“Now and then, for no good reason, life will haul off and knock a man flat.”
Jim Coates – Old Yeller (1957)
“You crazy, wonderful dog!”
Katie Coates – Old Yeller (1957)
Okay – confession time. I stand among the ranks of those who were absolutely traumatized by Old Yeller as a child!
Whether you’re talking about the 1956 Newbery Award-winning book by Fred Gipson or the 1957 Walt Disney film by the same name, this story brought countless children to tears and has seared itself into our collective memory.
Why do we love this movie so? Because it shows the unique relationship that can develop between people – particularly children – and the animals that capture their young hearts. Similar to The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, and Where the Red Fern Grows, the story helps us understand that while we have a responsibility to care for animals (Proverbs 12:10), we usually end up gaining more than we give from these relationships.
Along with this, the story also displays the beauty – and the hardship – of growing up. Throughout his life and even in his death, Old Yeller is able to help his owner, Travis, become a man. It’s an incredible gift – and a bittersweet one.
Something tells me that I wasn’t the only one wiping my eyes during that final scene, either! And that’s okay, because this can be used to point us and our children straight to the gospel. The incredible sense of loss that we feel when an animal we’ve come to cherish breathes its last gives us just the tiniest glimpse of what God – the Creator of the Universe – must feel each and every time the men and women He created and loves dearly (John 3:16), choose sin and spit in His face. Of course, then comes the good news. While Old Yeller – that wonderful dog – was gone forever, there is still hope for our redemption. When it comes to us and God, things can be set right, and the perfect relationship we were always meant to have can be restored.
Maybe it’s time to revisit this classic tale of a boy and his dog. Just don’t forget the tissues!
This post was submitted as part of the A to Z Challenge, where participants agree to write an article that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, posting every day of the month of April (except Sundays).
Here on The Artistic Christian, my theme for the month is The Classics. Each day I’ll examine a book, film, or work of art that has become a beloved classic and discuss what has made it such a success, and what eternal themes it contains that Christian artists can use as modern illustrations.
For daily reflections from my personal travels around the world, check out my companion blog, Everyday Musings, where my theme for April is Reflections From Around the World.