The Hound of Florence: 01/24/20
The Hound of Florence by Felix Salten and Huntley Paterson (Translation) is the tale of an artist's son who in his hour of misfortune finds a magic ring and wishes to be a nobleman's dog. He gets his wish, though only part-time, and the novelty of being a greyhound quickly wears thin.
In the past I've gone through periods where the majority of what I read is older than I am — often from the early 20th century or as far back as the mid to late 19th century. I'm not in one of those periods, but sometimes an older book still manages to pique my interest.
My journey towards The Hound of Florence began in late 2019 when I read The Ghost in Apartment 2R by Denis Markell. The book includes a tale of a man being transformed into a dog by his wife. While that story is from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights it got me thinking of The Shaggy Dog (1959) film.
It's been about thirty-five years since I last watched the film or its sequel, The Shaggy D.A. (1976). I have not seen the remake. When I was younger I didn't bother with reading the credits. This time I did and saw that The Hound of Florence by Felix Salten was listed as the source material. Salten was also the author of Bambi (which I have neither read nor watched).
The Hound of Florence is historical fiction with a dose of fantasy. It's set, as far as I can, during the Renaissance. It starts in Vienna shortly after the death of Lucas Grassi's father. His father had been artist but now Lucas is an orphan and will be out on the streets soon.
It's while he's out on a walk, lamenting his fate and mourning his father, that Lucas first sees archduke's coach and the beautiful greyhound running alongside. He wishes he could be that dog. The next morning he finds that he is that dog. He's literally inside the mind and body of the dog.
There are three big differences between the book and the film. The first is the setting — Italy, or rather individual city states that would later be brought together under the Italian flag, vs. some unnamed American city. The second is the time period — four hundred years in the past from when the book was published, vs contemporary — the late 1950s. Third, how the transformation works. In the book, Lucas is transported to where the dog is and in his human form wakes up near where the dog was. In the film the dog transports to where Wilby Daniels is, meaning it's the dog's sudden appearance in places where he shouldn't be that alerts others to the curse.
While neither version is perfect, I much prefer the simplistic, gag driven Disney film to the slower, more plodding novel. There is more cruelty to animals in the novel. That beautiful greyhound is beaten for disobeying. Much of that disobedience is a direct result of Lucas being in control of the body. The Archdukes's growing hatred of a perceived untrainable dog becomes Wilson Daniel's allergies and dislike of dogs. But for all his blustering, he's not violent against the sheepdog in the same way that the Archduke is to the greyhound.