"The northern lights pretty much take care of themselves, Puppy will be perfectly fine. And I'm sure he appreciates being given such an important task, so he'll be careful. He couldn't possibly cause any disturbances."
—Fox SpiritPrologue, Page 5
A Redtail's Dream is a webcomic by Minna Sundberg. It is a tale steeped in Finnish lore, revolving around the tribulations of a human boy named Hannu and his dog, Ville, as they embark on a reluctant journey through the realm of dreams to correct a cosmic mishap on the part of the young spirit, Puppy Fox.Left with the task of managing the northern lights while his relatives have a private meeting, Puppy Fox finds himself in a world of trouble when he accidentally transports a mortal village into the spirit world. Before he can send the village back, the human souls are caught by the spirits of the Bird Path and snatched away to the realms of sleep. Desperate to fix the situation before his family finds out about it and grounds him, Puppy enlists the aid of a pair of mortals who happened not to be in the village at the time of the accident, and were therefore missed by the birds. The story follows the two, Hannu and Ville, as they try to retrieve all of the villagers before Puppy's desperation peaks and he sends all of them to the afterlife to hide the evidence of his blunder.The 556-page comic ran for two years, updating every day except Sundays from September 2011 through October 2013.
This Webcomic provides examples of:
A Boy and His X: The story revolves around Hannu, a human boy, and Ville, his dog (squirrel, snake, seal, moose, bear, rabbit, swan, or human depending on which dream world they are in at the time.)
All There in the Manual: The reader never really gets a backstory for Hannu and Ville, which is a shame because there is one established by the author and it provides some interesting insight into Hannu's character. Apparently his parents were overbearing and spoiled Hannu, and it is indicated that this is why he's such a lazy jerk nowadays. This information is mentioned in only two places; on the character page and in the buyable mini-comic about how Hannu and Ville first met.
Amplified Animal Aptitude: Justified with the animal spirits, since they are not mortal. Played straight with Ville, who is a normal mortal dog and really shouldn't have any reason for being as intelligent as he is.
Arc Symbol: The "Hannunvaakuna" or "Seal of Hannu" appears somewhere on Hannu's clothes in every dream world from Chapter Two and onwards. It is briefly referenced in Chapter4 as bringing good luck and warding off evil spirits, but past that seems to only be decorative. In Chapter 7, the Hannuvaakuna amulet that Hannu was wearing finally serves a practical purpose- it shields him from the attack of the Swann of Tuonela, preventing it from giving him worse then a bruise and a few scratches.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Swan of Tuonela pulls this. She was already way bigger then a mortal swan, but at Hannu and Ville's refusal to leave the realm of death that is her domain she transforms into an even bigger rotting monster swan and attacks them.
Beware the Nice Ones: Puppy Fox, though he's more affably nice than sincerely pleasant. Not only can he kill everyone in his dream world on a whim, and has already tried, but when Hannu and Ville commented that he didn't look very impressive for a spirit, he turned into a giant, flaming monster, asking which form they prefer. Obviously, they went with the former.
Big Brother Bully: Paju is this to her little brother Tuomi. In the prologue she breaks his guitar just because she didn't want him to sit near her at the party they were preparing for.
Big Eater: Ville is more or less constantly hungry.
Bolt of Divine Retribution: Oddly enough, the vipers in the second dream world want to be hit by one so they can ascend to heaven.
Bratty Half-Pint: Tuomi, thanks in part to his sister's mistreatment, and the young rabbit spirit.
Breather Episode: Chapter Six is much shorter and lighter compared to Chapters Three, Four, and Five.
Call Back: Snake makes one to Bear's remark about Puppy being asked to water a garden and setting it on fire instead.
Ville asks for a steak while he is in moose form, and is disgusted when Hannu tells him that moose only eat vegetation.
There is also the rather odd conversation between Ville and Hannu where the carnivore berates Hannu for killing small animals when he was young and Hannu points out that he has to stop Ville from killing small animals all the time.
