The Hundred and One Dalmatians
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First edition cover
|Original title||The Great Dog Robbery|
|Illustrator||Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||The Starlight Barking (1967)|
The Hundred and One Dalmatians is a 1956 children's novel by Dodie Smith about the kidnapping of a family of Dalmatian puppies. It was originally serialized in Woman's Day as The Great Dog Robbery. A 1967 sequel, The Starlight Barking, continues from the end of the 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 cooperation 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.
One day, while walking Pongo and Missis, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly have a chance meeting with an old schoolmate of Mrs. Dearly: Cruella de Vil, a very wealthy woman so fixated on fur clothing that she married a furrier and forces him to keep his fur collection in their home so she can wear the pieces whenever she likes. She admires the two dogs and expresses a desire to have a Dalmatian-skin coat. Later,, 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. As Mrs. Dearly looks for a canine wet nurse, she finds an exhausted liver-spotted Dalmatian in the middle of the road in the pouring rain. She has the dog treated by a vet, learns that she has recently given birth, and names her Perdita (meaning "lost"). Perdita helps to nurse the pups and becomes a member of the family, later telling Pongo about her lost love Prince and the resulting litter of puppies which were sold by her neglectful owner, and that she had run away looking for those puppies.
Cruella happened to be in the house when the puppies started to arrive, and had expressed a desire to buy them, which was rebuffed. After she pays a second visit to the house and is told again the Dearlys have no intention of putting the puppies up for sale, 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 their owners the word "Suffolk", but they cannot make the "S" sound. The dogs decide to find the puppies themselves, leaving Perdita to look after the Dearlys. After an eventful journey across the English countryside, with food and accommodation along the way arranged by dogs through the Barking Network, they meet the Colonel, an Old English Sheepdog at Withermarsh in Suffolk; he shows them Hell Hall and tells them its history. They get inside the mansion and discover that there are 97 puppies in Hell Hall, including Pongo and Missis' own 15.
Cruella de Vil arrives and tells the two crooks in charge of Hell Hall that they must slaughter and skin the dogs as soon as possible because of the publicity surrounding the theft of the Dearlys' puppies. Pongo and Missis realize they must rescue all of the puppies immediately and they escape the night 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 of the litters of puppies is just the right age for two of its members to fit its shaft, so they pull it in shifts. When Cruella returns to find the puppies gone, she begins to pursue them. However, the Dalmatians have encountered one of the Barking Network dogs, who points out how conspicuous they are and helps them break into a chimney sweep's establishment where they roll in soot to disguise themselves. Cruella nearly catches up with them, but they are able to hide in an empty removal van at the invitation of a Staffordshire terrier whose "pets" own the van, which is returning to London that very night.
Upon arriving in London, the dogs destroy the de Vils' 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. The Dalmatians then return to the Dearlys' house, where Pongo and Missis bark until Mr. Dearly opens the door, whereupon the whole mass of puppies go streaming in without stopping. Once the dogs roll on the carpet 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 are proven to be Perdita's litter by Prince. Mr. Dearly finds out where the puppies had been when he discovers a label on the toy cart which contains Tommy's name and address. The Dearlys also place advertisements seeking the owners of the other puppies, but it turns out that they had all been sold, rather than stolen as the Dearlys' were. Perdita's former owner, who never really cared for her, is happy to let her stay with the Dearly's upon hearing the story.
Cruella's now-homeless cat drops by (and is invited to stay) with the news that the destruction of her husband's fur business has forced Cruella to leave the country and put Hell Hall up for sale. When the Dearlys visit Suffolk to return Tommy's cart, they realize that, with 97 puppies and three adult Dalmatians, a larger home would be a good idea, so Mr Dearly buys the hall 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, turns up. His owners see his love for Perdita, and allow him to stay with the Dearlys and become their "one hundred and oneth" 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. (In the novel, their names are Saul and Jasper Baddun.) 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 has been adapted for the stage by Debbie Isitt for the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 2000 (followed by productions at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton in 2007 and Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2017), by Bryony Lavery for the Chichester Youth Theatre in 2014 and was devised by the company (directed by Sally Cookson) for Tobacco Factory Theatres in 2014. The novel was also adapted into a 2009 musical and will be adapted into an upcoming 2021 musical.
The book gained a positive response from critics.