The origin of Lassie!

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Lassie, come home!

But what home would that be?

The world-famous collie, who starred in numerous movies and TV series, debuted in 1938, when one Eric Knight wrote a short story entitled “Lassie Come Home”. The story was such a success that it quickly became a full length novel, which in turn was filmed in 1942.

As most things in art, Lassie has her origins – she was born in the imagination of Eric Knight, who in turn was shaped by different twists of fate into the man who would create one of the most endearing characters in history ever!

In Knight’s book (SPOILERS AHEAD), Lassie appeared as the favored dog of a poor Yorkshire boy. The simple love between human and canine was carefully depicted as the dedicated dog greeted her master as he exited his school and then walked him home. Of course, there was a twist. The boy’s family had to endure different hardships until they were finally forced to sell the dog – however, Lassie’s love for her beloved master was strong enough to overcome any distance, and in the end she was by his school again, waiting to greet him, even though she was on the brink of death from exhaustion.

Now that you know the premise of the story, let us examine how it came to Knight’s mind:

The setting of the story is quite natural – Eric Knight was born in York, and lived there until he was 15 years old, when he moved in America to join his mother. Several years later, he settled in a farm in Pennsylvania with his wife – and in this farm, there were a lot of dogs, including Rough Collies.

However, the main trigger for the creation of Lassie was introduced only after Knight moved into Hollywood to pursue a career as a film writer.

The Knight family came to Hollywood in the company of a small terrier dog, but sadly, the dog got run over by a car early on. Deeply grieved, the following Christmas Eric bought a puppy under the pretext that it was a gift for his wife – this dog was a collie, and it quickly got very attached to Eric Knight.

This collie was named Toots, after the popular song “Okay Toots”, and it is believed that she proved to be the main inspiration for the creation of Lassie.

However, the elegant Yorkshire collie from Knight’s story couldn’t possibly be named Toots – the action took place in old York, not in New York! The dog needed a new name, and history was quick to oblige.

At the time, a certain collie had gotten famous through the war-time propaganda that was used to lift the spirits of the nation. This collie was owned by the owner of a pub in the port of Lyme Regis – the Pilot Boat. On that fateful New Years’ Eve in 1915, during the war with the Germans, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Formidable was sunk by an enemy submarine, taking 500 sailors and soldiers to their watery graves. However, a life raft was blown by gales all along the coast, until it was found in Lyme Regis. Sadly, all the men on the raft were already dead – or so it seemed. Their bodies were laid in the pub, and all were mourning. Then someone noticed that the pub’s collie was licking the feet of one of the sailors – and he was reaching towards the dog! They quickly tended to the poor man, and miraculously, he was saved!

The wondrous collie that brought a dead man back from the very gates of the afterworld was called Lassie – and so, Knight decided that his character could only bear the name of another worthy collie hero!

So, as you see, had one thing been different, Lassie would have been very different as well – or might never have existed! This dog is not only a favorite movie character; it is living history, carried to the present day, and an embodiment of the good and the bad that shaped the world into what it is today.

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