Call of the Wild

Reception and legacy

The Call of the Wild was enormously popular from the moment it was published. H. L. Menken wrote of London's story: "No other popular writer of his time did any better writing than you will find in The Call of the Wild."[4] A reviewer for The New York Times wrote of it in 1903: "If nothing else makes Mr. London's book popular, it ought to be rendered so by the complete way in which it will satisfy the love of dog fights apparently inherent in every man."[41] The reviewer for The Atlantic Monthly wrote that it was a book: "untouched by bookishness...The making and the achievement of such a hero [Buck] constitute, not a pretty story at all, but a very powerful one."[42]

The book secured London a place in the canon of American literature.[35] The first printing of 10,000 copies sold out immediately; it is still one of the best known stories written by an American author, and continues to be read and taught in schools.[26][43] It has been published in 47 languages.[44] London's first success, the book secured his prospects as a writer and gained him a readership that stayed with him throughout his career.[26][35]

After the success of The Call of the Wild, London wrote to Macmillan in 1904 proposing a second book (White Fang) in which he wanted to describe the opposite of Buck: a dog that transforms from wild to tame: "I'm going to reverse the process...Instead of devolution of decivilization ... I'm going to give the evolution, the civilization of a dog."[45]


The first adaptation of London's story was a silent film made in 1923.[46] The 1935 version starring Clark Gable and Loretta Young expanded John Thornton's role and was the first "talkie" to feature the story. The 1972 movie The Call of the Wild, starring Charlton Heston as John Thornton, was filmed in Finland.[47]  The 1978 Snoopy TV special What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is another adaptation. In 1981, an anime film titled Call of the Wild: Howl Buck was released, starring Mike Reynolds and Bryan Cranston. A 1997 adaptation called The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon starred Rutger Hauer and was narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. The Hollywood Reporter said that Graham Ludlow's adaptation was, "... a pleasant surprise. Much more faithful to Jack London's 1903 classic than the two Hollywood versions."[48]

In 1983-1984 Hungarian comics artist Imre Sebök made a comic book adaptation of Call of the Wild, which was also translated in German. [49] A comic adaptation had been made in 1998 for Boys' Life magazine. Out of cultural sensitivities, the Yeehat Native Americans are omitted, and John Thornton's killers are now white criminals who, as before, are also killed by Buck.

A television adaptation was released in 2000 on Animal Planet. It ran for a single season of 13 episodes, and was released on DVD in 2010 as a feature film.

Chris Sanders directed another film adaptation titled The Call of the Wild, a live-action/computer-animated film, released on February 21, 2020, by 20th Century Studios. Harrison Ford stars as the lead role and Terry Notary provides the motion-capture performance[50] for Buck the dog, with the canine character then brought to life by MPC’s animators.

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