Hairy Maclary, Sit by Lynley Dodd Analysis

Hairy Maclary Sit by Lynley Dodd cover

Hairy Maclary, Sit! (1997) is a carnivalesque rhyming picture book written and illustrated by New Zealand storyteller Lynley Dodd. The story follows on from the immensely popular Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy (1983).

PARATEXT

Hairy Maclary, Sit is a hilarious rhyming story by Lynley Dodd. Hairy Maclary causes trouble again when he is simply not in the mood for the Kennel Club’s Obedience Class. He feels mischievous and mad and not only does he scamper away but all his friends – Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Hercules Morse, Schnitzel von Krumm and the rest follow “Galloping here, galloping there, rollicking, frolicking everywhere”!

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CARNIVALESQUE STORY STRUCTURE OF HAIRY MACLARY, SIT

Hairy Maclary, Sit is a perfect example of a carnivalesque story. Let’s plug the plot of Hairy Maclary, Sit into the carnivalesque story template and see how this category of picture book works.

An Every Child is at Home

Okay so when the story begins, Hairy Maclary isn’t at ‘home’, per se, but there’s nothing wrong with that. For our purposes, ‘home’ refers simply to a comfortable state in a familiar place (in this case the park) where everything is well and good. We already know from earlier books in the series that Hairy Maclary considers the entire neighbourhood his home.

The Every Child wishes to have fun.

As the story opens, the dogs are at a park, all pulling taught on their leads. Importantly, in the Lynley Dodd world we never see entire humans. We only ever see portions of humans. (I remember thinking of adults in this way, shocked and surprised when my mother pushed hair back over her ear to reveal an entire ear, not just the lobe.) Adults are never full humans to kids. They’re too big. They are faces or hands or (frequently) legs with a bum at the top. It’s great when you grow past people’s bums and are no longer cheek to cheek with a whole lot of bums.

I digress. Why are these dogs pulling on the leads? Because the leader of the Kennel Club’s Special Obedience Class has just shown up. Optimistically, he’s brought himself a plastic chair. Does he actually think he’ll be sitting down for this?

Doesn’t he notice that this is the SPECIAL Obedience Class? These eight dogs are ‘special’ because they are so ill-behaved! Here was me thinking Hairy Maclary was pretty well behaved. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Because assuming Hairy Maclary was one in the first book, by the time this book comes out he is 15 years old. He’s doing well. Must be those bones he cadges from the butcher, keeping him young.

Disappearance or backgrounding of the home authority figure

Over the page, we see even less of the humans. Nothing but two hands, trying to hold onto some leads. Hairy Maclary’s owner has lost control of him and he’s away! He’s running to the right, towards adventure. We don’t know why he is running or what he has seen.

Appearance of an Ally in Fun

On the next page, the ‘ally in fun’ is a duck. The duck doesn’t look much like an ‘ally’. More like an innocent victim. It flies away squawking.

Hierarchy is overturned. Fun ensues.

So far, so carnivalesque. Now we see one of the adults all tied up in leads as the other dogs rush forth, inspired by naughty Hairy.

Fun builds!

Now Hairy has some mates to chase ducks with. One of the adults (wearing paisley pants and red sneakers) falls onto her bum. Slapstick humour. The ducks are getting away. The dogs are chasing them.

Peak Fun!

The dogs have lost interest in the ducks. They run around and around a park bench, chasing each other instead. In the background is a wire rubbish bin, full of rubbish. This is a well-cared-for park. The dogs continue to run about as the leader (authority figure) commands them to stay. He loses control of the biggest dog of all, Hercules Morse.

This is how Lynley Dodd builds the story towards a climax: By increasing the size of the dogs getting away from their owners. (We already know from the first in the series that Hercules Morse is ‘big as a horse’.)

Hercules and Muffin carry a stick together. Bottomley and Hairy want in on this. Now Bitzer and Schnitzel are loose. They see those ducks in the air. Reminded of birds, all of the dogs join together and rush towards them. Strategically placed is a raised garden bed. The reader can’t see what’s behind it.

The dogs keep galloping for another few pages. Notice the shadows of the trees elongate across the grass. Though it takes us just a moment to read, in the world of the story, an entire day comes to an end. All the while, these dogs have been running free, leads flying in the air. For some reason, the sun on the following page is still fairly high in the sky. DOES THIS MEAN THEY HAVE BEEN RUNNING ALL NIGHT?

Now Lynley Dodd gives us tiny silhouettes of the humans, running after their dogs. The dogs are distinguishable; the humans are stick figures. And there are those pesky ducks again.

Surprise! (for the reader)

The dogs all land ‘splat in the pond’.

Should we be surprised? No. That’s where ducks live, after all. Also, many stories end near the sea. The Lost Daughter is one recent (adult) example but there are many others. The sea is where characters go to cleanse themselves, return to the womb/primeval state, to gaze out to the horizon and contemplate what comes next. In a carnivalesque story, though, this serious trope is overturned. There’s no revelation happening here. These dogs are having pure fun, splashing around.

Return to the Home state

The story didn’t start ‘at home’ and doesn’t end there, either. We do get a thumbnail image of Hairy Maclary shaking himself dry, so we can deduce the dogs come out of the water eventually. This is enough to let us know no one drowned or anything.

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