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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.

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.

His works provide examples of:

  • Adaptational Jerkass: In Noah's Brother, the rest of Noah's family are all relatively harsh to the titular character, Noah's older brother Hazardikladoram (known as 'Yessah' by his nephews), frustrated at the inconvenience of dealing with his vegetarianism and having no problem leaving him the task of cutting down the trees to make the Ark.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • Babies Ever After: Find the White Horse concludes with an epilogue set six months after the animals found Lubber's old house, with Lubber and Coleen now the parents of several puppies.
  • 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", particularly in regard to his issues with 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 family 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).
  • The Dog Is an Alien: In Harriet's Hare, the titular hare is an alien from the planet Pars who can shapeshift into apparently anything he wishes. He typically appears as a hare while on Earth, but he assumes a few other forms during his time on Earth.
  • Eye Scream: In The Mouse Butcher, the villain Great Mog lost one eye in an unspecified past accident. During the final confrontation, Tom manages to wound Great Mog by hitting him in his good eye, temporarily blinding Great Mog so that he grabs a metal pole just as it's struck by lightning.
  • Fingore: Find the White Horse sees Squintum experience the cat equivalent of this when he is caught in a fox-trap and loses a couple of toes on one foot, leaving him with a limp even after the injury heals enough for him to keep walking.
  • 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.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: One chapter of Noah's Brother reveals that the titular character once managed to prevent the Ark from sinking and nobody else ever knew about it.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: It's certainly not his fault, but nowadays the author's 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; while Magnus's parents are both still alive, he is permitted to consider Roland the rabbit his uncle, as Roland expresses a fondness for children and imagines himself to have nieces and nephews from his long-absent siblings.
    • Dodos are Forever features another lesser variation of this; the parrot Sir Francis (generally known as Frank) is an experienced and independent bird, but he essentially becomes part of a family of dodos after the pirate ship he was on sank while visiting the dodos' island.
    • 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 (although his mother is still a part of his life).
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: In The School Mouse, true to real mice's breeding habits, Flora is one of ten offspring in a litter. Her parents, Hyacinth and Ragged Robin, later have a second litter just as large.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: In Harriet's Hare, the titular hare is an alien from the planet Pars who has assumed the appearance of a hare while on holiday on Earth. He explains that his native name is basically unpronounceable in English, so Harriet calls him 'Wiz' as a shortened form of 'Wizard', considering his natural shapeshifting abilities and the hare's magical reputation.
  • 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Noah's Brother opens with the observation that the title character's full name is Hazardikladoram, but also makes it clear that nobody actually calls him that as it's too much of a mouthful. Noah just calls him "Brother" and Noah's wife only calls to him with "Hey, you!", while his nephews all call him "Yessah" as a childhood nickname after the way he initially responds to Noah's own orders.
  • Pike Peril: A pike or gar nearly kills Daggie near the end of Pigs Might Fly.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: In Pretty Polly, Abigail teaches her pet hen Polly how to talk in a manner similar to a parrot. In contrast to Madison, it is noted that Polly's responses to other statements are generally random and she only rarely says something that makes complete sense in context, 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. Squintum the cat was basically abandoned in the dog's home owned by his former owner's husband, and befriends Lubber, a lazy individual who is nevertheless the only dog to ever be polite to Squintum and demonstrates surprising strength when provoked. After Squintum helps Lubber escape the dog's home, they befriend Katie, a homing pigeon who has lost her sense of direction after an accident, and subsequently find Colleen, another dog who has been abandoned by her owners because the humans couldn't handle having a pet. The four subsequently go on a search for the titular horse, a chalk horse on the hill above the home where Lubber lived with two elderly sisters before he dozed off in the back of a moving van by accident.
  • Reading Is Cool: This is the general theme of The School Mouse, where reading isn't just cool, but also saves lives. Flora learns how to read from watching the children's lessons in the school she and her family live in, and thus is able to read the warning on the packet for the poison pellets used to exterminate the mice.
  • Recycled In Space: The Fox Busters is The Dambusters but with animals.
