In honour of “Cruella” here are some of the wildest things which happen in the original 101 Dalmatians

Not the Disney movie, the book!

It’s a very good children’s book but full of “What?!” moments, far many more than the Disney version or indeed “Cruella.” In no order:

-A lot is made about how it’s terrible for a dog to harm a human, but also Pongo and Missus (his wife, Perdita exists but isn’t married to him) meet a dog near the end who’s just totally down for murder. In fact he’s so casual about it one has to wonder how many troublesome humans he’s killed.

“Why not kill this Cruella?” said the Staffordshire. “And I’ll help you. Let’s make a date for it now.”

Pongo shook his head. He had come to believe that Cruella was not an ordinary human but some kind of devil. If so, could one kill her? In any case, he didn’t want his pups to have a killer-dog for a father. He would have sprung at Cruella if she had attacked any pup, but he didn’t fancy cold-blooded murder. He told the Staffordshire so.

“Your blood would soon warm up, once you started the job,” said the Staffordshire. “Well, let me know if you change your mind. And now you take a nap, mate. You’ve still got quite a job ahead of you.”

-Pongo is right! Cruella is said to be descended from what might be the LITERAL DEVIL:

“By this time,” the Colonel went on, “people were calling the place Hell Hall, and the de Vil chap plain devil. The end came when the men from several villages arrived one night with lighted torches, prepared to break open the gates and burn the farmhouse down. But as they approached the gates a terriffic thunderstorm began and put the torches out. Then the gates burst open—seemingly of their own accord—and out came de Vil, driving a coach and four. And the story is that lightning was coming not from the skies but from de Vil—blue forked lightning. All the men ran away screaming and never came back. And neither did de Vil. The house stood empty for thirty years. Then someone rented it. It’s been rented again and again, but no one ever stays.”

-And her husband (yep, she has a husband) seems weirdly chill with this.

They dashed towards Cruella and seized the hem of the cloak. It slipped from her shoulders quite easily—and fell on top of Pongo and Missis. Blindly they hurled themselves along the Outer Circle, with the cloak spread out over them and looking as if it were runing by itself. Cruella screamed. “It’s bewitched! Go after it—quick!”

“No fear!” said Mr. de Vil. “I think an ancestor of yours is running away with it. You’d better come indoors.”

-Cruella’s henchmen in the book are called Saul and Jasper Baddun, and they’re obsessed with a television game show called “What’s My Crime?”

Two ladies and two gentlemen, in faultless evening dress, had to guess the crime committed by a lady or gentleman in equally faultless evening dress. Stern moralists said this programme was causing a crime wave and filling the prisons, because people committed crimes in the hope of being chosen as contestants. But crime is usually waving and the prisons are usually full, so probably “What’s My Crime?” had not made much difference. Both the Badduns longed to appear as contestants, but they knew they would never be chosen unless they committed a really original crime, and they had never been able to think of one.

One of the contestants “stole two hundred bath plugs from hotels” a bit of a far cry from “murdering a hundred puppies” like the Badduns plan to do. (They end up really enjoying prison because all the cool criminals are there.)

-Mr Dearly (not Darling) has some sort of very high-up government job which makes me incredibly suspicious of him.

At the time when this story starts he was rather unusually rich for a rather unusual reason. He had done the Government a great service (something to do with getting rid of the national debt) and, as a reward, had been let off his income tax for life. Also the Government had lent him a small house on the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park—just the right house for a man with a wife and dogs.

All sounds a bit dodgy (dog-dgy?) if you ask me.

-Cruella is punished not with death or prison but by her hair turning hideous.

“She won’t look very well in anything,” said the cat. “You’ve heard of people’s hair going white in a single night, from shock? That’s happened to the black side of her hair. And the white side’s gone green—a horrid shade. People are going to think it’s dyed. Well, I’m glad to have finished with the de Vils.”

-There’s a child, established as being two years old, who just randomly roams about near roads with only his dog for supervision.

When they reached Dympling they went for a walk round the village and met Tommy Tompkins out with the Sheepdog. So the little blue cart was returned then and there—rather a relief to the Dearlys, who wouldn’t quite have known what to say to Tommy’s parents.

(He also can communicate with said dog.)

The book has a slightly religious bent. An open church is what saves the puppies from death, though they don’t know what a church is. Cadpig, the youngest puppy, muses on this in the novel’s closing sentences:

She often remembered that building, and wondered who owned it—someone very kind, she was sure.

And considering that Cruella is descended from Satan himself… turns out this novel is actually a battle between heaven and hell as played out via dognapping.