Tuesday, 3 April 2012

101 Dalmatians

First, a confession:  I'm actually a cat person - I may not currently have any, but I actually grew up with cats and whenever I go to cat friends' house, you can bet you'll find me where the cats are...
But, I also care for dogs:  they are cute, warm, and always ready for play and belly-rubbing... Plus, they're in the best animated films,  like Lady and the Tramp, Scooby-Doo, and my favourite, 101 Dalmatians!
For my Century list, I found that in 1956 Dodie Smith wrote the actual book to The 101 Dalmatians - the decision was made!

It's written from the point of view of the dogs, which is just hilarious.  Pongo and Missis (the dogs) are the owners who "were lucky enough to own a young married couple of humans", kept on a leash (and here I thought only cats had the notoriety of being the boss...)

The story is well-known, but I was pleasantly surprised that the characters and the whole storyline are well-developed and worthy of an adult audience - even though it's a children's book, it does not leave out substance:  rather, it passes on ideas and notions to children in a very simplified form and I found this very interesting, especially at that point in time.

First we have the "almost" love triangle of Pongo and Missis with Perdita - but of course, dogs will not fall in the traps humans find themselves in and will clearly remain faithful to each other:

"(Pongo) never felt he had two wives - he looked on Perdita as a much-loved young sister"
(do humans use the same line, I wonder...)

The search for the puppies takes the parents to a whirlwind journey and they get to meet fellow dogs, cats, horses and cows - the world of the animals is perfect and they are all there to help each other (moral of the story:  humans should as well...)

The dogs that help out do so with the assistance of their "pets" - they clearly run the show: steaks are readily available, places to sleep are fluffed up (I totally love the Old Inn, where everything is waiting for the happy couple, including a stage coach to sleep in...).  Indeed, there were several instances when I would burst out laughing - including a dog having a butler (I'm sure this really exists somewhere in the world...)

I found the Starlight Barking a brilliant idea to introduce the "common good" network - together with the wild imagination children have, this should clearly provide for some attention they should pay to communicating with animals. The book also explains the difference between children who love dogs and those who throw stones at them - they are not bad children, they just haven't yet had dogs around them (plus, I would say, seen grown-ups do this...)

And then I just loved the human traits in Pongo - from the big lunch he has next to his pregnant wife's, in case he should feel neglected "as the fathers of expected puppies sometimes do", to his interest in classic literature (having devoured Shakespeare as a young dog), to plain simple vanity: When Missis fails to reciprocate a compliment, he asks her whether he's looking pretty fit - "He was not a vain dog, but every husband likes to know that his wife admires him" (hmmm...)

So what if everything in the story is just too easy - Mr. Dearly, the human, is obviously rich and has all the time in the world.  He's able to bring home one of the Top Men from Scotland Yard to investigate the kidnapping, and in the end he even has the ability to retire while he takes care of all the animals (sure...).  So what if indeed all puppies make it in the end (in harsh winter...).  It remains a beautifully written story with great descriptions (and some indirect moral lessons) and a well-deserved happy end!


  1. I have not read the book but the Disney movie is one of my favourites.

  2. Talking animals was never my thing so I was never very curious about this one. You MUST try I Captured the Castle.




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