  • Reincarnated as a Non-Humanoid: His book The Catlady is about an old woman called Muriel who lives alone with her cats, who she insists are reincarnations of people she once knew. According to her, this includes deceased members of her family... and the late Queen Victoria!
  • 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.
  • Safe Word: A variation; in Martin's Mice, Martin's father Pug gives Drusilla's children instructions to use the password "Martin's Mice" so that he won't eat any of them by accident if he catches them.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • In Dodos are Forever, after a family of rats are left on the dodos' island, they start to attack unhatched dodo eggs, even progressing to target newly-hatched chicks a few older adults. With only two chicks having safely hatched since the rats arrived, the parrot Frank helps his personal dodo friends salvage a lifeboat left over from the ship that brought him to the island so that they can get to another island, as there are too many rats for Frank and the dodos to kill them all.
    • Noah's Brother ends with Noah's family all leaving the Ark while Yessah is away as they don't want to bother putting him with him any more. Despite being left alone, Yessah concludes that he isn't that bothered about being abandoned by his family, as he was always treated harshly by them and he will just enjoy being alive in this new world (particularly when his special dove companions rejoin him).
  • Significant Name Shift: In Martin's Mice, the baby mice call Martin "Uncle Marty" in the beginning, but when they grow older and start wanting to move out of the bathtub, they begin calling him "Mart" instead. This shows that they've lost most of the adoration they once held for him. The only exception is Drusilla's youngest, Eight, who still calls him "Uncle Martin" after he releases her.
  • 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.
  • Sluggish Sloths: In The Great Sloth Race, Dozy the sloth challenges Snoozy (who is also a sloth) to a race and the race lasts for hours. Eventually, the onlookers leave out of boredom. Dozy ends up reaching the finish line first, but Snoozy is declared the winner because the point of a sloth race is to see which sloth is the slowest.
  • 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.
  • Talk Show Appearance: In Ace, Ace's owner takes him on a TV talk show to demonstrate his abilities.
  • 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:
    • 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".
    • In Martin's Mice, Drusilla called her first brood of children "the Numbers" as they are just named One to Eight, and her second brood "the Months" as they were all named after the months of the year (it's noted that the only three girls are April, May and June). The book ends with Drusilla in her third pregnancy, musing that what she will call the coming brood depends on how many of them there are.
  • 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. However, 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.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: In The Mouse Butcher, it's observed that Great Mog is this compared to other cats, as while he has killed other cats and even a few dogs in the past he's aware that he only has raw power on his side, anticipating that his target of Tom Plug (the titular "butcher") will be too fast for him to attack directly.
  • Xenofiction: Sometimes his work falls into this, but it depends very much on the individual setting.
  • 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
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
    • In Find the White Horse, Lubber and Coleen appear to be the dog equivalent of this, as Coleen is an elegant red Irish setter while Lubber is a shaggy-haired brown-and-white mongrel dog of undefined breed.
    • In The School Mouse, Hyacinth is well-groomed while her husband, Ragged Robin, is appropriately nicknamed for his beat-up, untidy appearance (which includes a torn ear and a missing tail tip).
  • 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).
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: In Harriet's Hare, 'Wiz' the hare is actually an alien who can assume other forms, choosing a hare as his main disguise while having a holiday on Earth. He also turns into a bird on a few occasions when visiting his human friend Harriet in her room, and suggests that he could have become a tiger if he wanted.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: In Dragon Boy, it is noted that dragons take pride in ugliness and reject beauty; John has to stop himself calling Albertina's newly-laid eggs 'beautiful' and swiftly affirms that the newly-hatched Lucky is 'ugly' when he was thinking of her as 'pretty'. In turn, the dragons observe that they never hold it against John that he has the 'misfortune' to be so handsome, with John accepting the comment as it was intended and focusing on enjoying his life with his new dragon family.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In Sophie's Adventures Sophie adopts a stray cat, which she names 'Tom' and which promptly gives birth to four kittens. On ringing up her Great Aunt for new name suggestions, she's horrified to hear the suggestion of Tomboy ("That's worse than plain old Tom!") until she finds out what it really means. Later, the trope is inverted when she names three of the kittens Molly, Holly and Polly, but it turns out they are toms, and "Polly" gets renamed Ollie. note