Subverted. Ville was disgusted that Hannu was doing it out of enjoyment rather than hunger.
Cassandra Truth: No matter how many times Hannu tries to explain to the villagers that they are trapped in a dream world because of a spirit fox screwing things up, the only people to believe him are the ones who already had things explained to them by one of the animal spirits. At one point he is even accused of being on drugs.
In one chapter, even the spirit didn't believe him.
Crocodile Tears: Ville indulges in this occasionally to manipulate Hannu into doing what he wants.
Foreshadowing: Hannu gets whacked in the back of the head in pretty much every dream world he visits, and often complains about headaches. Turns out he's suffered a skull fracture in the real world and will die as soon as Puppy Fox lifts the time lock.
Midway through the story, Ville wonders what his future forms will be. He feels that his forms have gotten more powerful every time, and so he assumes his final form will be a human, since he sees them as the most powerful creatures of all. In the final chapter, he gets his wish.
Actually, Hannu suggested he would become human. Ville thinks humans are weak and not very impressive at all.
God's Hands Are Tied: Puppy is not allowed to interfere personally on the Bird Path, so he enlists Hannu and Ville to do it for him.
God Is Flawed: For all of their age, power, and wisdom, the spirit animals pretty much have all the flaws and quirks that an average mortal would.
Initially Puppy Fox doesn't want to retrieve the villagers from the dream realm himself because he isn't allowed to interfere there and he'd get in trouble if he got caught. However this excuse evaporates after it becomes clear that the deities of the Bird Path are well aware of what he is up to. If they already know he's there, it begs the question of why he can't just settle the issue quickly himself rather than waiting for Hannu and Ville to work things out.
There is also the fact that pretty much every spirit in the story is apparently powerless to interfere in Puppy's dream world, but Moose is the only one to give a clear reason why. If they are so powerless, how did they get into those dreams in the first place?
Green-Eyed Monster: Ville is apparently jealous of another dog in the village, Astrid. Being older then him, and a hunting dog rather then a house pet, she has a lot of respect among the dogs of the village that Ville desperately wants.
Head-in-the-Sand Management: Tuomi, the leader of the village teenagers from Chapter 6, blithely refuses to believe that puppy fox could kill the villagers at any time. So he refuses to let himself and his friends go home because he likes the spirit world better.
Puppy Fox is so selfish and troublemaking that even his own mother says he has no potential to amount to anything.
You could also make an arguement for Hannu, who is hardly an ideal moral hero.
Jerkass Gods: Puppy Fox, the Young Hare, and the Swan of Tuonela. All of them directly threaten the lives of Hannu, Ville, and a good many of the villagers. Puppy and the Swan because the villagers being there is an inconvenient bother, and the Hare because he wants to hang out in the dream with Tuomi and escape his parents.
In the Young Hare's case this is ultimately subverted; he honestly hadn't believed the humans in the dream were really in any danger, and as soon as he learned Puppy Fox really would kill people to cover his mistakes the next thing he did was run and let the other foxes know what Puppy was up to so they could stop him, even though at that point the only one still in danger was Hannu whom he hated.
Kids Are Cruel: Oona, the little sister of Joona and Jonna, makes a habit of tormenting Ville for her own amusement. Unfortunately, her siblings dismiss the behavior as her not knowing any better and defend her when Hannu becomes angry.
Morality Pet: It would be easy to assume that Hannu is a sociopath if it wasn't for his obvious affection towards Ville.
Moral Myopia: Puppy tries to shove the villagers into the afterlife to hide the evidence of his screw-up.
There are enough humans in the village, no one will notice if the rest are missing. And if they do notice, I'll just deny, deny, deny!
Morphic Resonance: In almost all of his forms Ville maintains certain aspects of his normal canine appearance. Generally this is limited to his red-orange fur color and curly tail. Particularly egregious cases are his snake form, where he still has four legs and pointy ears, his seal form, where he also still has pointy ears as well as a dense coat of fur.
