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The Yearling
Cover of The Yearling 1938 Original.jpg
Cover of original 1938 edition
Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 416 (mass market paperback)
Preceded by South Moon Under 
Followed by Cross Creek 

The Yearling is a novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings published in March 1938. It was the main selection of the Book of the Month Club in April 1938. It was the best-selling novel in America in 1938 and the seventh-best in 1939. It sold over 250,000 copies in 1938. It has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Russian and 22 other languages. It won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.

Rawlings's editor was Maxwell Perkins, who also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary luminaries. She had submitted several projects to Perkins for his review, and he rejected them all. He advised her to write about what she knew from her own life, and The Yearling was the result.


Young Jody Baxter lives with his parents, Ora and Ezra "Penny" Baxter, on a small farm in the animal-filled central Florida backwoods in the 1870s. His parents had six other children before him, but they died in infancy, which makes it difficult for his mother to bond with him. Jody loves the outdoors and his family. He has wanted a pet for as long as he can remember, but his mother says that they barely have enough food to feed themselves, let alone a pet.

A subplot involves the hunt for an old bear named Slewfoot that randomly attacks the Baxter livestock. Later the Baxters and the rowdy Forresters get in a fight about the bear and continue to fight about nearly anything. (While the Forresters are presented as a disreputable clan, the disabled youngest brother, Fodder-Wing, is a close friend to Jody.) The Forresters steal the Baxters' hogs and, while Penny and Jody are out searching for the stolen stock, Penny is bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake. Penny shoots a doe, orphaning its young fawn, in order to use its liver to draw out the snake's venom, which saves Penny's life.

Jody convinces his parents to allow him to adopt the fawn — which, Jody later learns, Fodder-Wing has named Flag — and it becomes his constant companion. The book then focuses on Jody's life as he matures along with Flag. The plot centers on Jody's struggles with strained relationships, hunger, death of beloved friends, and the capriciousness of nature through a catastrophic flood. He experiences tender moments with his family, his fawn, and their neighbors and relatives. Along with his father, he comes face to face with the rough life of a farmer and hunter. Throughout, the well-mannered, God-fearing Baxters and the good folk of nearby Volusia and the "big city," Ocala, are starkly contrasted with their hillbilly neighbors, the Forresters.

As Jody takes his final steps into maturity, he is forced to make a desperate choice between his pet, Flag, and his family. The parents realize that the growing Flag is endangering their very survival, as he persists in eating the corn crop on which the family is relying for food the next winter. Jody's father orders him to take Flag into the woods and shoot him, but Jody cannot bring himself to do it. When his mother shoots the deer and wounds him, Jody is then forced to shoot Flag in the neck himself, killing the yearling. In blind fury at his mother, Jody runs off, only to come face to face with the true meaning of hunger, loneliness, and fear. After an ill-conceived attempt to reach an older friend in Boston in a broken-down canoe, Jody is picked up by a mail ship and returned to Volusia. In the end, Jody comes of age, assuming increasingly adult responsibilities in the difficult "world of men", but always surrounded by the love of family.


  • Ezra "Penny" Baxter was raised by a stern minister who allowed no leisure or slacking. He treats his son Jody generously because of his own upbringing. He served in the army during the Civil War. Nicknamed "Penny" by Lem Forrester because of his diminutive size.
  • Ora Baxter: Jody's mother. She is introduced on page 20 as "Ora." Penny calls her "Ory". She is often called "Ma" or "Ma Baxter".
  • Jody Baxter: The son of Ora and Penny Baxter.
  • Flag: Jody's pet fawn.
  • The Forresters: (Pa and Ma Forrester, Buck, Mill-Wheel, Arch, Lem, Gabby, Pack, Fodder-wing) A family that lives near the Baxters. There is a conflict between the two families.
  • Fodder-wing Forrester: Jody's best friend. He is crippled and was born with a hunched frame. He is thought to be rather peculiar, but has a great fondness for animals.
  • Julia: Hound dog owned by the Baxters. She is treasured by Penny but distrusts Jody.
  • Rip: Bulldog owned by the Baxters.
  • Perk: Feist dog owned originally by the Baxters but traded to the Forresters for a new gun later in the novel.
  • Doc Wilson:An acquaintance of Penny.


The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 1946, starring Gregory Peck as Penny Baxter and Jane Wyman as Ora Baxter. Both were nominated for Oscars for their performances. Claude Jarman Jr. as Jody Baxter won the Juvenile Award Oscar.

In 1949, Claude Pascal adapted the film into a newspaper comic, under its French title Jody et le Faon (Jody and the Fawn).

A Broadway musical adaption with music by Michael Leonard and lyrics by Herbert Martin was produced by The Fantasticks producer Lore Noto in 1965. The book was written for the stage by Lore Noto and Herbert Martin. David Wayne and Delores Wilson played Ezra and Ora Baxter, and David Hartman, later of Good Morning America, was Oliver Hutto. The show played only three performances.

Barbra Streisand recorded four songs from the show: "I'm All Smiles", "The Kind of Man A Woman Needs", "Why Did I Choose You?", and "My Pa".

A Japanese animated version was released in 1983.

Also in 1983 the film was adapted by Martin Ritt. It starred Mary Steenburgen, Rip Torn, Peter Coyote and Dana Hill.

A 1994 television adaptation starred Peter Strauss as Ezra Baxter, Jean Smart as Ora Baxter, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Buck.

A 2012 song by singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson, "The Ballad of Jody Baxter", deals with themes from The Yearling. The song is on his album Light for the Lost Boy.

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