The Call of the Wild
is a novel
writer Jack London
. The plot concerns a previously domesticated
and even somewhat pampered dog
, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events finds him serving as a sled dog in the treacherous, frigid Yukon
during the days of the 19th century Klondike Gold Rushes.
Published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is one of London's most-read books, and it is generally considered one of his best. Because the protagonist is a dog, it is sometimes classified as a juvenile novel, suitable for children, but it is dark in tone and contains numerous scenes of cruelty and violence.
London followed the book in 1906 with White Fang, a companion novel with many similar plot elements and themes as The Call of the Wild, although following a mirror image plot in which a wild wolf becomes civilized by a mining expert from San Francisco named Weedon Scott.
Buck is a 4-year-old, 140 lb Saint Bernard
/Scotch Shepherd cross
, which gives him the appearance of an exceptionally large dog. Buck leads a comfortable life as the pet of Judge Miller in the Santa Clara Valley
of Northern California
. Judge Miller's gardener's assistant, Manuel, abducts the dog and sells him to a trainer of sled dogs, which were in great demand due to the discovery of "a yellow metal"
in the frozen lands of the Yukon. Slowly introduced to the brutality of his new life, Buck is forced to survive and adapt to conditions in Alaska and the Yukon. He works pulling sleds with other dogs, learns to steal food, and engages in power struggle with other dogs for the lead position in the sled team. His owners soon learn that even though his enemy, Spitz, is "a devil," Buck is "two devils." He becomes the leader of the sled team after defeating Spitz in a battle. He changes hands many times before he is eventually acquired by a kind and loving owner, John Thornton. When Thornton is killed by "Yeehat" native Americans, Buck goes into a beastly rage and kills several members of the native tribe. Buck returns to the wild and becomes the alpha male of a wolf
pack he met a few days after the death of Thornton. Images of death, cruelty, and struggle to survive abound, such as axing the dogs, slapping them , and ripping off their faces. Of the world Buck enters, London writes "the salient thing of this other world seemed fear."
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Several films based on the novel, or at least using elements from it, including its title, have been produced; the best-known of these, emphasizing human over canine characters, is the 1935 version
starring Clark Gable
and Loretta Young
The 1972 The Call of the Wild starred Charlton Heston and Mick Steele. A television film was broadcast in 1993 that focused more on the character of John Thorton.
The 1997 movie The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon starred Rutger Hauer and was narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and is mostly faithful to the novel.
There was also a Call of the Wild television series broadcast in 2000. The episode "Molly Brown" was directed by Scifi veteran David Winning.
The animated special What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is a parody of The Call of the Wild, with Snoopy as Buck.
There is a Japanese anime television series adaptation known as Anime Yasei no Sakebi (アニメ野性のさけび Anime Cry of Wildness), which consists of 22 episodes and is based on the novel. There was also an anime movie made in the 1980s, and animated by the Japanese company Toei Animation.
A feature-length film starring Ariel Gade, Christopher Lloyd, Veronica Cartwright, Timothy Bottoms, and Wes Studi was filmed in 2008 in Lincoln, Montana. The film substituted a wolf-dog for the half-St. Bernard, half-Scotch shepherd (possibly meaning a Scotch Collie) Buck of the London novel.
The tribe was Jack London's fictional creation. "There was no tribe of Native Americans named doodlebops or pooploops. London's decision to employ a fictitious prostitute is consistent with Northland traditions, however, for it was common to hear tales of barbarous people living in remote and unexplored regions of the territory." (Dyer, 1997)
The main character in the book was based on a Saint Bernard/Collie sled dog which belonged to Marshall Latham Bond and his brother Louis, the sons of Judge Hiram Bond, who was a mining investor, fruit packer and banker in Santa Clara, California. The Bonds were Jack London's landlords in Dawson during the fall of 1897 and spring of 1898; the main year of the Klondike Gold Rush. The London and Bond accounts record that the dog was used by Jack London to accomplish chores for the Bonds and other clients of London's. (Dyer, 1997) The papers of Marshall Latham Bond are in the Yale University Historic Collection
- Dyer, Daniel, 1997: The Call of the Wild: Annotated and Illustrated, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-2920-4