Public Domain Super Heroes


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A public‐domain illustration of a collie, not specifically Lassie.

Real name


First appearance

Round the Sofa, vol. 2 (1859)

Original publisher

Sampson Low, Son & Co.

Created by

Elizabeth Gaskell


Lassie is the pet collie of British teenager Gregory. She is described as “ill‐favored” and “an ugly enough brute, with a white, ill‐looking face.” Gregory’s stepfather, William Preston, and half‐brother often mistreat Lassie by swatting and kicking her and so she has “apprehensive eyes” when approaching them and is portrayed as “crouching underneath [a] chair for fear of a kick or a blow.” However, when Gregory’s half‐brother gets lost in a brutal snowstorm, it is Gregory and Lassie who heroically come to the rescue. Gregory instructs him to take partial shelter under some rock, covers him with his own doffed coat, and then lies next to him to protect him from the elements. In the meantime, Lassie is sent racing homeward wearing the half‐brother’s identifiable patterned handkerchief around her neck. All the workers on their farm follow Lassie back and rescue the half‐brother, but Gregory does not survive.

Public domain literary appearance

“The Half‐Brothers,” in Round the Sofa, vol. 2, by Elizabeth Gaskell, London: Sampson Low, Son & Co., 1859. (Internet Archive)


The 1859 Lassie character should not be confused with the 1938 Lassie character, also a heroic collie, that first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. The later Lassie character, star of books, radio, movies and television, is not in the public domain.

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