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The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers

This original tall tale tells about Ole Swenson, a lumberjack from the far north woods, and his friend, the ferocious looking Hodag, a giant beast with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur and tail of an alligator. The story tells how the lumberjacks help the Hodag outwit some city slickers who have come to the forest intending to catch the Hodag and take him to the zoo.

Stories about the Hodag have been told throughout the upper midwest for more than 100 years. The Hodag is the mascot of Camp Bovey, a camp for children in northern Wisconsin, operated by the East Side Neighborhood Service in Minneapolis, Minnesota (www.esns.org). Stories of the Hodag are also told at Camp Nebagamon, a camp for boys in northern Wisconsin, as well as at many other camps. In Rhinelander, Wisconsin, the Hodag is the town symbol and mascot.

Look for The Terrible Hodag, Caroline's first book about the Hodag, in your library. In this book, now out of print, the Hodag helps Ole Swenson and the lumberjacks get rid of a mean bossman. It is illustrated with full-color paintings by Lambert Davis.

PRONUCIATION GUIDE:The pronunciation of Hodag is HOE-dag (as in "bag"). The original spelling of Ole Swenson's name (Ole, pronounced OH-lee) has been changed to "Olee" Swenson to facilitate the correct pronunciation.

LISTEN TO THE STORY:You can listen to a podcast of Caroline Arnold reading the story of The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers on the Los Angeles Public Library website. On the Kids page, click on Story Podcasts and scroll down to find the book.

Prizes and Awards
  • 2006 Parents' Choice Gold Award
  • Excellent 2006 Choices of Trade Books for Grades K-9 by Marilyn Carpenter, Ph.D., Eastern Washington University
  • Merit Award Winner in 3x3 Magazine's 3x3 Illustration Annual No. 4, 2008.
  • Children's Projects

    Read The Terrible Hodag or The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers. Write a sequel to it in typical tall tale form. Or, perform a play (in person or with puppets) of story.

    Make your own Mixed Up Animal and draw a picture of it.

    My mixed up animal has the head of a ________________________, the feet of a _________________________, the back of a ________________________, and the tail of a ______________________. It is as big as a __________________________. Its favorite food is _______________________. Its name is _____________________________. This is what it looks like.

    Related Books
  • The Terrible Hodag (Harcourt Brace, 1989) by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Lambert Davis
  • Children of the Settlement Houses
  • Book Notes

    Caroline Arnold’s Wisconsin Connection

    I grew up in Minneapolis and spent my summers in northern Wisconsin at Camp Bovey near Solon Springs. Stories of the Hodag were told around evening campfires and visions of this scary beast were “sure to keep campers in their beds at night!”

    Camp Bovey is operated by the East Side Neighborhood Services in Minneapolis, where my father, Lester Scheaffer, was director from 1948 to 1966. I first went to camp with my family, and then as I got older as a camper and a counselor. Camp Bovey was originally called Camp Hodag, and was used as an outpost camp by Camp Nebagamon, a boys’ camp on Lake Nebagamon. Tales of the Hodag are also told at Camp Nebagamon.

    I remember summer trips from Camp Bovey to Rhinelander to see the real home of the Hodag. One of those trips coincided with Lumberjack Days and the chance to see log rolling, tree climbing and other lumberjack feats.

    Stories of the Hodag and the lumberjacks were a regular feature at the Camp Bovey campfires. Each teller gave his or her own twist to the stories. One of my favorite stories told how the Hodag helped the lumberjacks to get rid of a mean bossman. In my first children’s book about the Hodag, The Terrible Hodag, published in 1989, I retold this story. This new book, The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers, is an original tale in which the lumberjacks help the Hodag. “I wanted to turn the tables and give the lumberjacks a chance to return the favor to the Hodag.”

    I began writing books more than twenty-five years ago when my children were young. Since then I have published more than one hundred books. Most of them are about animals and the environment. “My childhood experiences in the outdoors in northern Wisconsin developed my love of the natural world. Whether I write fiction or nonfiction, that passion for nature is the source of my ideas.” (For more information about Caroline's childhood at Northeast Neighborhood House, now East Side Neighborhood Services, see the entry below for her book Children of the Settlement Houses.)

