Top 5 Dog Books Ever (Part II)
Odyssey – Homer (8th Century BC)
Homer’s Odyssey contains the most ancient canine character in our list of the best doggy-characters in fictional literature. Composed towards the end of the 8th century BC, the Odyssey is the second oldest work of literature in Western civilisation. This epic poem – attributed to Homer – focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. However, it also contains a rather notable little dog called Argos. He symbolises significant themes of loyalty throughout the text, displaying the faithfulness through which dogs are represented in literature. Upon Odysseus’s cloaked and secretive return to Greece, it is Argos – the pup whom he left behind – who recognises him instantly. As Argos lies on the ground, dishevelled and almost on deaths door, Odysseus walks past, unable to help in fear of blowing his cover. They catch each other’s glances before Argos sadly passes away there and then. Despite its historic context, this passage of the text is poignant and cements in artistic terms, the relationship between man and dog and its vocalisation through the text.
Tintin – Herge (1929-1976)
The Adventures of Tintin created one of, if not the best-loved comic-book-canine ever. Snowy – a white Wire-Fox Terrier – became the lifesaving companion to Tintin and is instantly recognisable the world over. The inspiration behind the little pup’s manifestation came from Georges Herge memories of a fox terrier that would frequent a cafe at which the cartoonist would draw Tintin’s adventures. Originally called Milou (after Herge’s girlfriend), Snowy regularly addresses the reader through an internal monologue which reflected him as a loyal, intelligent and trustworthy sidekick, especially when Tintin found himself in danger. As the main source of comedy throughout the series, Snowy is also a brave and fearless pup, even against larger, stronger enemies – which only makes him more endearing in his efforts! His lust for bones, fear of spiders and partiality to whiskey present Snowy with several moral dilemmas that are great to watch unravel. Having read every comic of Herge’s from Land of the Soviets to Tintin and the Picaros, Snowy is without doubt my favourite doggie-character of all time!
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (1837-1839)
Not all fictional characters can be as cute or as adorable as Snowy, not that Dickens did ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ very often anyway. Especially not with Oliver Twist, the tale of a young orphan who, after being taken in by a pick pocketing gang in the east end of London during the mid-1800’s, finds himself on a soul-searching mission to discover the enigmatic identity he has lost in his early life. Here though we are focusing on the canine character that would shock and surprise audiences for years to come – the pitiful, helpless and yet conflictive Bullseye, belonging to the one and only Bill Sikes. Although his name is only mentioned twice throughout the novel, Bullseye becomes the canine shaped shadow of Bill Sikes’s scary and aggressive personality. Like Sikes, he has many of the same flaws in his make-up including a violent temper. Only once are the two of them separated (after Sikes brutally murders Nancy) and its possible to suggest that Bullseye is representative of Sike’s violent impulses. Bullseye even takes his own life after witnessing his owner’s death, jumping off the roof onto the rocks below, as without his owner he is therefore without purpose, however evil that purpose once was.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum (1939)
Who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz? Surely, it’s part of our literary education and appreciation of drama? Derived from Frank Baum’s ‘Oz’ series of children’s stories, we’re first introduced to Toto in the 1900 edition of The Wizard of Oz, before he returns in numerous adaptations in 1978 and 1985. Belonging to protagonist Dorothy Gale, Toto is similar in appearance to a Cairn Terrier, although unlike other animals in the land of Oz he is unable to speak or simply chooses not to. Baum describes Toto as "a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose"; what’s for sure is Toto amalgamation of a Yorkshire, Cairn or Boston Terrier. His most famous manifestation came in the 1939 movie in which a female terrier by the name of ‘Terry’ was paid $125 a week for her services (more than some actors at the time!). Her performance was so memorable and to audiences that Terry was eventually renamed Toto, going on to make 12 more films after her debut – she even has her own ‘autobiography’, written by Willard Carroll.
Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling (1997 – 2007)
The last of our famous literary canines is a bit of a curve ball although that doesn’t stop him from being a much loved four-legged character. The most notorious of possibly all the pets in the Harry Potter series – Fang – as he is referred to by Rubeus Hagrid, is a huge boar-hound present throughout each novel, although his master is unaware of both his age and when he acquired him. Despite his overbearingly large presence and physically intimidating demeanour, he’s a bit of a soppy soul, participating in several wizarding battles he tends to veer away from confrontation and instead hide away. Like many dogs we all know and love, Fang slobbers constantly and greets all those who enter his masters hut with a loud, booming bark yet despite the protection of his territory, Hagrid refers to him as a ‘bloody coward’ on more than one occasion. In the novels, he is often described looking like a Great Dane although in the films he’s portrayed by a Neapolitan Mastiff. Interestingly, throughout the film version of the series Fang is depicted by not one Mastiff but five different pooches!