REBECCA JACQUES | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST
“I had heard the old Indian legend about the red fern. How a little Indian boy and girl were lost in a blizzard and had frozen to death. In the spring, when they were found, a beautiful red fern had grown up between their two bodies. The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, that spot was sacred.”
Wilson Rawls, “Where the Red Fern Grows”
“Where the Red Fern Grows” has alway been a favorite of mine. I love how there are two stories: the one that is outwardly told and the hidden story that is ultimately revealed at the end of the movie. One of the themes I’ve found and always loved is that friendships are forever. Once that connection is made, it will be there till the end. Alongside that theme, I like how the film shows the growth of the dogs and the main character throughout the movie in both coon hunting ability and friendship. I remember my first time seeing this movie and crying by the time the credits began to roll.
The legend of the red fern can be seen in the story behind the movie and comes around full circle. The first release of the movie, “Where The Red Fern Grows,” was in 1974. This movie follows a young boy, Billy Coleman, in his quest to get a dog of his own, or two dogs in his case. Billy is determined to get himself some coon hunting dogs no matter what, even if it means working long and hard to raise the money needed. Saving up the money he makes hauling wood, he asks his grandpa to order the dogs he had seen advertised in a local newspaper. It is here that their adventure together begins: training the pups, hunting in the forest and an encounter with an elusive ghost coon. Their story is full of adventure, suspense and friendship. It is one that goes on to great victory; yet it all can fall down so easily. When out hunting one night, an attack on the trio ends in the worst way. Left alone, the other dog is left sad and often doesn’t want to get out of bed. Weeks come and go and the two dogs are able meet once again, leaving a red fern in their wake.
Billy’s story doesn’t end there, though. In 1994, twenty years after the original movie was released, “Where The Red Fern Grows 2” came out. This movie takes place after WWII; Billy Coleman returns to his Louisiana home after serving his country. To his surprise, two dogs are awaiting him as a therapeutic gift. Specifically, two Redbone hounds hounds very similar to those he had as a boy. Meeting a local boy by the name of Wilson, the two become close friends over time. The two work together to train the two pups and hunt in the nearby woods. Through their friendship, Billy is able to, in a sense, relive his childhood and rediscover the gift of giving and find hope in his life. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat the original.