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…
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!