Sunday, February 14, 2010

Children's Classics: Jock of the Bushveld in 3D


I wonder how many international readers know of the South African children’s classic Jock of the Bushveld. I’ve just read that this well loved book is being turned into an animated full-length 3D feature movie. For those not in the know, let me tell you something about this wonderful children’s book.


Jock’s History

Jock of the Bushveld is a true story by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, recounting his adventures in the Lowveld in the late 19th century, with his dog, Jock. The book tells of Fitzpatrick’s travels with his dog, Jock, during the 1880s, when he worked as a storeman, prospector’s assistant, journalist and ox-wagon transport-rider in the Bushveld region of the Transvaal (then the South African Republic). Fitzpatrick later recounted these adventures as bedtime stories to his four children. Rudyard Kipling, a good friend of Fitzpatrick, also took part in these storytelling evenings and eventually persuaded him to collect these tales in book form. Illustrations for the book were done by Edmund Caldwell, a brother of Mary Tourtel, creator of Rupert Bear.

The book was first published in 1907 and had an extremely warm reception, being reprinted four times in that year alone. Since then it has achieved the status of a classic South African book and has been also widely read abroad—more than one hundred editions have been printed and it has been translated into Afrikaans, Dutch, French, Xhosa and Zulu, amongst others. Jock was saved by Fitzpatrick from being drowned in a bucket for being the runt of the litter (he would ruin the litter if left with them). Jock was very loyal towards Percy, and brave.

Sir Percy's History
Eventually after five years of transport riding, tsetse fly infected all Sir Percy’s oxen and he was ruined. He walked penniless into Barberton, all the way from Louw’s Creek, found a job and also a wife, Lilian Cubitt, whom he married. After that Sir Percy relocated to Johannesburg and was then employed by the Johannesburg mining group, the Corner House. He gave Jock to a friend of his, who in time gave the dog to a trader who had a store in Mozambique at a place known as Old Pessene. There Jock was killed one night when he rushed out to attack a stray dog that was raiding the fowl run. Jock killed the thief but was then shot when his master mistook him in the darkness for the other dog. Jock permanently lost his hearing when a kudu cow kicked him. Loss of hearing is attributed as one of the main reasons he died, as he could not hear Tom Barnett when he called him, and was mistakenly shot, because he was thought to be the dog killing chickens on the farm.

Jock was an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier. There is a statue of Jock in front of the City Hall in Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Jock at the Movies

The South African film industry has received an incredible boost lately with movies such as District Nine (Oscar nominated), Invictus, Tsotsi and Skin attracting international attention and acclaim. Jock of the Bushveld is in the initial stages of production, with 26 artists, animators and technicians busy in their Johannesburg studios. Some 59 scenes have already been completed using the latest computer-assisted animation, and soon the project will be marketed abroad. Another big scoop is the involvement of some big names in the entertainment industry such as musical writing superstar Tim Rice, and local singers Johnny Clegg and Nianell. A major coup for the filmmakers is Archbishop Tutu’s involvement. He’ll be lending his sonorous voice to a small but key part involving spirituality.

Jock & Education

An important part of the movie marketing plan is to focus on education in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, which is the setting for Jock’s story. Jock will be of great help in improving education and the environment, and in a way that enables local communities to benefit. Corporate sponsorship will contribute to community upliftment and awareness.

Books vs Movies

Kids love movies of books, and sometimes see the movie first. Although parents may worry that the movie is a substitute for the book, this is generally not the case. It’s a golden opportunity for parents to suggest that they add to the enjoyment by getting the book/s. After all, the movie makers might have had to leave a few crucial bits out. There’s only one way to check and that’s by reading the book. Parents can encourage their children to get onto the computer and look up everything they can possibly find about the movie, the plot, the characters, the actors—it’s all reading, whether in book or electronic format. Once hooked on a great book, any child will return to that beloved adventure time and time again.
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