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Literature / The Incredible Journey

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A children's novel by Sheila Burnford, published in 1961, about a trio of animals trekking across the Canadian wilderness in search of their family. The voyagers are Luath, a young Labrador retriever, Bodger, an old bull terrier, and Tao, a seal-point Siamese.

It's been adapted to film twice, once in 1963 and more famously in the 1993 film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The latter film changes up quite a bit, notably changing the breeds and swapping the breed types of the young and old dogs and making the male Siamese a female Himalayan (and changing the location from Northwest Ontario to the Sierra Nevada mountains of California), but loses none of the original story's ability to make grown men cry like children (along with everyone else).


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This novel contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Diabolus ex Machina: An abandoned, rotting beaver dam breaks just as the animals are swimming across a river, causing a flash flood and washing Tao away.
  • Disney Death: Tao is separated from the others when he gets washed down a flooding river. He's picked up by some kindly humans.
  • Heroic BSoD: Luath is certainly affected by Tao's Disney Death after being unable to save him, but Bodger nearly goes catatonic after he thinks he's lost his best friend.
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  • The Homeward Journey
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Bodger and both Luath and Tao, though he's closer to the cat.
  • Nameless Narrative: Close enough to count; they're referred to by ages, breeds, and species by the narrator when their owners aren't around, which is most of the story.
  • Noble Savage: A Native tribe takes a half-starved Bodger and Tao to be spirits giving them a test, and are nice to them in order to bring good fortune.
  • Old Dog: Bodger. He's more of the goofy cool grandpa type than anything.
  • Old Master: Bodger can still kick other dogs' asses when he needs to.
  • Single-Episode Handicap: Tao is temporarily deafened by nearly drowning.
  • Standardized Leader: Luath.
  • Stopped Reading Too Soon: A housekeeper finds only one page of a two-page note. This leads to confusion about who is going to be taking care of three pets for two weeks. This sets the plot in motion—the pets escape and have adventures before anyone realizes they're gone.
  • Luath, Bodger, and Tao Come Home
  • Xenofiction: During the chapters where there aren't any humans around - when there are, the perspective tends to shift away from the animals.


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