10 Facts About The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild catapulted Jack London to literary fame. The book follows a dog named Buck who’s forced from his cushy life in California to the Alaska gold rush, where he adapts and begins to thrive despite cruel conditions. The novel was one of the most popular books of the 20th century and made London the highest-paid writer of his time. 

1. Jack London was rejected 664 times in his first five years as a writer. 

As a young man in the slums of Oakland, London threw himself into writing. He later said, “On occasion I composed steadily, day after day, for fifteen hours a day. At times I forgot to eat, or refused to tear myself away from my passionate outpouring in order to eat.” At first, this deluge yielded nothing but rejection. London would impale every rejection slip on a spindle in his writing room and soon had a column of paper four feet high. In fact, he amassed 664 rejection letters in the first five years of writing.  

2. He went to the Klondike Gold Rush to escape poverty.

By age 21, London had yet to publish and was running out of money, so he joined the thousands of people going to the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1897, he staked eight claims along the Stewart River but yielded little gold. He suffered through an Alaskan winter reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Darwin’s The Origin of Species—both influences on The Call of the Wild. Then, after almost a year of eating beans, bread, and bacon, he contracted scurvy and decided to return to California. He rafted 2000 miles down the Yukon River then hired himself on boats to get back to San Francisco. He was as penniless as the day he left, but he had a wealth of new material.

3. London was affected by the animal cruelty in the Klondike.

London with his childhood dog Rollo, Wikimedia Commons

London, a lifelong animal lover, was appalled by the cruelty he saw in Alaska. In one case, he wrote about “Dead Horse Trail,” a section of pass littered with the bodies of horses. “Men shot them, worked them to death, and when they were gone, went back to the beach and bought more,” London wrote. “Some did not bother to shoot them—stripping the saddles off and the shoes and leaving them where they fell. Their hearts turned to stone—those which did not break—and they became beasts, the men on Dead Horse Trail.” Though The Call of the Wild is about dogs, this same heartlessness is vividly depicted in the book. 

4. Buck was based on a dog named Jack. 

While in Alaska, London became friends with the brothers Marshall and Louis Whitford Bond. They owed a cabin near Dawson City and London was their tenant. Their dog, a St. Bernard-Collie mix also named Jack, must have made an impression on London. He later wrote Marshall Bond, "Yes, Buck was based on your dog at Dawson." 

5. He also modeled the California ranch in the book on the Bond family. 

In 1901, London visited the Bond brothers at their ranch in Santa Clara, which was owned by their father, Judge Hiram Gilbert Bond. The home was the basis for Judge Miller’s ranch in the book, down to details like the “artesian well” and family involvement in a fruit growers' meeting and an athletic club.

6. At first, publishers didn’t care about London’s Alaskan adventure.

When London returned home, he promptly resumed being rejected by editors. The San Francisco Bulletin returned a 4,000-word essay about Alaska with the note, "Interest in Alaska has subsided in an amazing degree." But London persisted. Finally, six months after his trip, The Overland Monthly took the story To The Men On The Trail. London began, slowly but surely, to publish. 

7. The book started as a short story ... 

In 1902, London published a short story in Cosmopolitan called "Diablo — A Dog," where a dog named Bâtard kills his master. On December 1, London started a companion piece to the story, this time focusing on writing about a “good dog.” He intended it to be a short story of around 4000 words, but it started to grow. Soon he was working on it day and night. Three months later, he’d written 32,000 words, the size of a novella. He titled it The Call of the Wild.

8. ... that was first serialized by The Saturday Evening Post. 

The story ran as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post during the summer of 1903. The magazine paid London $750. In July, the book was published by Macmillan. The first printing sold out in 24 hours. The reviews were raves, with critics championing London as a brave new voice. "His books are strong meat for the anemic generation that worships at the shrine of Henry James,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, “but they will delight all people with red blood in their veins.” The Atlantic Monthly implied London was the American Kipling. 

