Where the Red Fern Grows Important Characters

Billy Colman

Billy is a ten-year-old boy whose only desire in life is to own a pair of coon hounds. He wants to use them to hunt raccoons. He is seen through the eyes of his grown-up self as he remembers his childhood.

Billy's family, which consists of his parents and three sisters, are too poor to afford the dogs, so Billy has to make do with some traps his father bought him. He is excited to use the traps for a while, but soon the excitement wears off and he wants the dogs with even more passion. One day, he finds a magazine with an ad for hunting dogs, at a much lower price than his father thought the dogs would cost. Billy prays for help in acquiring the dogs and is rewarded with a plan. He sells crawfish and supplies to fishermen, along with berries and pelts through his grandpa's store. It takes him two years to save the money for the dogs. He has acquired a male dog and a female dog, who he names Old Dan and Little Ann. These dogs become more than just pets to Billy, they become a part of his family. The dogs protect him against harm and they allow him to win the gold cup in a hunting championship. The dogs also give him a sense of purpose and make him a more mature person, as he takes on the responsibility of caring for them.

The death of the dogs changes Billy, because he has never experienced grief on such a personal level before in his life. He must learn to cope with his feelings of loss. Billy is a responsible young man, who once he sets a goal is determined to see it through. He shows this in the way he saved his money for two years so he could pay for the dogs. He also shows it by not giving up on cutting down a large tree, which holds a coon his dogs have treed. He told the dogs if they treed the raccoon then he would take care of the rest. It takes him several days to cut down the tree, but he will not give up until he fulfills his promise. Billy is a young man who makes his parents proud.

Old Dan

Old Dan is Billy's dog. He is strong and determined, which means once he trees a raccoon he will not leave the tree until he is able to kill the animal. He is also very loyal to both Billy and Little Ann. He will not hunt without Little Ann being by his side and he will only hunt with Billy. He also refuses to eat until Little Ann has her portion of food set out before her.

Old Dan is the dog who challenges the mountain lion, because he is confident he can beat the mountain lion. He also refuses to walk away from the dead animal, even though he is gravely injured. The dog is fearless and faithful until till the end of his life.

Little Anne

Little Ann may be smaller than most hunting dogs, but she is smarter than the average hunting dog. She may not always want to fight the raccoons and mountain lions Old Dan takes on, but she will never back down from helping him. She, too, has a tenacity which belies her years and size, such as seen while she is hanging on for her life in the icy water of the river. She is clinging to a shelf of ice with her front paws, while the rest of her is in the swift current of the river. She manages, through sheer determination, to hold on until Billy is able to rescue her.

After Old Dan dies, she is unable to continue on without him, so she allows herself to die. Her last act is to drag herself up to Old Dan's grave, so she can die beside him. She, too, is faithful and fearless until the end of her life.


Grandpa is a constant influence in Billy's life for he helps him purchase his dogs, he brags about Billy's hunting accomplishments, and he arranges for Billy's dogs to compete in the hunting championship.

He is kind hearted, especially after the bet he accepted on Billy's behalf turns out so tragically. He tells Billy he feels responsible for the Pritchard boy's death, because if he hadn't accepted the bet, then maybe the boy wouldn't have died. He also knows it is important for Billy and his father to share the experience of the hunting competition, so he insists on Billy asking his father to come along.

Billy's grandpa is a kind loving man, who will do anything for his grandson. Billy returns the affection his grandpa shows him by telling everyone he has the best grandpa ever.


She is a typical mother, because her primary concern is the welfare of her children and husband. So she is opposed to Billy going out into the woods alone at night hunting raccoons. It is because of her, that Papa makes Billy tell him where he is hunting each night. She wants to be able to find her son quickly if he doesn't return home.

She also has dreams for her family, such as saving enough money to move to town. She wants her children to be educated in a school, instead of by her at home. She sees the need for a formal education and is intent on seeing her children receive one. She is also a religious woman, who believes in the power of prayer and in God's design for each person. This is proven true by Billy's winnings being enough money to allow the family to move to town. She also tells Billy even though the loss of his dogs is terrible, it means now he will be able to move with the family, instead of staying behind to live with his grandparents.

She is in love with her husband, a loving mother, and a religious woman who is making the best of the circumstances given to her.


Papa is a good man, who loves his wife and children. Even though he can't afford to buy Billy the hounds, he does the next best thing and buys him some traps. He doesn't punish Billy after he returns from town, where he went to pick up the dogs. Even though Billy left without telling his parents where he was going, his father understood Billy's need to retrieve his dogs.

He is a man who understands his responsibilities and respects his wife. He shows this when he is reluctant to go to the hunting competition, because his wife is expecting a baby. He also doesn't want to leave her and the three girls alone for a few days. He does go to the competition which is a good thing, because of the injury to Grandpa and he was able to see his son win two trophies.

Papa shares Mama's dream of moving the family to town. He wants the best for his children, who mean the world to him. He is a hard working responsible man, who sets a good example for Billy.

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Where the Red Fern Grows Quotes
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 1 - 4 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 5 - 7 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 1 - 4 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 5 - 7 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 8 - 9 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 10 - 12 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 13 - 14 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 15 - 16 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 17 - 18 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 19 - 20 Quiz
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 8 - 9 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 10 - 12 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 13 - 14 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 15 - 16 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 17 - 18 Summary
Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 19 - 20 Summary
Literature Summaries

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