Dogsbody (novel)

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Cover Of Dogsbody.jpg
First edition
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover artist 2012 by Tony Sahara
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's Fantasy novel
Publisher Macmillan Publishers (UK, 1975); Greenwillow Books (USA,1988); Firebird (USA, 2012)
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 191 or 239
ISBN 0333187911
OCLC 47813078

Dogsbody is a 1975 children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

Plot summary[edit]

Sirius, guardian luminary of the Dog Star, is being convicted of murdering a fellow "luminary" and of losing the Zoi, an extremely powerful cosmic tool that he has allowed to fall to a minor planet, Earth. He is sentenced to spend one lifetime in the form of dog, a native animal; if he can recover the Zoi within that dog's lifetime, he will be allowed to return to his former status as Sirius. If he does not, he will simply die at the end of his dog's life. Sirius is born into a litter of puppies.

Discovered as mongrels, the puppies are thrown into the river in a sack. Kathleen O'Brien rescues a filthy, wet, dying Sirius, and names him Leo. The Duffields are a family of four: Mr. Duffield, who doesn't pay attention to anything that goes on in his house unless it makes him uncomfortable but is just when he does notice; Daphne ("Duffy"), who makes pottery next to the house and ruthlessly makes Kathleen do all the housework in return for letting her keep Sirius; Basil, who is rather unpleasant to Kathleen and Sirius but mostly to please Duffy and causes Sirius to worry when he goes out looking for the "meteorite"; and Robin, who is constantly torn between pleasing Basil and his true kind self. There are also three cats (Tibbles, and her twin sons Remus and Romulus), who eventually befriend Sirius and provides a different perspective to the human world.

Sirius is aided by Sol, who informs him of all he knows about the Zoi, and helps him get out of the house when he is unable to open the gate on his own. He sets out to explore the town, finding people to feed him, including Miss Smith, who recognizes him as who he is, other dogs (some of which are his siblings), the cold dogs, and fleas, which spreads to the cats. One day while pining for Patchie's attention (while she's in heat), he meets Yeff, the cold dog (and, although he doesn't realize it, his father), who has strange, feathery legs, yellow eyes, and is the only one besides Patchie and Sirius to hear the calls of the Master. He runs off after telling Sirius that "only those who runs with [the cold dogs] and share [their] duties are allowed to know" about the Master. His visits and slipping out are discovered when one day, when late returning to the house, he finds Kathleen's bullies and chases them off, and the policeman who visits them informs the Duffields of Sirius being out a few months ago. Finally Duffy is distracted and Sirius innocently stumbles upon Mrs. Partridge and Bess (his mother), who remembers when something fell from the sky, but flees when his former Companion tries to kill him. Helped by Earth when Sol distracts his Companion, who Sol had previously prevented him from meeting, he escapes. She and the chief witness, a luminary from Castor, who now inhabits his sphere, try to kill Sirius, who leads them out of the house before they ignorantly harm anyone else. He meets and is helped the beautiful, kind Moon, who informs him that the cold dogs run when she is full.

When Kathleen is informed that her father was shot and killed upon trying to flee the prison he was in, she comes home early from school and flies into a rage, gleefully destroying Duffie's horrible pottery. She makes them leave the house, and Sirius leads Kathleen to Miss Smith. He finds Bruce, who is his only sibling that is not plain and rather witless, and who has intelligently picked the lock on his fence. Basil follows Robin to Miss Smith's. The three find Patchie and Rover and Redears (their siblings), and run with the cold and the five warm dogs into nothingness. The eight meet the Master, and they are allowed to ask for one thing each. Robin gets a puppy, and Kathleen asks to be able to understand her dog, which does not work as Sirius is not a star. Basil asks for the "meteorite", and Sirius assures the Master he can make an identical rock for him with the Zoi. To Basil and Sirius's horror, he hands the Zoi to Kathleen, who gets rid of the Companion and New-Sirius, then the Master. Sirius realizes that his Companion was the one who killed the luminary he was accused of murdering, but framed Sirius, using his anger against him, and that she had always hated him, but he had loved her so much he made excuses for her. He manages to get it from her, turns into his luminary self, and finds that Leo is dead and he cannot return to or revive the dog. He returns to his sphere, reluctantly leaving Kathleen and Sol and Earth behind.

Sirius and Sol guide Kathleen to Patchie's puppies, and she carefully picks out a female for Miss Smith.

"What is it?" asked Miss Smith.

"I was just thinking—just noticing—" said Kathleen, "that Sirius needed me to look after him whatever shape he was. Only I didn't notice."

"When there's need enough, a way can often be found," Miss Smith observed.

Polaris often remarks to Sol that Sirius loses his temper much less often these days. But the one sure way to send him into a flaming rage is to suggest that he find a new Companion. Sirius will not hear of it. The small white sphere circling his goes untenanted, because he hopes that what Miss Smith said is true.[1]

Many references are made to mythology, particularly Welsh mythology in the appearance and actions of the dogs (see Cŵn Annwn) and several later characters such as Arawn.

Reception and Reviews[edit]

SF writer Orson Scott Card, reviewing several DWJ reissues in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, wrote:

Yet even with a dog hero, Jones does not overload us with cute animals. Instead they are dangerous and, by and large, rather stupid. Of course, so are the humans, so the struggle between human and animal isn't entirely one-sided. Dogsbody has become, deservedly, a classic, not despite but because of its completely nontraditional cosmology.[2]

Kirkus Reviews wrote "Jones sees clearly and writes effectively and the girl-and-dog story is a sure, and never sticky, heart-tugger. But the cosmic trappings are merely ridiculous."[3] while Publishers Weekly found it "among the most rewarding novels available for readers of all ages"[4]


  1. ^ Jones, Dianna Wynne (2012). Dogsbody. USA: Firebird. pp. all. ISBN 978-0-14-242013-3. 
  2. ^ Card, Orson Scott (February 1992), "Books to Look For", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, retrieved 1 October 2008 
  3. ^ "Dogsbody". Kirkus Media LLC. 1 February 1977. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Dogsbody". PWxyz LLC. Retrieved 12 July 2015.