Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows Study Guide

Wilson Rawls based Where the Red Ferns Grows largely on his own boyhood in Scraper, Oklahoma. With encouragement from his wife, Sophie, he wrote the book in three weeks. She edited his poor grammar, it was serialized in the "Saturday Evening Post," and Doubleday published the novel in 1961. By the late 1960s, after a marketing blunder of targeting the book to adults, it became a classic young adult book, a poignant and adventurous tale of a boy's deep love for his two hounds. The book was also adapted for film in 1974, and an original film sequel was released in 1992.

The book centers on raccoon, or "coon," hunting in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Coons steal food from farms and are considered great nuisances, so hunting them became a sport, and Rawls minutely details the hunting process. The dogs (or sometimes a single dog) trail the scent of a wily coon through the woods at night (raccoons are nocturnal). The coon uses a number of tricks to elude the hunters, namely using water to mask its scent. The dogs try to "tree" - chase into a tree - the coon. The human hunter chops down the tree (or shoots harmless bird shot from a rifle into the tree) to knock the coon out. The dogs then try to kill the coon. After, the hunter skins the coon and sells its hide for a good price.