Ville's swan form in particular is such a hashed up mess that Hannu can't even tell what he is supposed to be.
My Instincts Are Showing: An odd case; Ville isn't humanized except in gaining the ability to talk, however he does change shape a lot. However no matter what animal he becomes, he still thinks and acts like a dog. He howls when upset, begs constantly, and licks a rather dismayed Hannu in the face.
No Social Skills: You can tell Hannu is an anti-social dick when his dog is lecturing him about being nicer to people.
Once A Chapter: In every chapter Hannu and Ville go to a different dream dimension, talk to the village leader and spirit animal in residence, do a video-gamey subquest, and then the leader puts their talisman on and everyone in the dimension is saved. Rinse and repeat. Gets to the point where when Tuomi refuses to go home in chapter six that Ville immediately says "Right, we have to fix something for you first!"
Psychopomp: The birds of the bird path in general, and the Swan of Tuonela in particular.
Race Against the Clock: A ticking clock variable is added in chapter four, where it is established that if Puppy Fox grows too impatient he might destroy the dream realm he created and send all of the human souls still inside to the afterlife to hide his mistake from his parents. In fact he almost does just that at the start of the chapter, and only the interference of the giant eagle Kokko stops him.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Every one of the dream worlds has one important figure from the village that has been informed of the situation by the spirit animals, and realizes that they are in a dream. These are the folks that Hannu is supposed to find.
Refusal of the Call: When Puppy Fox initially approaches Hannu and Ville, they refuse to believe him and decide that they are just dreaming and will wake up soon. However when they discover that they can't leave the village and will be trapped there alone for eternity, they agree to go along with the fox's plan.
Sleepyhead: Hannu's nap efforts are eternally thwarted, but that doesn't stop him from trying anyway.
Shock and Awe: Snake seems to have power over lightening, and uses it to teleport to the door of the fox meeting.
Shown Their Work: After Hannu falls through the ice, he shows symptoms of major hypothermia. And since he can't recover well in the dream world it got worse when the next dream landed them out in a frozen snowfield.
The Sociopath: Hannu shows several signs of this. In chapter three, some of the fishermen talk about rumors that he's been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, and Paju has outright said to his face that she thinks he might be psychotic.
Spoiled Brat: What Hannu is, according to the supplementary material.
Talking Animal: All of the spirits are this, and the mortal dog Ville gains the ability to speak when he gets pulled into the auroras by Puppy Fox.
Tempting Fate: Despite the bear spirit's concerns, the adult foxes brush off the notion of Puppy causing any serious harm while he works with the Auroras.
10-Minute Retirement: When Ville finds himself in terrible pain after having foolishly eaten a flock of dead spirit ravens, on top of both he and Hannu being completely lost, he declares that he is giving up their quest. Hannu, who has been ready to give up for a while, goes along with this without argument. A few minutes later one of the logger's hunting dogs finds and saves them, and the journey resumes.
True Companions: Hannu and Ville may bicker a lot, but it is clear that they truely care about each other and would sacrifice anything to keep each other safe.
Weirdness Censor: Because of dream logic, none of the humans notice the inconsistencies around them. Even when Hannu directly reminds Joona and Jonna that Ville is supposed to be a dog and is now a moose, they dismiss it.
Ville calls Hannu out for being a dick fairly often, but the most notable case is the arguement they have about Hannu killing small animals with a crossbow when he was a child.
Oddly, it is then subverted when Hannu lets slip that he also shot a human child in the leg with the bow. Ville asks if it was an accident and Hannu refuses to give a direct answer. Then Ville shrugs it off and apologizes for starting the arguement in the first place.
Minna later edited that conversation to reveal that it was Riika that he shot, and it's heavily implied that it was no accident.
Would Hurt a Child: Hannu actually holds Tuomi underwater to half-drown him in chapter six to get the young boy to agree to go home.
You Have to Believe Me: Hannu's explanations of what is going on tend to be abbreviated, skip important details, and just generally sound unbelievable.