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Creator / Dick King-Smith

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Ronald Gordon "Dick" King-Smith, OBE (27 March 1922 – 4 January 2011) was a prolific English author of children's books, mostly about animals. His single most famous book is The Sheep-Pig (published in the US as Babe: the Gallant Pig), which was the basis of the film Babe.
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Another of his books was the basis of the film The Water Horse. Harry's Mad was the basis for a live action TV series, as was The Queen's Nose (one of his few books not about animals) and The Foxbusters had an animated adaptation.

He also wrote a sequel to The Sheep-Pig, Ace, which was not the basis of the sequel to Babe. Ace tells of Babe's great-grandson Ace — so named because he has a spot on his side that resembles the Ace of Clubs — who has the curious and unique ability to perfectly understand human language. None of the characters from the original book appear, though Babe and the Hoggetts are mentioned a few times.


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His works provide examples of:

  • Animal Athlete Loophole: In The Sheep-Pig, there Ain't No Rule that says a pig can't compete in a sheepherding dog trial!
  • Animal Jingoism: Principally between sheep and sheepdogs in The Sheep-Pig.
  • Animal Talk: In many Dick King-Smith books, animals of different species can speak to each other (but usually not to humans). The Sheep-Pig is an obvious example, as is "Ace", which places emphasis on the fact that the title character can understand human language and respond (although he can't actually talk to humans himself). The Foxbusters, in which hens, foxes and rodents each speak distinct languages, is an exception.
  • Appetite = Health: In Harry's Mad, Harry's mother gets worried about the health of one of their parrots, Fweddy, because he has suddenly lost his appetite. Turns out, she is about to lay an egg.
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  • Audience Murmurs: In Sophie Hits Six, Sophie gets into big trouble with her teacher when she follows her dad's advice and plays her crowd scene by shouting, "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!"
  • Big Little Sister: In Dragon Boy, Montague and Albertina Bunsen-Burner adopt John, the titular Dragon Boy, when he is seven years old, and in the course of the novel John helps them hatch their first egg, a daughter who names herself 'Lucky'. Lucky grows from being large enough for John to carry her in his arms to larger than a full-grown cow in just over a year, and refers to John as her 'little brother' even though he's older than her.
  • Cats Are Mean:
    • Ultimately subverted in Ace, where Clarence the cat is, at worst, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and is quick to befriend the titular pig.
    • Also averted in Find the White Horse, where Squintum the cat leads a group of two dogs and a pigeon to find the original home of his first canine companion (he briefly contemplated eating the pigeon as she seemed useless, but quickly came to appreciate her as a friend).
    • In Martin's Mice, the titular Martin is a cat who befriends a mouse named Drusilla and keeps her and her children as pets, disliking the idea of eating mice as he finds them pretty. By contrast, Martin's mother has a very low opinion of him and his siblings call him a "wimp" and a "wally", each of whom have no problem eating mice. However, when Martin first meets his father Pug, Pug soon bonds with Martin as the only one of his children who looks like him, and while he doesn't share his son's distaste for eating mice, Pug gives Drusilla's children a password so that he won't eat any of them by accident.
  • Chubby Chaser: In "Fat Lawrence", Lawrence begins to cut down on his food after a friend suggests that his rotundity disadvantages him in many ways, including his love life. Midway through his diet, he runs into a stunning tortoiseshell cat called Bella — and finds out when he tries to talk to her that she has a thing for heavy-set cats.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Lubber in Find the White Horse is often presented as lazy, but when pushed he manages to single-handedly hold off a whole hunting-party of hounds who had been chasing his love interest Coleen after they mistook her for a fox (the narrative does note that he would have lost if the human hunters hadn't called the other dogs off, but the fact that he held his own for any length of time against the numbers implied shouldn't be overlooked).
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Foxes are occasionally portrayed as cunning, with The Foxbusters as an example. But this is decidedly secondary to their main characteristic of being vile Nazi stand-ins. (Unlike many authors who write about foxes, Dick King-Smith was a farmer.)
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: The Guard Dog; the titular character is a small dog who nevertheless has a very loud voice that unfortunately discourages anyone from purchasing him, until he is taken in by an old man who is mostly deaf and therefore can't hear him.
  • Disability Superpower: Daggie Dogfoot in Pigs Might Fly has a plausible, pig-specific one; his malformed front feet have no hooves and rather resemble paws, enabling him to swim without the risk of basically cutting his own throat with his trotters. Later, as the title suggests, he "flies" (he is actually being carried back to his farm underneath a helicopter, but by this point his legend is so great that the animals suppose he must be towing the machine).
  • Dumb Dodo Bird: Dodos are Forever is about a family of dodos who are smart enough- with the aid of a marooned parrot- to see the writing on the wall and attempt to escape their impending extinction.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Fweddy from Harry's Mad.
  • Genre Savvy: Invoked in Tumbleweed, when Tumbleweed swiftly realises that the witch he has met was actually the victim of a curse at her christening.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: It's certainly not his fault, but nowadays his name looks like a parody of a forum troll's handle.
    • The term "bitch" is used a quite a bit in The Sheep-Pig—not as an insult or general swear word, but with its literal sense of a female dog.
  • The Highwayman: The Toby Man.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Farmer Farmer in The Fox Busters; the narrative confirms that this is his real name, citing in addition that there are bakers called Baker and butchers called Butcher.
  • Interspecies Adoption:
    • The Sheep-Pig, in which a piglet is raised by a sheep-dog.
    • The Cuckoo Child, in which an ostrich is raised by a pair of geese (although for some time the ostrich was assumed by his parents to just be a strange goose, even if the farm that owned them knew what had happened).
    • Dragon Boy, in which an orphaned boy is taken in by a pair of dragons, uses the trope in a more fantastic way.
    • Magnus Powermouse has a lesser version of this; Magnus is permitted to consider Roland the rabbit his uncle, although his parents are both alive, as Roland expresses a fondness for children and imagines himself to have nieces and nephews from his long-absent siblings.
    • Felicity the duck is either this or Intergenerational Friendship with Daggie Dogfoot the pig in Pigs Might Fly as she helps teach him how to swim.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In Ace the titular pig and his owner go on "That's The Way It Goes, with Hester Jantzen", a parody of the real-life programme That's Life hosted by Esther Rantzen.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Ace is about a pig named Ace who has the unique natural talent of understanding everything humans say, and works out a way of communicating with farmer Ted Tubbs by grunting once for "no" and twice for "yes." He briefly ponders expanding on it by devising specific meanings for three grunts, four grunts and so on, but ultimately decides this will get too complicated for them both.
  • Pike Peril: A pike or gar nearly kills Daggie near the end of Pigs Might Fly.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone:
    • Madison the African Grey Parrot in Harry's Mad, aided by having been 'raised' by a professor of linguistics before he was sent to England after his former master's death to live with the man's great-nephew; Madison even manages to teach another parrot, Fweddy, to have the same language abilities as himself.
    • In Pretty Polly, Abigail teaches her pet hen Polly how to talk in a manner similar to a parrot, although it is noted that Polly's responses to other statements are generally random and she only rarely says something that makes complete sense, such as being taught to always respond to "What's your name?" with "Pretty Polly".
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Find the White Horse features four animals coming together who are clearly isolated from their fellows; the cat was basically abandoned in the dog's home owned by his former owner's husband, one dog is a lazy individual who is nevertheless the only dog to ever be polite to the aforementioned cat and demonstrates surprising strength when provoked, they befriend a homing pigeon who has lost her sense of direction after an accident, and subsequently find another dog who has been abandoned by her owners because the humans couldn't handle having a pet.
  • Recycled In Space: The Fox Busters is The Dambusters but with animals.
  • Released to Elsewhere: In Pigs Might Fly, sickly or undersized piglets are permanently "taken away" by the pigkeeper. While the sows may or may not realize that this means "killed," they nevertheless have enough brains to be astonished when Daggie comes back.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: A variation of this applies in The Mouse Butcher; the giant cat Great Mog's fixation on Tom Plug, the titular Mouse Butcher, is initially based on the fact that the human butcher was the one who killed Great Mog's mother and cut off his tail when he was a kitten, despite the fact that Tom wasn't even born when Great Mog suffered his original losses.
  • Stock Animal Diet: In Magnus Powermouse the pest control officer baits his trap with a chunk of Mars bar, and the narration notes that the stereotype of mice preferring cheese is wrong.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: In Smasher, the eponymous puppy asks whether his father was like this. His mother says yes, and that Smasher is going to be just like him. However Smasher is actually really ugly and described as looking like the offspring of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Madison the parrot from Harry's Mad was so called because he was his original (American) owner's fourth parrot. "Washington died in his sleep, Adams caught pneumonia and Jefferson tangled with the cat."
    • In The Mouse Butcher, the cat Ecclesiastes and his wife name their children after the various books of the Old Testament, the novel concluding with the news that they have named their latest four boys "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John".
  • This Is My Human: In Pigs Might Fly, the pigs assume the farm owner is their servant and call him Pigman.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The scruffy aspiring farmer protagonist of the Sophie books, compared with her pigtailed archnemesis Dawn.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The point of the novel Tumbleweed is the title character becoming a true knight with the aid of a witch and his animal companions, who help him gather his courage and face problems with and without their aid.
  • The Tooth Hurts: This plays a part in The Stray, since the main character has a fear of dentists but starts developing tooth pains partway through the book.
  • To Serve Man: In Dragon Boy, the dragon Montague Bunsen-Burner initially affirmed that he enjoyed human flesh even if he was frustrated at having to eat knights who always came to bother him, but he and his family abandon this lifestyle after they essentially adopt John, the titular 'Dragon Boy', out of respect for everything he has done for them.
  • Xenofiction: Sometimes his work falls into this, but it depends very much on the individual setting.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant:
    • Fweddy the parrot in Harry's Mad.
    • Tom (later renamed Tomboy) the cat from the Sophie series.
  • Ugly Cute: Smasher is described as being incredibly ugly but the fact that the farmer finds him cute is the reason that he manages to avoid being sold and punished several times.invoked
  • Uncatty Resemblance:
    • Find the White Horse features an inverted version of this with the observation that the manager of the dogs' home looks more like a cat than a dog, even though he hates cats and only keeps Squintum because he doesn't care enough about the cat to get rid of him.
    • The Mouse Butcher has an island populated entirely by cats who were left behind after the humans departed the island, most of whom have adopted their owners' old titles, such as the titular 'Mouse Butcher' living in the old butcher's shop (although he is a skilled hunter on his own merits).

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