Pup Fiction: Wishbone (1997) or How I’m Trying to Brainwash My Six Year Old Niece Into Liking Jane Austen (and Wishbone)

It is time for our Halloween Austen pick, the hardest one to choose and find every year. This year we are bringing something from my childhood as I loved Wishbone as a kid! I used to watch every episode and of course it encouraged me to read all the books the episodes were based on.

I definitely believe it contributed to my love of classic literature.

Today we are looking at the Northanger Abbey episode and of course I couldn’t miss an opportunity to try and brainwash my six year old niece into liking the show and Jane Austen. I refer to my niece as “E” in this post.

For those who have never seen Wishbone, it follows the titular Jack Russell Terrier as he reads books and imagines himself as a character in the book, and when he’s the character all see him as that character and not as a dog. Wishbone belongs to Joe, but he also hangs out with a lot of other kids in the neighborhood.

We start off the episode with Wishbone looking at plastic flammings and planning to chew them, but is distracted by the mailman.

Wishbone is hanging out with neighbor Wanda and neighbor kids Sam when Wanda receives a strange letter. “You are the one”. This isn’t the first one as she has received others and they said, “Soon you’ll know what we’ll think of you”. Is it complimentary or a threat?

Hmm…

Wanda decides to just go about her business and Wishbone follows her, being distracted by some other neighborhood kids reading a scary story. One of them, Melina, loves mysteries and spooky fiction just like another character!

Wishbone then introduces us to Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. In this version of Northanger Abbey, Wishbone is Henry Tilney who is also there with his sister Eleanor. In this version Henry Tilney/Wishbone recognizes John Thorpe, “but only as one who brags constantly” and Isabella Thorpe “who flirts with everyone they meet”. Eleanor points out Catherine who is reading and absolutely fascinated by the Udolpho.

John Thorpe steals the book as he doesn’t like reading. He starts making fun of her, but Henry Tilney/Wishbone comes over and shares how he loved the book. Catherine looks at him longingly and reads a page aloud.

Guys who don’t are not.

Me: He [John Thorpe] doesn’t like to read, so do we like him E?

E: No way!

Me That’s right, we don’t like guys who don’t like to read.

E: I love to read.

Back in the real world, Wanda has receieved another letter! “Words cannot explain all that you have done”. All the kids are interested in solving the letter mystery and so is Wishbone. And so am I!

Mystery, you say?

Back in Northanger Abbey, Mr. Thorpe talks to General Tilney and brags about his connections. He also starts talking about Catherine Morland and how she has so much money coming to her. I really like this depiction of Thorpe as I love how he blatantly lies about Catherine not being able to go on a walk with the Tilneys and then just runs off with a “Ta-ta”.

Eleanor is thinking how odd it is to send another to reject them, but Henry Tilney/Wishbone isn’t so sure they really know her as a person.

Hmmm…

Catherine is heading to see the Tilneys and runs into the Thorpes who tell her they ended the engagement. Catherine is super upset and runs to the Tilneys apologizing.

The Tilneys are planning to leave for Northanger Abbey and they invite Catherine to join them. As those two words are spoken spooky music plays. Catherine is eager and has so much imagination about how creepy and mysterious it will be.

Creepy…

Henry Tilney/Wishbone teases Catherine and jokes about sliding panels, gloomy portraits, mysterious chests, and cryptic letters. He is much better that the ‘80s Mr. Tilney.

Back in the real world Wanda runs into Ellen who has another note for her. “Wait and See”The kids are on the case and convinced the mailman is behind it all and follow him on his route, while Wanda ponders the note.

The kids try to spy on the mailman but Wishbone sneaks in. He also goes through the package door and heads into the backroom of the post office. He starts thinking about Northanger Abbey while in the post office.

Me: Is it [Northanger Abbey] too spooky?

E: I think it is pretty.

Catherine also loves it! The Tilneys show her the oldest part of the house and the forbidden wing. The forbidden wing contains their mother’s room, the one in which she died. Eleanor wasn’t at home or Henry, which makes Catherine think that maybe she was murdered.

Me: What do you think happened?

E: I think the mom turned into a skeleton that is still alive.”

Even though she was told that Mrs. Tilney’s room was forbidden she decides to sneak in any way.

Me: Do you think there will be a skeleton in there [Mrs. Tilney’s room]?

E. Yeah.

Henry comes strolling by and sees the open door, spotting Catherine looking around the room. Lightning and rain flash against the sky outside as Catherine searches the room and finds a truck which she opens…

E: Tell me what happens, I’m scared. [Covers eyes and music continues] Please tell me what happens!

Henry is hiding behind a tapestry while Catherine searched a drawer and find papers. Catherine is a little less sympathetic in this one adaption as it was only her first night that she searched the room, instead of being several days later. All Catherine found was a laundry list, embarrassment, and an unhappy Henry Tilney/Wishbone. He reveals the truth about his mother’s death, that she died from fever and that his father doesn’t like to be in the room as it breaks his heart.

Catherine apologizes and Henry tells her that his home isn’t like a a gothic novel but it’s real life.

Back in real world Wanda comes upon the kids and scares them i their detecting that they all run off.

From Clueless

Back in Northanger Abbey Eleanor tells Catherine, that Catherine has to leave as the Tilneys are going away. Catherine is to be sent home ASAP and General Tilney is in a horrible mood. Catherine thinks it is because of what happened with Henry and in this children’s version she is sent home during the day. Henry Tilney/Wishbone stops Catherine before she leaves Northanger Abbey and tells her that John Thorpe has been spreading rumors about her pretending to be a future heiress and that is why his father is mad, he thinks Catherine is a fortune hunter.

Henry Tilney/Wishbone apologizes for the way the Thorpes have treated her and that tells her he was also wrong.

Catherine: Perhaps I need to learn more about the real world and judge them as they truly are and not what I think they are.

Henry: Maybe we can learn together.

Back in reality, Wanda goes to Ellen’s house were she was invited to, but finds it dark. It turns out to be a an early surprise party for Wanda, that’s why they sent her all those mysterious notes in order to distract her and keep her from figuring out about the party.

While everyone else is distracted Wishbone is in the cake.

Me: What do you think?

E: I liked it. I like Wishbone.

Me: What did you think about Northanger Abbey?

E: I don’t know about it. I don’t have a question for it.

Me: What did you think about Catherine or Henry Tilney? Or the spooky story?

E: Hmmmm…I’m loading….hmm….I liked it. I liked Catherine.

I would say that it was a winner, not only as a cute Northanger Abbey adaption but also as an introductory piece to get my niece into Jane Austen.

For more Northanger Abbey, go to Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Northanger Abbey

For more Northanger Abbey adaptions, go to Have You a Stout Heart?: Northanger Abbey (1987)

For more Northanger Abbey variations, go to I Was Asked to Be a Guest on the Podcast P.S. I Love Rom Coms + My Review of their Bridget Jones’ Diary Episode

For more films based on Jane Austen, go to I Watched Austenland (2013) With My 14 Year Old Niece

For more Jane Austen variations, go to An Appearance of Goodness

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