Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jack the Brindle Bulldog

Jack is one of the first characters we meet in Laura's "Little House" books, and rightly so, for he was Laura's first friend. Although he is a dog, he is one of the most beloved characters in Laura's books. We first encounter Jack on page three of Little House in the Big Woods, lying guard by the door to protect the family from wolves. 

In the stories, Jack followed the family from the Big Woods into Indian Territory. He nearly drowned in a swollen creek, causing the family several days of sadness before he found his way back to them. 

Jack took his role as protector very seriously, which sometimes was more of a hindrance than a help, particularly in Indian Territory. Pa had to keep Jack tied up to prevent him from biting the Indians who sometimes visited the Ingalls home and causing trouble for the settlers. He proved his worth, however, when he saved the family's lives. 

When the family contracted fever 'n' ague (malaria) on the Kansas prairie, they were all too sick to go for help. It is likely they would have died before anyone realized their predicament. However, Jack saved their lives by running to meet Dr. Tann as he rode down the trail past the house, begging him to come in. 

While the stories told about Jack in Little House on the Prairie are true, in real life, Jack's adventures with the Ingalls family ended as they returned to the Big Woods. Jack liked to spend his time with the ponies, Pet and Patty, and when Pa traded them for horses, Jack wanted to stay with them, so Pa let him go. 

After returning to the Big Woods, the family got another dog, this time a black and white spotted puppy which they named Wolf. Wolf was probably left behind when the family left the Big Woods the second time, for the family did not have a dog when they lived on Plum Creek. There was no need for a dog there, because it was settled country. Because the children loved Jack so, Laura continued to include him in her stories in On the Banks of Plum Creek. 

When she began writing By the Shores of Silver Lake, however, Laura decided that Jack must no longer continue to be part of the story. She used this opportunity to help make the transition from the child Laura of the previous books to the young lady Laura she has now become. 


In addition to showing how the Little House books were crafted, this first part of the book also draws an in-depth portrait of Wilder's childhood and adolescence. The childhood that Hill's research reveals provides good insight into the Ingalls family, particularly to those who are not familiar with "Pioneer Girl." As Hill herself notes, perhaps the most disconcerting piece of information is the fact that Jack the bulldog did not die peacefully shortly before the family set out for Silver Lake. Instead, he was actually given away by Pa during a horse trade (10). Tidbits like this make for interesting reading while also offering some perspective into what elements Wilder felt appropriate for a child audience and necessary to a good story. Hill brings in correspondence between Wilder and daughter Rose Wilder Lane that discusses different editorial choices and shows that Wilder had a clear vision of how her story should be told and what it should ultimately convey.

The fact that Wilder made choices at all when telling her life story is one of the major issues that scholars have with her work. Are the books fiction or autobiography?


Anonymous said...

Ukrainian Dog fight.

Miss Margo said...

"The fact that Wilder made choices at all when telling her life story is one of the major issues that scholars have with her work. Are the books fiction or autobiography?"

Damned if I know--though I can say that I loved her "Little House" series when I was a child.

I remember Jack. I just assumed he was an English bulldog (ha! ha!) but that was before I knew much about dog breeds, especially gripping dogs. Until very recently in my life, "bulldog" always meant English bulldog to me.

Anyway, interesting blog post. Provocative. I'd hope Ma and Pa Wilder didn't keep a pit bull around their kids, but people do that all the time now, so why not?

And I don't think that anyone would just give away a beloved family pet. Not if it was really beloved. Maybe if Jack was really a pit bull, her folks knew somethng about the dog that she didn't.

vintage said...

Geez... another pit bull strawman argument collapses!

Laura Ingall-Wilder's Bulldog "Jack" traded for a horse so they can travel out west

Petey poisoned on the set of the Lil Rascals in 1931 is my personal favorite though...

I do, however, cherish Theodore Roosevelt's dangerous bulldog "Pete" being banished from the Whitehouse after several maulings.

*Disclaimer..You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Anonymous said...

Are there any eggs in this Henhouse? Sure are a lot of Yolks

Unknown said...

Jack was not a pit bull, but a brindle bulldog, a breed that descended from Spanish fighting dogs, and one that I would be much more afraid of than any pit I've ever met.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

i do not understand why you felt compelled to leave the following comment "Jack was not a pit bull, but a brindle bulldog..." on a blog post titled "Jack the Brindle Bulldog."

i will assume that your nutter brain does not have a sufficiently meaningful answer but i offer the following partial list as to why i felt compelled to write this blog post.

Popular figures from this era like Theodore Roosevelt, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Helen Keller were all proud Pit Bull owners. actually NONE of those named were proud pit bull owners.

As a child I loved the Little House books (and go figure, I'm now living a slightly modernized version). Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved dog Jack, was -you guessed it - a Pit Bull"

Laura Ingalls Wilder of the popular Little House books owned a working pit bull dog named Jack.

Over the years, many famous Americans have owned pit bulls. Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, John Steinbeck, Helen Keller, and Fred Astaire have all been proud to own dogs of this breed. here are the facts. there is no evidence that mark twain owned a pit bull, and he was a cat lover. helen keller owned a boston terrier. steinbeck owned an english bullterrier. there is no evidence that woodrow wilson owned a pit a bull. there is no evidence that there are no photos of teddy roosevelt's "pit bull", he could have been a pit, a bullterrier or a bulldog but one thing is for certain, pete was vicious. and there is plenty of documentation.

But back to the breed's history as a family dog: Helen Keller had a pit bull. Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote "Little House on the Prairie," owned one, too.

Pit Bulls accompanied pioneer families on their explorations. Laura Ingalls Wilder of the popular Little House books owned a working Pit Bulldog named Jack.

this is just a small sample. there are many many more websites that spread the lie just google "laura ingalls wilder pit bull".

Ernie said...

Brindle is a color, not a breed. I have not found any historical evidence that Jack was a pitbull, English bulldog or American bulldog.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

brindle is a color, not a breed.

well... duh.

the historical evidence is in the proof of assertion nutter tactic. lol

google "jack the brindle bulldog". wait. i will do it for you.

Unknown said...

Jack was a "game bred" pitbull

Unknown said...

The modern day equivalent of Jack would be a game bred pitbull

Unknown said...

The modern day equivalent of Jack would be a game bred pitbull

craigculwell52 said...

Miss Margo.
Jack was French bulldog. Jack wasn't pit bull. It was Laura's dog. Charles Ingalls sold those ponies and family dog as well.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

craig, question: is the photo above accurate? is that the wilder "bulldog named Jack"?

Anonymous said...

Pit bulls are only as they are raised. We have a pit bull that is amazing with our children and in the 13 years I've had her, has only shown aggression toward one person. A homeless man that came towards my kids. Pit bulls used to be known as "nanny dogs", because they protected their children. On the other hand I know of 2 kids who were mangled by the family lab.

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