the son of Echidna (half-woman, half serpent) and Typhon (a fire breathing giant). Writers knew when they were onto a good thing: he features in countless classical works, from Virgil’s Aenid through to the Iliad. Harry Potter fans should recognise him straight away- the monstrously misnamed ‘Fluffy’ is inspired by him. His most famous appearance is as the last of Hercules’s twelve labours. The task was that he should overpower the brute without weapons. Slinging Cerberus over his back, Hercules dragged him back to King Eurystheus, who jumped into a nearby jar. This story illustrates the strangest thing about Cerberus: formidable appearance apart, he’s something of a punch clock villain, constantly drugged or lulled to sleep by soothing music. Perhaps this was to teach that even the scariest opponent has a weakness.

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FAMOUS LITERARY DOGS: PART 3/5

Every dog is unique. Every dog owner knows that. Whether their pet’s a world weary bloodhound or a manic Jack Russell, they’ll have no end of stories about their exploits. Dogs outrank any other domestic pet in their ability to create love and laughter. As part of Dog School Ltd.’s Literary Dog series, we’ve met some extraordinary characters. The blood freezing Hound of the Baskervilles. Toto, who wins us over by being almost exactly like a real dog. Yet every now and then somebody creates a character who’s so dynamic, so off the wall, that you can’t help but notice them. A prince amongst dogs. Today we’ll be doffing our hats to such a character.  Have you guessed who it is yet? *** SNOOPY Snoopy, as everybody knows, began life in Charles M Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. Starting out as an unremarkable dog of uncertain ownership, he first discovered the power of speech (or thought) on May 27th 1952. It was only once Schulz realised his potential as wannabe Renaissance man that the creative juices really started flowing. The more the little beagle developed, the more the strip moved away from his owner, Charlie Brown. He stopped caring about mundane, doggy concerns like lamp posts and discovered his true nature, becoming one of the most memorable characters in comics in the process. Schulz said that his decision to move Snoopy up to the doghouse roof was one of the best he ever made. Snoopy is unique for a number of reasons. His array of alter egos, running the gamut from the Flying Ace to Joe Cool. His intellectual leanings- not only is he frequently found with his nose in a book, he’s a thwarted author (the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night…” everlastingly on his typewriter).  He speaks French, plays the accordion and plays tennis (his tantrums when he double-faults are legendary). And who can forget the infamous Snoopy dance, generally a sign that dinner’s on the way?

Wizard of Oz | Book Cover

FAMOUS LITERARY DOGS: Part 2/5

Four paws. Wet noses. Drama. Intrigue. It can only be the second installment of our series on famous literary dogs. At Dog School Ltd., needless to say, we love dogs. Everything about them. It is fair to say that dogs have a stronger bond with humans than any other members of the animal kingdom. With that in mind, its little wonder that they have been so prominently featured across the entertainment media, over the years. If you read our initial blog on literary dogs, no doubt, you’ve been straining at leash to get to the next one. You’ll be glad to hear that Part 2 can be found below. However, if you missed out the first time around, Part 1 is still here. ***   TOTO Dorothy’s dog in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ series of books, is often imagined as a Yorkshire Terrier. This is largely due to the popular impact of W.W. Denslow’s illustration from the book’s first edition. Many people don’t realise that this L. Frank Baum novel was first released in 1900! It’s amazing that the story, and the characters, both human and canine, have endured for so long. In the original tome, Toto is presented as a “normal” dog. Like many dogs, he’s afraid of nasty weather conditions, he’s wary of strange people, and also (unlike many fictional dogs) does not speak. Toto exhibits many natural canine behaviours – he torments the scarecrow and the tinman with barks and bites. However, although he’s an ordinary dog, like all good heroes, he finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Toto is black in colour but, unlike the dog from our first installment (The Hound of the Baskervilles), he’ s a positive influence on the main human character, from the beginning until the end of the story. Indeed, in the opening pages, Toto is introduced as have ‘saved Dorothy from going as grey as her surroundings’. He is positioned as a little ray of sunlight breaking through the Kansas storms. This integral role in the narrative plays out until, in the climax of the book, Toto unmasks the titular wizard. When Dorothy and company finally achieve their aim of gaining entry to the Emerald City, it is Toto who knocks over a wooden screen to reveal the man behind the myth.

Hound of the Baskervilles cover

FAMOUS LITERARY DOGS: Part 1/5

First things first…before you ask…when we say “literary dogs” we’re referring to dogs that appear in literature, not dogs that love to read! Well…perhaps one of these dogs will slightly contradict that statement but…never mind. What’s important is that the relationship between humans and their best friends is well documented. Dogs have had such an impact on human society and culture that they’ve been able to cross over into various mediums, appearing as characters in films and songs, as well as books. There have been a number of brilliant literary canines over the decades. Too many to mention, in fact. With that in mind, we’ve decided to pay tribute to just a few of our favourites. As such, this will be the first in a five-part series of exclusive Dog School Ltd. blogs. *** THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES Ghostly dogs were always a hallmark of traditional folk tales. They were synonymous with howls in the night and other eerie sounds that signalled impending doom. Often black in colour, these beasts lived on into modern literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 book ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was, indeed, inspired by an age old myth- that of Richard Cabell. As the story goes, Cabbell was a Devonshire Lord, who had murdered his wife. His Lordship eventually met a grisly end, when a monstrous dog decided to act out divine revenge upon him. The antagonist of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, Hugo Baskerville was clearly modelled after Cabbell. Originally, Conan Doyle’s book was serialised, like many of his works. The novel appeared, exclusively, in Strand Magazine throughout 1901 and 1902. It was the first new Sherlock Holmes story for eight years, and proved to be an overnight success. Illustrated by Sidney Paget, the tale of the terrible hound became embedded in the British public consciousness. It succeeded in drawing on our eternal fears of darkness, loneliness and the wild; becoming, arguably, Conan Doyle’s most famous work.