    Reviews
    Publisher's Weekly, February 2, 2006

    A blueberry-eating monster's lumberjack friends devise clever strategies to protect him from capture in this tale inspired by a Wisconsin logging camp legend. Sandford's dramatic and often comical black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings abound with finely wrought patterns and resemble woodcuts in their precision. In the opening illustration of lumberjack Olee Swenson toppling a tree, for instance, the artist renders bark, flesh, grass, boots, pants, shirt and axe all in distinct, intricate line designs. A line of red text begins each page's passage, with the illustrations opposite framed by a thin black, occasionally permeable border. When the Hodag "swished his scaly tail from side to side, and,crash , the tree came tumbling down," both tail and pine needles escape the frame. Captions appear underneath each illustration: when the Hodag learns of a plot against him by some men outside the camp, his alarmed face fills the frame and the caption reads, " 'Oh, no!' cried the Hodag." Lumberjacks wear fur-skinned caps, boots and suspenders; the Hodag catchers sport knickers, round spectacles and bowler hats. The artwork may initially frighten some younger children, though readers knows from the start that the Hodag is peaceful, and the Hodag catchers, hilariously ill equipped for their task, with a butterfly net and a small wooden crate with breathing holes, also seem unthreatening. This tale is more sweet than spinetingling.

    Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH, School Library Journal, March 2006

    Traditional Northwoods characters populate this original story. The gentle Hodag has the "head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator." In this adventure, Olee Swenson and his fellow lumberjacks must think of clever ways to save him from the animal catchers who have come to take him to the zoo. These strong, macho guys conscientiously consider the feelings of the Hodag and the inhumanity of putting a wild animal in captivity. In contrast, the city slickers are three times outsmarted and outmaneuvered by the lumberjacks and sent home empty-handed. The black-and-white prints, full and double-page, enhance the woodsy tale with a style that places the adventure at the turn of the 20th century. The animal catchers are stylishly dressed in vests and knickers, and topped off with pith helmets or bowlers. With their nets and other essentials for catching a wild animal, they have a slight resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt on safari. The lumberjacks, practically clad in boots and wooly hats, look right at home in the great outdoors. The monotone prints create good texture for both the hairy Hodag and the bearded woodsmen. This story will be enjoyed both as a read-aloud and a read-alone.

    Julie Cummins, Booklist, April 1, 2006

    The 40-foot-tall creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator is mighty scary, except to the North-Woods lumberjacks who are his friends. When three men try to capture the Hodag and take him to a zoo, Olee Swenson sends the catchers on several wild-goose chases, finally holding them captive in their own animal trap. This original tall tale is understated in tone. It's the dramatic black-and-white illustrations that deliver the larger-than-life punch. The bold, striking images are reminiscent of Michael McCurdy's woodcuts. White scratch marks on the black shapes delineate texture in trees, the Hodag's hide, and the men's clothing and faces add dimension to the outsize story and setting. A previous Hodag story by Arnold, The Terrible Hodag (1989), was illustrated in Lambert Davis' painterly style. Sandford's furrowed carvings are much more effective. An author's note explains that Hodag stories were told in the logging camps of Wisconsin 100 years ago.

    Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2005

    Arnold places upper-Midwestern tall-tale figures at the center of an original story about a group of loggers defending a friendly monster from a trio of inept collectors. The huge Hodag might have (as Arnold repeatedly notes) "the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur and tail of an alligator," but it's actually a mild-mannered creature with a fondness for blueberries. in consequence, when zookeepers arrive to capture it, logger Olee Swenson and his crew carefully misdirect them helping the Hodag to muddle its trails to boot. Sandford illustrates with strong-lined black and white caricatures that look like wood engravings, portraying the Hodag as described.... The loggers are appropriately burly and the hunters are citified fools, who are-ultimately-tricked into falling into their own Hodag trap and are suddenly eager to promise to go away and never return. ...This Hodag, unlike the ones in older yarns and doctored photographs, seems more friendly than fearsome and tales about it are rare enough that it may be new to young readers.

    Audrey Irene Daignecault, LMC Library Media Connection, January 2007

    The Hodag is a very large creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator. Lumber jacks in the north woods told Hodag stories. Using these oral tales as a springboard, Arnold has created a modern fantasy tale about this creature that only looks scary. The Hodag and the lumberjacks are friends and help each other; so when animal catchers from the zoo arrive to trap the Hodag, his friends warn him again and again. At last the lumberjacks help the Hodag trap the animal catchers in the trap the catchers had built for the Hodag. The Hodag gets to remain in his habitat where he belongs. The b&w illustrations appear to be a mixture of silhouettes and scratch drawings and are reminiscent of Robert Lawson's work in The Story of Ferdinand (Viking, 1936.) This is a clever story complimented by first class artwork.