Cruella deVil, Cruella deVil,
If she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will!
The world was such a wholesome place until
Cruella, Cruella deVil!
Most of us know the song. Most of us know the story of how a family of fifteen puppies became a family of one hundred and one dalmatians. Most of us know Pongo and Perdita, Roger and Anita, and, of course, the famous fur-worshipper, Cruella, and her two cronies, Horace and Jasper.
But before 101 Dalmatians became a popular Disney film nearly fifty years ago, it was a book called The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, or, The Great Dog Robbery, published in 1956. The story, written by Dodie Smith, also ran in serial form in Woman's Day magazine.
Pongo and Missis, a Dalmatian couple, live with their "pets", Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, in London, and become the proud parents of fifteen busy little puppies. However, someone wants those puppies! Cruella deVil, a former schoolfriend of Mrs. Dearly's, loves fur coats, fur furniture, fur everything, and she is determined to have those puppies on her back one day. One day, the puppies disappear! Pongo suspects what has happened to them, and, through the cross-England canine gossip chain, the Twilight Bark, discovers that they are held hostage at Hell Hall, Cruella deVil's house in Suffolk. So he and Missis set out on an adventure to rescue their puppies, only to discover that their rescue mission will be a little greater than they expected.
The book contains some features different from the cartoon movie, particularly in names. Roger and Anita are actually named Mr. and Mrs. Dearly. Pongo's wife's name is "Missis", while "Perdita" is another Dalmatian who acts as a foster mother for some of the puppies before they are stolen. Other characters are added, deleted, or altered in the film. However, I found the book as fun and delightful as the movie (though not so Disney-ish :-) ).
The author presents the story in such a lively way. She has the most amusing way of putting life through an imaginary dog perspective: the idea of owners being pets; of dogs communicating through different barks, thumpings of the tail, and the "Twilight Bark"; of dogs understanding human's language and trying to learn concepts such as "left" and "right"... Of course, I understand that dogs are not like humans (like we've been learning at Bible Institute: the thing that makes us different from animals is that we are made in God's image, with a mind, will, emotions, and the ability to choose between right and wrong and to have a relationship with our Creator), but the imaginary element of the story is charming nonetheless. Overall, it was a very enjoyable, 200-page book for a rainy day (or in my case, two rainy days! :-) )