One of my favorite characters in all of popular culture is Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s beagle from the Peanuts franchise. Ever since I first laid my eyes on him in a videotape recording of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I have grown to love Snoopy immensely and take great pleasure from seeing his antics. I like the idea of a dog standing up on his hind legs, walking around, and hanging out with a little yellow bird. The one aspect of Snoopy that I love the most, however, is that he has an overactive imagination. Not content with being merely a dog, Snoopy has decided to fill the dull moments of his life with fantastic adventures in which he is the hero of epic stories, usually taking on some truly iconic identities in the process. It is these alternate personas of his that stand out the most in my mind whenever I think of Snoopy. Here is a small appreciation of five of Snoopy’s most famous personas and why I like them so much.
5. The World-Famous Novelist, a.k.a. The Literary Ace
“It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out!” If you’re reading a Peanuts strip, chances are you will see these words hovering over Snoopy’s head while he is banging on the keys of a typewriter on top of his doghouse. You will then have witnessed one of the most harrowing moments in all of literature: here is the World-Famous Novelist making another attempt at writing the Great American Novel. It’s just unfortunate, though, that he is borrowing his opening line (the “dark and stormy” part, anyway) from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford, an 1830 work whose beginning sentence is apparently considered one of the world’s worst story starters. Despite the continuous stream of rejection letters that arrive from various editors and publishers, Snoopy still persists in writing, always with that line as his lead-off hitter.
I was inspired to become a writer partly because of Snoopy’s attempts to be a writer. I admired how he never gave up on his dream despite everyone else telling him he should stop. He kept on writing anyway just because he was that dedicated to his craft. It just so happens that his work has been published at least one time, believe it or not, and I acquired a copy of it myself a couple of years ago. The year 1971 saw the publication of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, a book based on several different Novelist storylines and featured a special reprint of Snoopy’s written work. I highly recommend hunting a copy down for yourself on Amazon, especially because of the beagle’s account of a surprisingly awesome pirate fight.
4. Legal Beagle
Snoopy has a secret second life separate from his regular existence as a dog and even from his other personas. In this other life, he is one of the USA’s most elite trial lawyers. Here is the world-famous lawyer, easily recognized by his bowler hat, bow tie, and carrying a briefcase filled with legal papers (and doughnuts and cookies). This stalwart defender of truth and justice, sometimes seconded by loyal assistants Linus and Rerun Van Pelt, has had an ecclectic list of clients, including most notably Peter Rabbit (It turns out Mr. McGregor can be far more deadly with a lawsuit than he ever was with a shotgun and rabbit traps.) and the Knave of Hearts (who may have stolen some tarts, but the evidence seems to be circumstantial; it may be that Snoopy himself had a nibble of some of the tarts in question).
I like this persona mostly because of the absurdity of Snoopy being a part of the legal world and all of the unusual situations that would bring about, and also because I have seen it more in the comics than in the TV specials which makes it stick out more in my mind. I wonder what would happen if Snoopy went up against Phoenix Wright in a real “trial by fire?”
3. Beagle Scout
When Woodstock and his identical yellow bird friends want to go camping, hiking, sailing, or engaging in nearly any other outdoor activity they can think of, they know the beagle to call. Snoopy is the loyal den dog to the Beagle Scouts, a group of young birds working to earn merit badges in a variety of disciplines. Sometimes their excursions take them out onto the neighborhood golf course, marching through sand traps and around holes, frequently taking some treacherous hiking paths through the nearby woods. There is plenty of risk of being hit with flying golf balls or being chased off the course by its owners or by Charlie Brown and the gang, but the experience of being outdoors is well worth the effort to Snoopy and his young scouts. The rest of the time, they hike and set up camp through some beautiful countryside; how much of this is really part of the neighborhood or just part of Snoopy’s imagination, the world may never know.
