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Literature / Shiloh

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Shiloh is a children's novel written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in 1991. It received the Newbery Medal award in 1992 and has three sequels: Shiloh Season, Saving Shiloh, and A Shiloh Christmas. The first three books have been adapted into movies. The books, especially the first one, are quite commonly an assigned book for reading in schools.

The story follows Marty Preston, an eleven year old boy who lives with his family in the small town of Friendly, West Virginia. One day he finds a lone beagle near his house, which follows him around and eventually goes home with him. Connecting with the dog, Marty dubs him Shiloh after an old abandoned school nearby. However, he soon learns that the beagle belongs to his drunken and somewhat violent neighbor, Judd Travers, and is forced to give Shiloh back. After seeing Judd's cruel treatment of the dog, Marty decides to take matters into his own hands and takes the dog back, caring for it in secret. Soon, he is faced with many moral and ethical problems concerning Shiloh.


Tropes associated with this series:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Judd was beaten and emotionally neglected by his parents growing up. As a result, he has little compassion for others and doesn't understand why Marty is so invested in Shiloh.
    • Pastor Dawes locks his daughters outside in the middle of winter and puts them in a chair with arm restraints. He is also emotionally abusive, constantly telling them their souls are damned to hell. It's implied that he became that way due to his own father, and the end of book 4 suggests that he's seen the error of his ways.
  • The Alcoholic: Judd drinks a lot.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The first book never mentions when it takes place. TVs exist yet at the same time it seems too old-fashioned for the 1990s, setting the book presumably somewhere between 1940-1970.
  • American Accents: The series is written in first-person from Marty's perspective, and he narrates the same way he speaks—with an Appalachian accent.
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  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Dara Lynn is sometimes this to Marty.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the first book, Judd has made Marty dislike him by poaching deer, treating his dogs badly, spitting tobacco near people, cheating a Scatter Brained Senior storekeeper, and accidentally blocking Marty's view of a motorcycle show while sitting in front of him.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Judd is a ratty man who no one likes. He keeps his hunting dogs in the bare minimum conditions and sees them only as tools. He beats his dogs and starves them. It's implied he even killed one in the past.
  • Bowdlerise: If Judd gives his dogs names instead of numbers, they're "Git", "Scram", "Out", and "Dammit". In the film, the last of these is changed to "Idiot" despite "Dammit" not being at all uncommon in PG-rated family movies.
  • Canine Companion: Shiloh serves as one to Marty.
  • Cute Kitten: Dara Lynn is jealous that Marty is allowed to have Shiloh when she always wanted to have a kitten. In book 3, Marty tells her that they are going to get one.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Averted throughout the series. Not only is Shiloh's life put in danger, but also Judd, and Marty's little sister. They all survive.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Judd's treatment of his dogs is seen as abhorrent, but everyone's hands are tied as Judd can legally do whatever he wants with his own dogs. This is accurate for the time period the story is set in, but this idea has become much less acceptable over time and Judd would probably be facing charges of animal cruelty in a modern setting.
  • Dog Food Diet: Played with. While hiding Shiloh, Marty feels increasingly guilty about using his family's food (which is scarce) to feed him, and asks the local grocery store for food that has gone bad or can't be sold. But since he can't tell the grocer why he needs the food, it's assumed that the Prestons are falling on such hard times that they need to resort to eating off food. Marty's father is confused as to why he keeps finding gifts of food in the mailboxes on his route as a mailman.
  • Dog Stereotype:
    • Shiloh is a friendly Beagle who the rural main character befriends. In Shiloh's case, he's based off a real dog who the writer mistook for a Beagle when she was actually a mixed-breed.
    • An aggressive German Shepherd character appears and mauls Shiloh.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In order to finally keep Shiloh, Marty strives to proves he deserves to keep the dog. He even buys Shiloh from Judd through his own hard labor.
  • Film of the Book: The films change some elements, such as the income of Marty's family, but they are accurate enough that the writer praised them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Judd in the later books.
  • No Name Given: Judd refuses to name his hunting dogs and instead refers to them by numbers.
  • Precious Puppies: Shiloh is only a puppy when Marty meets him.
  • The Runaway: All of Judd's older siblings ran away from his father, and Judd himself contemplated doing the same in a rowboat like Huckleberry Finn.
    Judd: One by one they all left, soon as they could. One took the car, one took my dad's shotgun and rifles, and the other two ... I guess they took what money they could get their hands on.
  • Shrinking Violet: Due to being abused by Judd, Shiloh is an unusually quiet dog. Judd claims that he was always shy. This behavior is especially odd because he's a Beagle, a breed known for being loud and energetic.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Dara Lynn and Marty.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Marty's friend David has a pet hermit crab. David is unusual in the setting because his parents are richer than most of their neighbors.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The driving point of the original novel is that many have the viewpoint that Shiloh is just a dog and his owner, bad or good, is the only one with the right to own him.


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