Dogsbody (novel)

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Cover Of Dogsbody.jpg
First edition
AuthorDiana Wynne Jones
Cover artist2012 by Tony Sahara
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's Fantasy novel
PublisherMacmillan Publishers (UK, 1975); Greenwillow Books (USA,1988); Firebird (USA, 2012)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages191 or 239

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 is rather oblivious to everything; Daphne ("Duffy"), who makes pottery and bullies Kathleen because she's Irish; Basil, who has a heart of gold, and also obsessed with "meteorite"; and Robin, who is kind but afraid of the older Basil. There are also three cats (Tibbles, and her twin sons Remus and Romulus), who grudgingly befriend Sirius.

Sirius is aided by Sol to find the Zoi. He sets out to explore the town, finding people to feed him when he goes hungry on Kathleen's limited allowance, including Miss Smith, a kind retired teacher, other dogs, the cold dogs, and fleas, which spreads to the cats. Although he doesn't realize, some of the dogs (Patchie, Rover, Redears, and Bruce) are his siblings. One day, he meets Yeff, a cold dog (later revealed to the reader as 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.

One day, Sirius unknowingly stumbles upon Mrs. Partridge, who tried to drown him, and Bess, his mother. He flees when his former Companion appears, a friend of Mrs. Partridge's. With the help of Earth while Sol distracts his Companion, he escapes. He notes that although his Companion is beautiful, she does not compare to the meadow of flowers. His former Companion and the chief witness in his trial, a luminary from Castor, who now inhabits his sphere, find and try to kill Sirius, but they're reckless and unable to properly handle the Zoi and almost kill Tibbles with it. He meets and is helped by 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 pottery. She makes them leave the house, and Sirius leads Kathleen to Miss Smith. He finds Bruce, who has picked the lock on his fence. Basil follows Robin to Miss Smith's. The three find Patchie and Rover and Redears, 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 technically a dog. Basil asks for the "meteorite". To Basil and Sirius's horror, he hands the Zoi to Kathleen, who gets rid of the Companion and New-Sirius when they appear to kill 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. 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's dead, Sirius having been the life/soul. He reluctantly returns to his sphere, leaving Kathleen 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.

The events of this book are set in what seem to be during the Irish War of Independence, although it is never specified. Kathleen's father is a war criminal, and she was sent to the Duffields for her protection without Duffy's permission, which is why Duffy hates her so much. Kathleen speaks with an accent, and she's bullied for being Irish. For example, a group of boys follow her home after school every day and make derogatory jokes, leading to Sirius scaring them. She also gets letters and sometimes money from her father in prison, and his very last one told her he'd see her soon. This worries Sirius, because he knew they'd have to move, but the Zoi was near them, until he is shot and killed trying to escape.

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.