Classic Books I Care About Because a Jack Russell Terrier Told Me To
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Growing up, Wishbone was the perfect Venn diagram of all my biggest loves: books and dogs. I adored this show so much my mom bought me the corresponding books, bedsheets, computer games, toys—you name it, I had it. I fell so in love with that dog that I adopted a Jack Russell when I graduated from college. To this day, I can only remember the premise of classic literature from this PBS show. Here are the books that have stayed with me all these years later.
Obviously, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a favorite for many reasons. We have fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes investigating the supposed crimes of a large canine culprit. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, the Baskerville property seems haunted by the past of its dubious owners. Is it really cursed leading all generations of the family to be murdered by a supernatural beast? Or is there a logical explanation to this tale about tails? As a lover of werewolves, this is an excellent addition to the long list of ghastly stories. And, as a dog lover, let’s not jump to the blame to pooch before the facts are in, okay?
Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe is set in Medieval England, where a brave young knight returns home to find tensions high and life in disarray. The Normans and the Saxons hate each other more than, well, cats and dogs, while Prince John keeps the throne warm in his brother King Richard’s wartime absence. He’s essentially a royal a-hole and lets the Normans do anything they want. Ivanhoe has returned from war undercover and plans to give all of them a piece of his mind as he is, in fact, a Saxon. As a disinherited knight he must remain unknown to enter a tournament, bring his family honor, and win the heart of a fair maiden. Valor, kindness, and the call to do what is right course through this book. If you’re a sucker for the Middle Ages, this is for you.
The reason Northanger Abbey is my favorite of all Jane Austen’s books starts firmly with this adorably cravatted pup. Having a heroine who loved reading spooky novels as much as I did growing up really hit it out of the park too. Set in Bath, Catherine meets Henry, and these two literary nerds bond over their love of all things Gothic. In true Austen fashion, gossip and jealousy swirl around the young pair letting everyone else’s opinions cloud their judgments of one other. Sometimes, perhaps those who are bookishly inclined spend a little too much time between the pages and not enough in the real world. A great imagination can really let you run away with it. Perhaps it’s best to come up for air now and again.
As one of Wishbone’s favorite literary heroes, Cyrano had to be on the list. This French play from 1898 is set in 1640; our lead character is a witty poet and brave soldier. However, he has a sizable snoot keeping him out of the arms of his number one crush. Although Roxanne admires his charms, she can’t see beyond his “ugly” nose. She is in love with a real himbo. Cyrano, being the upstanding lad he is, helps the sweet but dumb Christian win Roxanne’s heart by feeding him just the right lines. Through months of correspondence, she believes she is falling in love with him but it was Cyrano all along. Talk about 17th-century catfishing.
Beauty is in the eye of the bark-holder, but we know all dogs are beautiful.
The Prince and the Pauper is one of Mark Twain’s most classic books. It’s been retold in its own way several times over like in The Parent Trap and even on The Simpsons. Obviously, this episode is a big hit for me because two terriers will always be better than one. This is the ultimate story of “the grass is always greener.” It’s filled with loads of fun Cockney rhymes only Twain could pull off. Set during King Henry VII’s reign, two lookalike lads swap places. We have our handsome prince and the lowly beggar boy. Why both of their lives seemed better from the other’s perspective you never truly understand until you literally put on their clothes. The pauper is forced to take on more responsibility than he can chew, and the prince learns what it’s like to really beg for his life.
This one is accompanied by my favorite computer game growing up, Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey. To this day it has some of the cleverest writing I’ve ever played through. It also follows its source material beat by beat, as much as the show did. In Homer’s classic tale, our hero must overcome many tasks and great feats to get back home to his beautiful wife Penelope. He is trapped by a witch, watches his men get turned into pigs, and battles a cyclops, to name a few. After 20 years, he finally gets back to see his full-grown son trying to deal with all the party bros who had taken over and are trying to court his wife. It’s the perfect blend of mythology, magic, and perseverance. I bet you’ve already got reference points for all the gods and goddesses that turn up.
Set during the Civil War, Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane has a lot to do with wanting to grow up fast without considering all that comes with it. The young Henry wants adventure in battle and not his quiet farm life. He joins the army thinking it will make him a man. Henry rightfully ends up running from his first battle thinking he might be too young to handle all that’s in store but ultimately decides to not abandon his fellow soldiers. While Henry is hurt upon his return the next day, he learns that many men fled and couldn’t handle the fighting. Even one day of war can change you. It certainly made him mature a lot sooner than he anticipated. Loyalty, honor, and fearlessness are within us all, and when the time is right, they begin to surface.
P.S. I 100% didn’t cry when they recreated Henry’s injury during the big retreat on Wishbone. Even fake bruises on dogs are too much for me. He does also tear apart a confederate flag at the end of the episode which I need screencapped and framed.
I still quote this one on the reg for no reason: “Oh no, Morlocks!” The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is still a beloved novel to this day. In it, The Time Traveller (as the narrator dubs him) believes that time itself is just a type of space we can move around freely in all directions. We can thank ol’ Mr. Wells for being the first one to use the phrase “time machine.” Without him, we would have no Back to the Future or Doctor Who, among others. The Traveller is catapulted to 802701, and things are, well, not great. He befriends a young woman who tells him how awesome life is with no sickness or war, but no one can read. There is another race of menacing creatures who wreak havoc wherever they go. The aforementioned Morlocks live in darkness in more ways than one.
Seek light, and ye shall find what you’re looking for … like a stolen time machine. And even in the gloomiest of places, you can still find kindness and hope.
Published in 1845, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Purloined Letter is about the intrigue and mystery behind a stolen letter. C. Auguste Dupin was Poe’s Sherlock, only he published thirty years before that guy in London. At this point in his career, Dupin had solved several high-profile murders and was well respected. The Chief of Paris police is desperate for his expertise in recovering a letter that’s gone missing from the Queen’s keep. Obviously, this correspondence is of a sensual nature, and her majesty is being blackmailed. Dupin knows it was the country’s Chancellor who stole it, but its whereabouts are unknown. Much like Sherlock, Dupin uses logic and his deep understanding of argument men to find the letter out in the open and save the day. Each step he takes is just as delicious as the contents of the Queen’s saucy script.
This was actually one of the best episodes in the entire series, and it translated the source material in such a cute way to utilize Wishbone’s talents. The Inspector General is a Russian play and a rather funny one at that. It’s all about leaning into what people believe. To summarize its premise, a lowly government official (Khlestakov) is mistaken for the titular Inspector General. The town knows that said Inspector will be visiting soon, and undercover at that. Khlestakov, who is a brat and a nightmare gambler, is only held together by his loyal valet Osip. The pair are on the verge of ruin when Khlestakov is mistaken for the IG. The duo gets a taste of the good life, and of course, Khlestakov is overcome with greed, but just how far can his charms take them? Well, he flirts his way all the way to getting engaged to the mayor’s daughter even after courting his wife. Once Osip puts it all together they have to stage a getaway before anyone is the wiser. We see what we want to believe.