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This is about the book. See also Disney films The Incredible Journey (film) (1963) and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993).
The hardcover version of The Incredible Journey

The Incredible Journey, by British born Canadian author Sheila Burnford, is a children's book first published by Hodder & Stoughton in London in 1961. The story, written in a realistic style (the animals do not talk, for example), tells of the adventure shared by two dogs and a cat as they travel 300 miles through the Canadian wilderness searching for their beloved masters. It reveals the suffering and stress of an arduous journey together with the unwavering loyalty and courage of the three animals. The story is set in the northwestern part of Ontario, Canada which has many lakes, rivers, and widely dispersed small farms and towns.

Although usually considered a children's book, Burnford has stated she did not write it specifically as a children's book. The book was a modest success when first published, but became widely known after 1963 when it was adapted into a movie by Walt Disney; it was remade in 1993 as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

Plot

The animals' owners, the Hunters, leave for England for university lectures and so entrust the animals to John Longridge, a family friend and godfather of the young daughter, Elizabeth. One fateful day, after John Longridge leaves for a 2 week trip of duck hunting, the animals, feeling the lack of their human companions, set out without a trace to try to find their way home to the Hunters. Mrs. Oakes, who is taking care of Longridge's home, doesn't find the animals and concludes that John must have taken them with him. The animals follow their instincts and move westward towards home, dodging danger nearly every step of the way. But when Bodger, the old Bull Terrier, is attacked, they have to slow down. Tao, the cat, is separated from the others because of a rushing river and faces several dangers before he succeeds in finding the lost dogs. Along the way, the animals are offered help several times. When the Hunters and John Longridge come back from their trips they are devastated when they learn that the animals have gone. They try to find the animals, but after giving up almost all hope, the animals one by one appear out of the woods in a happy homecoming.

Characters

  • Luath: Luath is a young Labrador. His fur is red-gold and his eyes are brown. He is of strong build. Luath is a loyal and brave companion with the instincts of a leader. Of the three pets, he is the most recent addition and stays on Bodger's left side to guide him in search for the Hunter family. Then later he eats frogs and tries to scare away other small animals, if he can, for their food. He is arguably the one who suffers the most from lack of food (though Bodger, being older is the one in the most danger).
  • Bodger: Bodger is an old English Bull Terrier. His fur is white with a slight pinkish tint. Bodger's left eye is nearly blind. The dog was born to fight and endure. Given that he is eleven years old, Bodger tires easily. Yet he is a brave, loyal, persevering and tenacious companion. He is very fond of humans, particularly children, and whenever the group comes across humans in their travels, he tries to charm them for affection and snacks, with varying results. He has an intense hostility towards all cats save Tao, who earned his respect by standing up to him when he first arrived with the family as a small kitten. Though they care deeply for Luath, he and the cat have a special bond. Bodger is the first of the animals to join the Hunter family.
  • Tao: Tao is a slender, seal-point, old style Siamese cat with sapphire eyes. An element of humor in the book is that Tao, like Bodger, despises other cats, and the two once shared many adventures terrorizing the other felines in their neighborhood; when they encounter other domesticated cats in their travels, Tao often fights them, successfully. Although he has a cat's independent nature, Tao has training similar to the dogs (for example, he will accept being put on a leash). Tao is able to open most doors, a help to the dogs in several situations. Tao is a tireless, bold and loyal animal. Tao is probably the best equipped of the three to survive in the wilderness, and has no difficulty surviving on his own when separated from the two dogs; despite this, he spends all his time seeking to rejoin them, a testament to the bond between the animals. The cat is an independent and natural hunter, catching small birds for the group (when Tao is lost to them, the dogs fare more poorly without Tao than Tao does without them). Therefore, Tao is crucial to the dogs' survival.
  • John Longridge: John Longridge is Elizabeth Hunter's godfather. He lives in a small stone house. Mr. Longridge wrote several historical books, is a writer by profession, and a bachelor
  • The Hunter Family: The Hunter Family consists of the father Jim, the mother and their two children, Peter and Elizabeth. Jim owns Luath, Elizabeth owns Tao, and Peter owns Bodger.
  • Ms. Oakes:Ms. Oakes is the caretaker of the 3 animals while John is gone on his trip
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