James Herriot is the protagonist of the story. Herriot moves from Scotland to the Yorkshire Dales, where he becomes a country veterinarian. Though he is new to the country environment of Darrowby, he quickly adjusts to the new lifestyle. Herriot is optimistic, good-natured, hardworking, and resilient. He is grateful for his career and is not driven by monetary gain; rather, he has a genuine connection with and love of animals. He is also greatly inspired by the natural landscape around him, which he thinks is much more beautiful than a city office. Herriot is also empathetic and will go to great lengths to help customers who are struggling financially due to the Great Depression.
Siegfried Farnon owns the veterinary practice in Darrowby. He is eccentric and bizarre, but also extremely generous and kind-hearted. He can be hot-tempered, especially when triggered by his younger brother Tristan, but is quick to forgive. He also has great respect for his clients and displays many qualities of a gentleman. He generously provides Herriot with a job, and continues to support and encourage him throughout his work.
Though he is Siegfried’s younger brother, the two are very different and often clash. Tristan is extremely mischievous, with little forethought of the consequences of his actions. Though never malicious, Tristan is caught up in enjoying life and pulling pranks, often with comic and disastrous results. Tristan has failed his veterinary exams, but continues to study in the hope of pulling through. Tristan and Herriot become close as they spend time looking after animals together.
Mrs. Hall is the housekeeper at Skeldale House. Though she is strict, she has a strong maternal affection for Tristan, Siegfried, and James. Mrs. Hall is a reliable cleaner and a wonderful cook. Overall, Mrs. Hall is portrayed as a figure who has a paramount role in maintaining Skeldale House.
Mrs. Pumphrey is a recurring character that is extremely eccentric and kind-hearted. Old and wealthy, her life centers on her pet Pekingese dog, Tricki Woo. She treats her dog much like a human, and expects others to do so as well—for instance, she refers to Herriot as Tricki's "Uncle Herriot." She lovingly spoils her dog with extravagant food and affection. Mrs. Pumphrey has great respect and admiration for James Herriot, and often gives him many expensive gifts (always sent from Tricki Woo) to thank Herriot.
Helen Alderson is James Herriot’s love interest, and they eventually marry each other. She is described as beautiful, patient, and likable. She is also very domestic and practical, and is happy to help around the house and make tea for guests. In many ways, Helen is a typical woman of the era. Numerous chapters are devoted to Herriot’s pursuit of Helen, and to the comical situations he creates because of it. Helen and James have great chemistry, and she is extremely supportive of his veterinary practice.
A pretty young woman whom Siegfried sees from time to time, she appears in two chapters; Herriot meets her before he meets Siegfried, when she comes by Siegfried’s home while Herriot waits to interview for his job with Siegfried. She treats Herriot very coldly. Herriot mentions her again later as a way of demonstrating Siegfried’s multitude of women, none of whom he marries.
The strict secretary that Siegfried hires to help organize the finances of his veterinary practice. She and Siegfried are often at odds with each other because Siegfried is very disorganized and does not usually follow the systems that Miss Harbottle has set up. Miss Harbottle is in her fifties and has a very commanding presence.
The caretaker of Siegfried’s property, including the cars and garden. Herriot describes him "old Boardman" and says was a “left behind from the grand old days” (45, Chapter 7). Herriot notes that Boardman does not do very much other than sitting in the saddle room. Old Boardman is a Crimean War veteran. Tristan and old Boardman are friendly with each other, and Herriot often sees them chatting, with old Boardman recounting stories of the war.
A veterinarian from the next town over, Grier is a cantankerous man who complains a lot. He also humiliates Herriot one day when he makes him dress up in a ridiculous rubber suit in order to assist him in surgery. When Grier gets injured, Herriot is asked to help Grier with his daily rounds, much to Herriot’s dismay.
Helen’s father, a quiet man. Herriot finds him intimidating because he fears that Mr. Alderson had higher hopes for his daughter’s marriage. Later, Herriot finds out that Mr. Alderson is quite caring.
All Creatures Great and Small Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for All Creatures Great and Small is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.