The Hundred and One Dalmatians
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First edition cover
|Illustrator||Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||The Starlight Barking (1967)|
The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or the Great Dog Robbery is a 1956 children's novel by Dodie Smith about the robbery of the titular family of 101 Dalmatian dogs. A sequel, The Starlight Barking, continues from the end of the first novel.
At a dinner party attended by the Dearly couple, Cruella de Vil expresses her dislike for animals; subsequently, the couple's new Dalmatian puppies disappear. The Dearly dogs are now among 97 puppies who were kidnapped or legally purchased from various owners, with the intention of skinning them for their fur. Through the co-operation of animals and the "twilight barking", the dogs are found in Suffolk, England, and a rescue ensues.
Pongo and Missis are a pair of Dalmatians who live with the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Dearly and their two nannies, Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler. Mr. Dearly is a "financial wizard" who has been granted lifelong tax exemption and lent a house on the Outer Circle in Regent's Park in return for wiping out the government debt. The dogs consider the humans their pets, but allow the humans to think that they are the owners.
Missis gives birth to a litter of 15 puppies. Concerned that Missis will not be able to feed them all, the humans join in to help. Mrs. Dearly looks for a canine wet nurse, and finds an abandoned liverspotted Dalmatian in the middle of the road in the pouring rain. She has the dog treated by a vet and names her Perdita (meaning "lost"). Perdita later tells Pongo about her lost love Prince and the resulting litter of puppies which were sold by her owner, and that she had run away looking for those puppies.
Mr. and Mrs. Dearly attend a dinner party hosted by Cruella de Vil, an intimidating and very wealthy woman fixated on fur clothing. The Dearlys are disconcerted by her belief that all animals are worthless and should be drowned. Shortly after the dinner party, the puppies disappear. The humans fail to trace them but through the "Twilight Barking", a forum of communication in which dogs can relay messages to each other across the country, the dogs track them down to "Hell Hall", the ancestral home of the de Vil family in Suffolk. Pongo and Missis try to tell the Dearlys where the puppies are but fail: Pongo tried to say the human word "Suffolk" but could not hiss to make the necessary "s" sound. The dogs decide to run away and find the puppies, leaving Perdita to look after the Dearlys. After a journey across the countryside, they meet the Colonel, an Old English Sheepdog at Withermarsh in Suffolk; he shows them Hell Hall and tells them its history. They learn that there are 97 puppies in Hell Hall, including Pongo and Missis' own 15.
Cruella de Vil appears and tells the crooks in charge of Hell Hall to slaughter and skin the dogs as soon as possible because of the publicity surrounding the theft of the Dearlys' puppies. Pongo and Missis devise a plan to rescue all of the puppies and escape the day before Christmas Eve. One puppy, Cadpig, is a runt and too weak to walk the long distance from Suffolk to London so Tommy, the Colonel's two-year-old owner, lends her a toy farm cart; one litter of the puppies is the right age for two of its members to fit its shaft. Tommy and the Colonel have learned enough of each other's languages for two-way communication between them to be possible. When the cart loses a wheel, they rest on the hassocks of a country church; Pongo manages to repair the cart. Cruella almost finds them, but the dogs escape in a removal van. Having rolled in soot to disguise themselves, they hide in the darkness of the van with the help of a Staffordshire terrier whose owners are the drivers of the van. (The original plan as organized on the Barking Chain by contacts with dock warehouse guard dogs was for the puppies to reach central London from Essex along London's docklands.)
Upon arriving in London, the dogs destroy Cruella's collection of animal skins and fur coats with the help of Cruella's cat, who was angry and distressed at losing many litters of kittens which Cruella had drowned as unwanted. The Dalmatians then return home. Once the dogs roll around to remove the soot from their coats, the Dearlys recognise them and send out for steaks to feed them. The litter that pulled Cadpig's cart proved to be Perdita's litter by Prince. Mr. Dearly finds where the puppies had been by reading wording on the cart. There are 97 puppies, and three adult Dalmatians, totaling 100.
Cruella's cat visits to say that Cruella has fled from Hell Hall. It has been put up for sale and Mr Dearly buys it with money he has been given by the government for sorting out another tax problem. He proposes to use it to start a "dynasty of Dalmatians" (and a "dynasty of Dearlys" to take care of them). Finally, Perdita's lost love, Prince, returns. His owners see his love for Perdita and allow him to stay with the Dearlys and become their 101st Dalmatian.
Disney adapted the novel into an animated film, released to cinemas on 25 January 1961 as One Hundred and One Dalmatians. It became the tenth highest grossing film of 1961, and one of the studio's most popular films of the decade. It was re-issued to cinemas four times, in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings. It was remade into a live action movie years later.
In both the live-action and animated adaptations, Missis was renamed Perdita, and other characters, such as Prince, Tommy, Cruella's cat, and Cruella's husband were omitted. In the animated film, Pongo and Missis' owners' last names were changed to "Radcliffe" from "Dearly", and in the live-action film, Cruella (portrayed by Glenn Close) appears as the spoiled magnate of an haute couture fashion house, "House of DeVil". Disney kept the book's characters, Horace and Jasper Baddun, who appeared in both versions as thieves hired by Cruella to steal Pongo and Missis' puppies. Disney later created an animated television series starring three of the puppies (Lucky, Rolly and Cadpig) and a sequel film for each version (One Hundred and One Dalmatians II and 102 Dalmatians). The novel was also adapted into a musical.