9. Jack London was accused of plagiarizing. 

In 1907, an article in The Independent suggested that London had plagiarized Egerton R. Young’s book My Dogs in Northland. The article placed passages of both books side by side so the reader could compare. Read it yourself here. In an accompanying letter, London admits using Young’s book as a source for the novel, and had even told Young that himself. But because Young’s story was nonfiction, and since London didn’t use the same language, he didn’t consider it plagiarism.

10. The book indirectly made Jack London rich. 

The Call of the Wild made London’s name. Although it was a bestseller, he didn’t see any of the royalties—he’d taken an upfront flat fee of $2000 for the novel. But when he followed up with White Fang, it wasn’t long before he was the highest-paid author in the United States. He continued to churn out work, writing over 50 books before his untimely death at age 40. The Call of the Wild is still widely read today, and is considered to be one of the books that shaped America

10 Fascinating Facts About The Scarlet Letter

These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way. When Nathaniel Hawthorne published the novel on March 16, 1850, it was a juicy bestseller about an adulterous woman forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest by a community steeped in religious hypocrisy. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the classic tome.


Hawthorne, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, was aware of his messy Puritan heritage. His great-great-grandfather William Hathorne came to Salem in 1636. As the Massachusetts Bay delegate, he tried to rid the town of Quakers by having them whipped and dragged through the street half naked. His son, John Hathorne, was even worse. As a magistrate during the Salem witch trials of 1692, he examined more than one hundred accused witches, and found them all guilty. Hawthorne detested this legacy and distanced himself from his ancestors by adding the “W” to the spelling of his name.


Unable to support his family by publishing short stories, Hawthorne took a politically appointed post at the Salem Custom House in 1846. Three years later, he was fired because of a political shakeup. The loss of his job, as well as the death of his mother, depressed Hawthorne, but he was also furious at Salem. "I detest this town so much that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people see me,” he said.

It was in this mood that he started The Scarlet Letter.


In 1846, Hawthorne's sister-in-law Elizabeth Peabody published the work of Hungarian linguist Charles Kraitsir. Two years later, it was discovered that Kraitsir’s wife had seduced several of his students at the University of Virginia. He left his wife and daughter in Philadelphia and fled to Peabody for help. Peabody responded by going to Philadelphia in an attempt to gain guardianship of the daughter. This didn’t go over so well with the wife. She followed Peabody back to Boston and confronted her husband. In response, Peabody and Kraitsir tried to get her committed to a lunatic asylum. The press got wind of the story and Kraitsir was skewered for looking weak and hiding behind Peabody’s skirts. Hawthorne watched as the scandal surrounding a woman’s affairs played out on the public stage, right as he was starting The Scarlet Letter.


Hawthorne must have known there was historical precedence for The Scarlet Letter. According to a 1658 law in Plymouth, people caught in adultery were whipped and forced “to weare two Capitall letters namely A D cut out in cloth and sowed on theire vpermost Garments on theire arme or backe.” If they ever took the letters off, they would be publicly whipped again. A similar law was enacted in Salem.

In the town of York (now in Maine) in 1651, near where Hawthorne’s family owned property, a woman named Mary Batchellor was whipped 40 lashes for adultery and forced to wear an ‘A’ on her clothes. She was married to Stephen Batchellor, a minister over 80 years old. Sound familiar?


In an 1871 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, editor James T. Fields wrote about being Hawthorne’s champion. Not only did he try to get Hawthorne reinstated in his Custom House post, Fields said he convinced Hawthorne to write The Scarlet Letter as a novel. One day, while trying to encourage the despondent writer ("'Who would risk publishing a book for me, the most unpopular writer in America?' 'I would,' said I"), Fields noticed Hawthorne’s bureau. He said he bet Hawthorne had already written something new and that it was in one of the drawers. Hawthorne, flabbergasted, pulled out a manuscript. “How in Heaven's name did you know this thing was there?” he said. He gave Fields the “germ” of The Scarlet Letter. Fields then persuaded Hawthorne to alter “the plan of that story” and write a full-sized book. The rest is history.

