Old Yeller



Fred Gipson made a career out of spinning Western-themed stories for pulp magazines at first, and later for full-length book publishers. Popular in his time for the 1947 Hound-Dog Man, Gipson is best known today as the author of Old Yeller. Published in 1956, Disney adapted it for the screen in 1957, and the dingy “yeller” dog of Gipson’s imagination has ever since imprinted itself on the imaginations of readers and moviegoers of all ages all over the world.

Gipson himself had always been fond of true adventure tales, feeling as though he learned more about history from these stories than he did from stale, standardized history books. The reader of Old Yeller will likely feel the same. In the novel, Gipson relates not only a boy-and-his-dog story but also a vivid reflection of what life must have been like in 1860s Texas. Set on a settlement on the edge of civilization, the novel tells the story of Travis and his family and their day-to-day lives on their farm. Most of the adventure comes from run-ins with wild animals, but even without the run-ins, Old Yeller is a fascinating glimpse into another time period. The amount of history underlying the novel makes it that much more appealing to readers who can appreciate a broader scope. Gipson surely could, and it is felt throughout the novel.

Part of what makes Old Yeller a classic is its unpretentious, unsentimental approach to life on the frontier in the post-Civil War West. Gipson gives the details in short, sweet strokes regarding the making of soap, the hanging of meat, the marking of hogs, the plowing of fields, the governance of animals, the society life of a settlement, and the lengths to which families had to go to survive. His characters are truly rough-and-ready, full of a kind of living that has long since left the American landscape. That Gipson is able to bring it back so clearly after nearly a century is a testament to his ability as a storyteller.

For that reason, the novel has been enjoyed not only by children but by...

Sign up to continue reading Introduction >

Essays About Old Yeller