Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London

When I was little I used to watch an animated television series called The Legend of White Fang.  I was mad for dogs as a kid and at one point desperately wanted to be a vet, so of course I adored the programme.  When I realised years later that the series was based on the books by Jack London, I placed his novels firmly on my to-read list, but didn’t get round to getting hold of any copies until (surprise surprise) I spotted one going cheap.

As expected, I loved these two stories.  Call of the Wild is about a domesticated dog who is thrown into the harsh environment of Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s.  He has to adapt in order to survive, and reverts from his civilised upbringing to the primitive nature of his ancestors.  It’s a simple tale of triumphing over the circumstances you find yourself in and of becoming one with your natural, primitive self.

White Fang is the reverse of this process of decivilisation: White Fang is a wolf who is born and brought up in the wild, learning life’s harsh lessons of survival before gradually becoming civilised by humans.  This is another understated story with a clear message, but it offers just a little more depth than Call of the Wild.  The language is simple but eloquent and easily captures the sense of place.  It summarises the harsh environment in the way in which wild creatures understand it.  The reader follows White Fang’s fate, rooting for him and struggling alongside him.  As an animal lover, some parts of the book concerning his treatment at the hands of humans were quite hard to read, but other passages where justice is administered to his tormentors, or where his trust and love is won, made me grin like an idiot.  If you like animals then you should love this book too!


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