The Beagle Scout persona is a Snoopy persona I can particularly admire because he and his bird friends get to walk through some exquisite outdoor settings. Charles M. Schultz drew amazing depictions of lush forests, wide meadows, craggy mountain passes, sheer cliffs, calm rivers and streams, and other outdoor locales for the Beagle Scouts to explore, ones which remind me a lot of nearby parks and woods near my home. They look well-suited for places to spread out one’s sleeping bag and stare up at the stars. Snoopy is truly an appreciative outdoorsman (or is that outdoorsdog?).
2. Joe Cool
Snoopy’s salute to the BMOC (Big Man on Campus), Joe Cool is undoubtedly one of the hippest (in his own mind) personas the beagle has. The sweater-wearing, sunglasses-sporting “student” is not as concerned with making good grades as he is with making a name for himself around Charlie Brown’s school, hanging around the water fountain and flirting with the girls. Whether this approach makes Snoopy/Joe any more popular is up for debate; if You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown is any indication, he certainly isn’t popular with teachers and other faculty who do not want a beagle leaving pawprints all over the school.
Personally, I think Joe Cool lives up to his name, if only in that he knows how to make a sweater with one’s name plastered on it look like the coolest sweater in the world. This somehow, by extension, makes the wearer himself look cool, so maybe the beagle is on to something here.
1. World War I Flying Ace
Here is what is undoubtedly Snoopy’s most famous persona, immortalized through his show-stealing appearance in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the Royal Guardsmen’s top musical hits “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and even a couple of video games (a different Snoopy vs. The Red Baron and Snoopy Flying Ace). The World War I Flying Ace is a living tribute to all of the men and women in the armed forces, a pilot who is still fighting the war even though it officially ended when Germany signed an armistice on November 11, 1918. The Flying Ace climbs on his Sopwith Camel and flies once more into the wild grey yonder (it would’ve been blue if only all those guns stopped blasting ordnance for a second), searching for the “bloody” Red Baron. Even though the Baron is credited with a long string of successful wins in dogfights, his winning streak of ”ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or more” pales in comparison to his legendary rivalry with that ace of aces, Snoopy. Thank goodness it’s a relatively bloodless rivalry. Every time they meet, the Baron just shoots a few holes through the doghouse and forces his opponent to make a rough landing, free to repair his “plane’s” smoking (?) fuselage while shaking his fist (It’s astonishing that dog is even capable of making a fist. Cartoons, gotta love ’em.) and shouting, “Curse you, Red Baron!” Snoopy and the Baron even seem to have come to an uneasy truce: every Christmas, they land their planes and share a cup of tea together, wish each other a Merry Christmas, then fly away until their next aerial clash.
This part of the Flying Ace’s legend is one that I really like to reflect on. How cool is it that even though they’re such fierce rivals usually intent on “rolling out the score,” Snoopy and the Baron have enough respect for each other to reenact the famous “Christmas truce” from the 1914 portion of the War to End All Wars every single year? It makes me hope that others will be willing to take up the cause of “…bringing peace to all the world/And goodwill to me-e-e-en.”
I have read many times that Charles Schultz stated that people could interpret his work however they wanted; that all he was trying to do with Peanuts was to make people laugh once a day every day for fifty years. Well, he certainly made this reader think a lot about life while he was laughing. In regards to Snoopy, Schultz said that despite the character’s sensational popularity, he himself tried his darndest not to let the beagle completely hijack the strip. However, I personally believe that Snoopy is the best part of Peanuts. His boundless imagination and creative flights of fancy are a wonderful respite from the usual storylines of Charlie Brown’s hangups and everyone else’s insecurities. Snoopy is almost never depressed; he is astoundingly happy all the time and completely engrossed in his fantastic adventures. Even if the rest of Schultz’s Peanuts work is forgotten over time, I hope Snoopy will remain popular for a long time to come. I think the world would just be a lot sadder without him.
What do you think of Snoopy and his numerous personas? Which one is your favorite? Make sure to fly over to the comments and leave your thoughts, and here’s to hoping you don’t have any “dark and stormy nights” anytime soon!