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Dogsbody is a 1975 children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

Plot summary

In a galaxy far, far away, Sirius the Dog Star is falsely convicted of the murder of a fellow "luminary." Due to his exalted status, however, he is offered a deal. He is sentenced to spend one mortal lifetime in the form of an animal native to planet Earth. If he can recover the mysterious Zoi (which fell there after being used to kill the luminary) within that mortal lifetime, his sentence will be lifted and he will be allowed to return to the heavens to his former role as Denizen of Sirius. If he does not recover it, he will simply die at the end of the usual lifespan of that animal. Sirius, although he does not wish to leave his beloved Companion, accepts this sentence, and is born into a litter of puppies to a Labrador, belonging to cruel Mrs. Patridge and Mrs. Canning.

After surviving being thrown into the river in a sack, Sirius is rescued by Kathleen O'Brien, an Irish girl who is living with her distant uncle, Mr. Duffield, her lazy, prejudiced aunt, Daphne "Duffie" Duffield, and their two sons Basil and Robin. Her mother is dead, and her father, an Irish nationalist, is in prison after committing many crimes with the IRA. After bargaining with Duffie to allow her to keep Sirius in exchange for handling all future household chores, Kathleen takes Sirius home.

As he grows, Sirius fights with external conflicts as well as internal complications, when his past as a luminary clashes with his current life as a dog. He (eventually) makes friends with the Duffields' three cats: Tibbles, Remus, and Romulus, who later assist him in his search, and through his search for the Zoi, he also meets the town's many occupants: Miss Smith, Mr. Gumble, the policeman, and his long-lost siblings, Bruce, Patchie, Rover, and Redears.

As he gets older, Sirius becomes more aware of his luminary past, and attempts to find the Zoi. However, he is hampered in his search by Duffie, who insists that he must be tied up in the back garden all day whilst Kathleen is at school. With the assistance of Sol, the denizen of our own Sun, he escapes every day, but does not find the Zoi. Also, Duffie starts to watch him more closely after an incident when, on his way home, he comes across Kathleen being mercilessly bullied by English boys because she is Irish.

After this, he is watched more closely, but is determined to escape, as he is sure that he feels the Zoi nearby. On one of his nighttime searches, he comes across another dog like him, with white fur and red ears, who is one of a pack of dogs belonging to Arawn, the Welsh King of the Underworld. But at the same time, he realises that someone else is looking for the Zoi.

One night, the house is broken into, and the burglars try to kill Sirius. He sees them, and to his horror, one of them is his beloved Companion. Despite the love he felt for her, she still tries to kill him. To escape, Sirius, Rover, Bruce, Patchie and Redears, along with Kathleen, Basil and Robin, accidentally run with Arawn's pack, and this entitles them to ask one thing each from Arawn.

Robin asks for a puppy, and Arawn gladly gives it to him. However, Basil and Sirius both ask for the Zoi (Basil believes it to be a rare kind of meteorite) and obviously, he cannot give it to both of them. However, he solves this problem by giving a copy of it to Basil, and the real one to Sirius. However, the raw power of the Zoi is too much for the dog-body inhabited by Sirius, and it is killed.

Sirius survives, however, and is returned to his form as a luminary. However, he cannot return to be with Kathleen as he wishes, because the energies in him would kill her if he went near to her. As well as this, Kathleen would have no idea who he is, since she only knew him as a dog.

In the end, Kathleen is adopted by the kindly Miss Smith after her father is shot in an attempted prison escape. She also has a puppy, like Robin's one, with a white coat and red ears, just like Sirius. Sirius himself has returned to his sphere. He keeps the sphere previously occupied by his Companion empty, and refuses ever to get another.

Many references are made to mythology, particularly Welsh mythology in the appearance and actions of the dogs (see Cŵn Annwn) and several later characters such as Arawn.

Reception and Reviews

SF writer Orson Scott Card, reviewing several DWJ reissues in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, wrote

Yet even with a dog hero, Jones does not overload us with cute animals. Instead they are dangerous and, by and large, rather stupid. Of course, so are the humans, so the struggle between human and animal isn't entirely one-sided. Dogsbody has become, deservedly, a classic, not despite but because of its completely nontraditional cosmology. [1]

References

  1. Card, Orson Scott (February 1992), "Books to Look For", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, retrieved 10/1/2008  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

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