Or is it? Hawthorne’s wife Sophia said of Fields’s claims: “He has made the absurd boast that he was the sole cause of the Scarlet Letter being published!" She added that Edwin Percy Whipple was the one who encouraged Hawthorne.


Hester Prynne is a tall, dignified character who endures her outcast status with grace and strength. Although she has fallen to a low place as an adulteress with an illegitimate child, she becomes a successful seamstress and raises her daughter even though the authorities want to take the child away. As such, she’s a complex character who embodies what happens when a woman breaks societal rules. Hawthorne not only knew accomplished women such as Peabody and Margaret Fuller, he was writing The Scarlet Letter directly after the first women's rights convention in New York in 1848. He was one of the first American writers to depict “women’s rights, women’s work, women in relation to men, and social change,” according to biographer Brenda Wineapple.


As you probably know, Hawthorne hits you in the head with symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter, starting with the characters’ names—Pearl for an unwanted child, Roger Chillingworth for a twisted, cold man, Arthur Dimmesdale for a man whose education cannot lead him to truth. From the wild woods to the rosebush by the jail to the embroidered ‘A’ itself, it’s easy to see why The Scarlet Letter is the book that launched a thousand literary essays.


In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once. He apparently had affection for the word, which means dishonor, infamy, disgrace, or shame. Either that, or he needed a thesaurus.


While the reviews were generally positive, others condemned The Scarlet Letter as smut. For example, this 1851 review by Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe: “Why has our author selected such a theme? … Is it, in short, because a running underside of filth has become as requisite to a romance, as death in the fifth act to a tragedy? Is the French era actually begun in our literature? … we honestly believe that "the Scarlet Letter" has already done not a little to degrade our literature, and to encourage social licentiousness.” This kind of rhetoric didn’t hurt sales. In fact, The Scarlet Letter’s initial print run of 2500 books sold out in 10 days.


The Scarlet Letter made Hawthorne a well-known writer, allowed him to purchase a home in Concord, and insured an audience for books like The House of Seven Gables. However, The Scarlet Letter didn’t make Hawthorne rich. Despite its success in the U.S. and abroad, royalties weren’t that great—overseas editions paid less than a penny per copy. Hawthorne only made $1500 from the book over the remaining 14 years of his life. He was never able to escape the money troubles that plagued him.

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Pop Culture
Is the True Identity of Voldemort's Pet Snake Hidden in the New Fantastic Beasts Trailer?
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In the Harry Potter series, many of Voldemort's horcruxes were give rich backstories, like Tom Riddle's diary, Marvolo Gaunt's ring, and of course, Harry himself. But the most personal horcrux containing a fragment of Voldemort's soul is also the biggest mystery. Voldemort carries Nagini the snake with him wherever he goes, but we still don't know how the two met or where Nagini came from. Fans may not have to wait much longer to find out: One fan theory laid out by Vanity Fair suggests that Nagini is actually a cursed witch, and her true identity will be revealed in the next Fantastic Beasts movie.

On March 13, the trailer dropped for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment in the Harry Potter prequel series written by J.K. Rowling. The clips include lots of goodies for fans—including a first look at Jude Law as young Dumbledore—but one potential bombshell requires closer examination.

Pay attention at the 1:07 mark in the video below and you'll see Claudia Kim, the actress playing a new, unnamed character in the film. While we don't know much about her yet, Pottermore tells us that she is a Maledictus or “someone who suffers from a ‘blood curse’ that turns them into a beast.” This revelation led some fans to suspect the beast she transforms into is Nagini, the snake destined to be Voldemort's companion.

That isn't the only clue backing up the theory. The second piece of evidence comes in the trailer at the 1:17 mark: There, you can see an advertisement for a "wizarding circus," featuring a poster of a woman resembling Kim constricted a by massive snake.

If Kim's character does turn out to be Nagini, the theory still doesn't explain how she eventually joins forces with Voldemort and becomes his horcrux. Fans will have to wait until the film's release on November 16, 2018 for answers. Fortunately, there are plenty of other Harry Potter fan theories to study up on in the meantime.

[h/t Vanity Fair]


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