Where the Red Fern Grows
From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Where the Red Fern Grows Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
Where the Red Fern Grows (1961) | Written by: Wilson Rawls
Where the Red Fern Grows
Thug Notes Summary & Analysis
Sup y’all? Grab yo’ tissues and pop some Zoloft cuz today we weepin’ like a bunch of bitches with Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
Billy Coleman rollin home from work one day when he see a dog fight goin down in the streets: a whole gang of em jumpin a Redbone hound. Afta’ shakin’ dem haters off, Billy take dat pooch back to the crib to give it some love and care. Dat puppy chill-sesh throw us in to a FLASHBACK, playa!
Back when Billy was a lil ‘un, he was hittin’ his parents up fo’ a dog. Pops like “Aight, son. We’ll get you a lil pup from the neighbor’s place.” But Billy like “Bitch please, I want two redbone hounds so I can hunt coons.” That’s RA-coons!! And daddy all like: “Da hell you think this is boy? We ain’t got da ends fo’ dat.” So Billy hustle fo’ TWO DAMN YEARS til he save up enough cheddar to buy a couple dogs, and his gramps help him order em. When the dogs come in, Billy hear he gonna have to wait a week before he gets em. But Billy ain’t gonna just sit on his ass and wait, so he hikes 20 miles ONE WAY to scoop em up.
Billy end up gettin’ one boy puppy and one girl puppy, and since it’s gettin late, decide to set up shop in a cave and hold it down til morning. When a mountain lion roll up tryna mad dog em, da pups don’t take NO shit and start hollerin’ right back “WOOF WOOF MUTHAFUCKA”.
Billy start screamin his ass off and throwin rocks til eventually dat puss turns his ass around and book it. Next day, Billy leave da cave and peep two names written on a tree and decide THAT’S gonna be the dem pooches names: Old Dan and Lil’ Ann.
Back at home, Billy’s gramps help a brutha catch a coon, and then use da fur to teach Ol’ Dan and Lil’ Anne how to HUNT like BIG DAWGS. Billy recognize dat Old Dan got da muscle, but it’s Lil’ Anne who got da brains.
One da first day of hunting season, Old Dan and Lil’ Anne chase a coon up da phattest tree in town. Billy promised his pups dat once they cornered one of dem suckas, he’d do the rest. So B-money bust his ass for DAYS tryna’ cut dat tree down. Jus’ when he bout to say “fuck it,” he get down on his knees and start prayin’ fo mo’ strength.. Then what do ya know? WHOOOOOSH- a big ass wind blows the tree down and the pups GIT dat coon.
As da months go on, word on the street is dat Billy and his pups are da best hunters in da hood. Knowin he got da game sowed up, Grandpa make a bet with da local Pritchard boys sayin dat Old Dan and Lil Ann so trill that they can even catch the mysterious “ghost coon.” And jus’ like the G-UNIT they be, Billy and the dogs pretty much CATCH it, but Billy don’t wanna kill da poor thang- he just feelin’ sorry for it. When Rubin Prichard gettin’ all up in Billy’s grill fo’ bitchin’ out, Lil Anne and Old Dan start whoopin on Rubin’s pooch. Rubin grabs an axe to fight off the dogs, but he chokes and accidentally ices himself.
Later, gramps enters Billy and the pooches in to a hunting competition. Not only do Lil’ Anne win “sexiest bitch in town”, but after nights of roughin it through a redonkulous blizzard, the pups bring home the GOLD CUP. Now Billy and his fam are 3 Benjamins richer too.
Later, Billy on da hunt when Ol’ Dan and Lil’ Anne corner a damn mountain lion in a tree. When da Mountain Lion start scrappin’ with da pups, Billy grab an axe ready to bang out. But it’s the dogs who gotta save Billy’s weak ass. They eventually kill the Mountain Lion, but Old Dan gets fucked up in da fight, and dies. Lil Anne can’t go on without her puppy-bro, so she stops eating and dies too. Man. Fuck this book. I’m done. I’m done. (Sparky walks off screen) Billy just cain’t figger out why his pups had to die. And you know what? Me neither. Bullshit, man.
Ain’t all bad though, with dat swole stack o’ prize money, Billy’s family can finally get outta da boonies and move to da city. On the day of the move, Billy visits the dogs graves, where dere be some red fern growin. Brutha get all riled up and bout to chop it down, but then he remember dat according to Native American legend, only angels can plant dat shit and dat it last forever. So he decide to leave it, knowin’ dat he ain’t never gonna forget da way those dogs affected him fo’ the better.
Mah boy Edgar Allen Poe once preached dat there ain’t nuthin’ mo depressing than losin’ a lover. Guess dat fool never lost a dog. …Yeah I cried. SO WHAT??
Like Billy himself say on page 16, da love between a man and his pooch ain’t like da feeling you get when mackin’ on a hunny tryna get some action. Nuh-uh. This is some of da realest love in the game. Them dogs keep it so real that they willing to lay it ALL on the line to get their boy Billy’s back- and it ain’t just cuz they loyal. Check what Mr. Kyle say on p. 184
And it ain’t jus’ Ol’ Dan and Lil’ Anne gooin hard fo’ Billy. Matta’ fact, Billy show dat kinda love ain’t a one way street: he ALSO grindin hard in the name of love. When da pups run a coon up dat big ass tree, Billy gonna do what he promised- cut dat tree even if it take him a damn year of sweatin’ his balls off to do it. And you best BELIEVE he follow through, cuz Billy is one of the most DETERMINED cats in da hood. Whether it be hustlin to stack enough cheddar to buy the dogs, or teachin’ em to swim- Billy neva’ trippin in the face of a gnarly challenge. He just beast through it like a G.
But sometimes, determination ain’t cuttin’ it fo’ Billy. He need somethin’ mo.
A buncha times throughout this book, Billy start prayin’ fo strength, and after he do, he able to keep it clutch and get shit DONE.
And just as God pitied Billy and decided to help a brutha out when he in need, Billy always showin’ love to otha’s when they in bunk-ass situations- like when he told he gotta ghost da ghost coon, he pities da poor thang and tells Pritchard to step.
When da big man upstairs shows you love, ain’t no doubt it’s legit to pay it forward. But when you lose somebody or something that mean mo’ than life itself, how you gonna keep da faith?
Maybe yo prayers don’t always get answered da way you want em to, but that don’t mean da big G-man ain’t lookin’ out for you in other ways. Peep this convo between Billy and his dad-
All deez fresh themes- love, sacrifice, pity, and God, come together in da image Red Fern that growin on dem dogs’ graves. Word is dat only angels can plant summodat red stuff and it last fo’eva- jus’ like the memory of Lil Anne and Ol’ Dan inside Billy’s dome.
And like he say at the beginning of the book, after all these years, Billy feel like a piece of him still buried under dat fern.
Yuh, this is a kids book, but it force us to stare down the barrel of one of da realest questions they is: is there anything you love enough to give yo’ life for?
Thanks for checkin me out, son. Catch y’all lata. Peace.