The protagonist and narrator of the novel, 10-year-old Billy loves his dogs and coon hunting more than anything. He is also a sensitive, likable young man who cares deeply about his family and meditates frequently upon faith and death. Though he is a great coon hunter, he ultimately cares more about his dogs than about success; they have a loving bond that goes beyond mere loyalty.
Little Ann is Billy's female hound. She more than makes up for her small size with her great intelligence; no coon can outsmart her diligent tracking. She loves Billy and Old Dan; she will not hunt without them, and stays by Old Dan's side no matter what.
Billy's beloved male hound, Old Dan is small but muscular. He is also brave and exceedingly determined; he never gives up a chase, and often he must be forcibly removed from the hunt. He hunts only with Billy and Little Ann, and he and Little Ann have a mystical connection to each other.
Billy's Grandpa runs a store and is instrumental in many of Billy's hunting accomplishments. He gives Billy work and helps arrange for Billy's purchase of the hounds, and he enters them in the championship coon hunt. Grandpa is a mischievous character, cracking jokes and proudly telling tall tales about his grandson's exploits. His understanding of Billy's love for his dogs makes Billy closer with him.
Billy's Papa is a solidly moral man who always tries to do good for others. When Rubin dies, Papa is the first to help out. Papa respects Billy's boundaries; he understands that Billy is growing up and needs to do certain things, especially those related to his dogs, on his own. Papa wants the best for Billy and his family, and his hope is to move the family to town so his children can receive an education.
Billy's Mama loves him deeply and constantly frets over his safety in his hunting adventures. However, she understands how important hunting and the hounds are to Billy. Billy often has his most reflective conversations about death and spirituality with her. Her dream is to move the family to town and get an education for her children.
Two years older than Billy, the dangerously quiet Rubin is cruel and disrespectful to Grandpa. He accidentally kills himself while out hunting with Billy.
Billy's age, Rainie is excessively violent and nervous. He is shocked after Rubin's accident and cannot speak.
Billy's three sisters
Billy has great affection and love for his three sisters, who love him and his dogs - especially Little Ann. He dotes most on the youngest.
Where the Red Fern Grows Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Where the Red Fern Grows is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Billy is woken up at night by the scream of a nearby mountain lion. The dogs run out of the cave and bawl a challenge to the lion. Billy joins them and throws rocks down the mountainside. After a few hours, the lion retreats.
Billy finds an advertisement for redbone hunting hounds for sale in Kentucky: just the kind of dogs Billy imagined having. They are $25 each which is more money that Billy has but he is determined to get the money and get those dogs.