Bibliographic Information (best version for telling): "The Emissary," by Ray Bradbury, c 1946 and reprinted from The October Country, New York, Rupert Hart-Davis. Selected from the short stories within The Hounds of Hell: Weird tales about dogs, edited by Michel Perry, London, Victor Gollancz, 1974. pp. 143-151.


Ethnic Origin: American


Running Time:  15 minutes


Risks Taken with this Story: I'm not a fan of scary stories, but to me this story touches on some topics that I'm often told not to talk about:


·        How important it is for a lonely person to have an emissary.


·        Forgiving a dog for its instinct to dig and to roll in disgustingly smelly stuff.


·        What can happen to and with a dead body? (scientific morbidity and curiosity about whether they really go "Dancing in the zombie zoo")


This story is a risk for me because (1) I am mourning the recent death of Roscoe, the dog who was my emissary since 1988. (2) My husband did not want to hear the story again after my first reading of it. First he thought it was too sad and then added that it was gross. Awareness that my selection won't please everyone is a new experience for me. This makes the performance more important than the content! (3) As a literary tale, it requires more focus on learning the story as written and less opportunity to escape that by doing more analysis of version and variants. (4) The descriptions are more important parts to telling the story than the plot, making it more challenging to tell than the other two stories I've told this semester. (5) I want my audience to feel the intensity of a dog-human relationship, and to consider what could happen if we get what we wish for! I believe hitting these power centers are key.


Power Center(s):  (Martin's emotional peaks and valleys)


From loneliness to elation with Dog's repeated delivery of Miss Haight.


Confidence/smugness that dead people don't just lie still in the graveyard forever.


Deepening sadness over the loss of Miss Haight, no more visitors, compounded by disappearance of Dog.


 Brief hopefulness becomes confusion and ultimately terror with Dog's return


Characters:   Martin Smith, Dog, Mom, Miss Haight, Miss Tarkin.  Brief mention in name only: Father, Mr. Holloway, Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Gillespie, Mr. Smith, Mrs. Holmes and any friend or near-friend.




1. October -- this incredible beast


2. Successful retrieval


3. Is that all the dead do? Just lie there?


4. Leading up to Halloween (Dog no longer in and out 10 dozen times a day.) On Oct. 30, he doesn't return at all.


5. Friday night alone at home... Dog's return


Synopsis: Martin, a sick house-bound 10-year old, gets information from the outside world from Dog, who is in trouble for digging where he shouldn't. The sick boy attaches a tin note to Dog's collar requesting visitors. Dog brings Miss Haight, his teacher from school, and she visits daily over the course of 9-10 days. When Martin learns of Miss Haight's death, he relates Dog's inability to "play dead" very long to the impossibility that death means lying motionless for eternity in the cemetery. Dog's journeys become longer (not returning 10 dozen times a day as before) and his behavior changes. When Dog doesn't return the night before Halloween, Martin becomes very lonely and depressed. When Martin wishes for Dog's return, he gets more than he bargained for.


 Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":


Analogy used to further describe what Dog had fetched during the special season ("this incredible beast was October"):


·        goldenrod, acorn husk, feather (etc.) like charcoals shaken from a blaze of maple trees 


Special phrases about how Martin learned about the outside world through Dog:


·        Through the loomings of the universe Dog shuttled; the design was hid in his pelt.


·        Martin trembled his fingers, searched the thick fur, read the long journey.


Tempo varies within story and there are several important spots to pause.


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):


The stories within Ray Bradbury's October Country could be appreciated by a young adult audience, but the life experience of adulthood makes them much more appropriate for a more mature audience. While enjoying visitors is not really age-specific, adults who remember when children were quarantined at home will empathize with the main character more. Older adults (or any who have not been bombarded with the unreal aspects of terror from television) can more fully experience the terror of Martin's last visitor than younger audience members who are less likely to have the option to send the sitter home and be alone at night.


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?


Since this is a literary tale, this search was not done.


 Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.


Although this section does not apply since the previous question was unanswered, I must comment on my brief research on Ray Bradbury's short stories. I unfairly judged this writer as a science fiction type whose work I could never appreciate. While searching for the elements I wanted in my final selection for storytelling, I found this while looking in subjects: Dogs--Folklore. Once I picked this story, I chose to look at it within the copy of The October Country that was in the Undergraduate Library and then in an earlier published edition in Davis Library. Although I had reasonably good success finding biographical information about the author, reviewing the other titles in the Davis collection was a most pleasurable way to learn more about his story and poetry writing. I am looking forward to the break between terms so that I can read more!