I’ve never read Beowulf. But I do know it’s a “tale of high adventure, fights with monsters, and great courage” because I have read Wishbone‘s Beowulf, otherwise known as Be A Wolf! For similar reasons, I still picture Quasimodo as a hunchbacked Jack Russell terrier, thanks to Hunchdog of Notre Dame.
In fact, I’ve made it through entire adult literary conversations based purely on the knowledge gleaned from certain installments of The Adventures of Wishbone, The Super Adventures of Wishbone, and Wishbone Classics. As you might recall, Wishbone was an entrepreneurial pooch with his own TV show and book series in the golden era of the 1990s. Wishbone, as I’m sure is true of most dogs, had a habit of daydreaming he was the lead character in various literary classics, mostly when his owner, Joe, faced some kind of teenage difficulty.
Each time Wishbone hopscotched into the greats of fiction, it was special. But in the canon of my childhood, there was a special section reserved for Wishbone’s retelling of The Odyssey. There it rested, between well-worn copies of such giants of fiction as The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Say Cheese and Die. These were the pillars on which I built all future reading, which might explain a significant amount about me.
Before going any further, it should be noted that one of the particular charms of Wishbone’s Odyssey adventure was that it made for an incredible PC game. You may remember it best for Eurylochus’ sassy doomsaying, the final, torturous archery challenge, or the Chutes and Ladders from Hell you had to play with Hades if you died on your journey. Considering the number of times you had to replay to finally win, it was basically Sisyphus, Jr.
As for the actual book, its relative faithfulness to the text is to be admired. There’s a reason you can skate by in a discussion of The Odyssey having read only Wishbone’s version: events follow in sequence as they should, with all the major plot points and characters along for the ride. The intermittent factoids about the source text are also helpful, should you ever need to cram for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Of course, the whole appeal of Wishbone rests largely on four little well-read legs. More than just an imaginative pup, Wishbone helped you read between the lines of Homer’s epic. He was also wiser than the characters, including, say, Odysseus. After Odysseus, in an act of idiotic hubris, boasts to the cyclops Polyphemus that it was indeed Odysseus who blinded him, Wishbone offers the following astute annotation:
“Uh-oh. It’s not a good idea to tease monsters who have friends in high places!”
Likewise, when Odysseus washes up on Calypso’s shores, it’s the furry dude who’s the voice of reason:
“Hello! Let’s see…A strange island, good food, and a beautiful woman. But they are not what they seem. Can you spell D-A-N-G-E-R?”
No, he can’t, Canine of Delphi. None of the Ithacan Clown Posse could even spell D-O-N-O-T-O-P-E-N-B-A-G-O-F-W-I-N-D.
For adults rereading the canon, be it The Odyssey or any other adventure, Wishbone retains the following lessons:
- Using a dog to teach classic literature is an educational resource and imperative.
- Reading to your dogs is important because otherwise they will be bored and fat.
- LOOK AT HIS WITTLE HEAD INSIDE THAT HELMET.
I look forward to someday reading my own children stories from The Modern Adventures of Wishbone, including his version of Gone Girl, in which Wishbone assumes the role of Nick Dunne when confronted with one of owner Joe’s psychotic girlfriends, and Wishbone’s Watchmutt, a fatalist graphic novel inspired by Joe’s pink slip and newly developed alcoholism. Woof.
What book do you want to see get the Wishbone treatment?