(This appeared in Scroll)
is the Talking Beast so beloved as a character trope? I think partly
because as children we long to connect with all of our world, not
just the parts of it that look like us, and it makes perfect sense
that a monkey or an elephant or a pig shouldn't have elaborate and
long conversations as much as humans do.
another, most of us who still believe—slightly sneakily—in magic,
also believe that all the animals we see are secretly talking about
us behind our backs. Even those people with a more scientific mind
tend to anthromorphize animals and give them character traits: cats
are independent, dogs are loyal, crows are sneaky and so on and so
the case is, the Talking Beast is usually a much-loved character in
whatever book they're in. Here are some favourites—both mine, and
crowd sourced from Twitter and Facebook—broken up into categories
for helpful reference.
That Can Only Talk To One Human
S Mouse from The Mouse And The Motorcycle and
Ralph S. Mouse
by Beverly Cleary: In these books, Ralph, a smarter-than-average
mouse can talk to boys who are “like him,” slightly shy and
lonely and obsessed with toy cars and motorcycles.
from the Dr
books by Hugh Lofting: Here, the idea is that Dr Dolittle—who loves
animals—has taken it upon himself to learn all the animal languages
in the world. It means that the books are peppered with conversations
he has with his dog Jip, his parrot and teacher, Polynesia, and my
favourite, the green canary, who tells him her life story in Dr
Dolittle And The Green Canary,
which he turns into an animal opera, complete with singing parts for
Animals That Talk (Non-Magic In Human World)
series by Enid Blyton: Most beloved of all Enid Blyton's mystery
books featuring kid detectives, pimarily because the others featured
just a dog (albeit a very smart one) and these series had a whole lot
of animals from badgers to mice. But foremost amongst them was an
extremely smart parrot called Kiki who added her nonsense to the
beginning and end of these books and helped lighten up the slightly
darker tone of these Blyton books (compared to other cozy mysteries.)
Animals That Talk (Magic in Human World)
Once And Future King by
T.H White: Pre-Hedwig, perhaps even the inspiration for Hedwig was
the very wise Archimedes, a sarcastic owl who claimed lineage from
Athena. In the books, he's Merlin's familiar and pet, but he'd never
deliver mail or do anything below his dignity.
|The movie is not AS fun as the book but underrated Disney classic nonetheless|
by Margaret Baker: I had to include Porterhouse Major, who starts out
a normal kitten but thanks to a spell put on him by a little boy
called Rory, turns into almost a tiger-sized animal. Porterhouse then
can talk and solve problems, and is very wise as well as very
selfish, as is expected from a cat. (If any of you can name the other
magic cat book whose name eludes me: of a girl who lives with her
grandparents and befriends a local cat who also has magic powers and
helps her get what she wants, there's a prize in it for you.)
Animals In Magic Worlds
Horse And His Boy by
C.S Lewis: Perhaps you're surprised I don't name Aslan the lion from
the same books, but I have no patience for Aslan. The
Horse And His Boy
stand out in the Chronicles
Of Narnia because
it is the only book set entirely in Narnia with no children arriving
from outside to rescue the country. And chief to it all is Bree, a
war stallion who is vain and strong and a good friend in the
end—almost human and not at all a goody-goody like some lions I
from the His
trilogy by Philip Pullman: The armoured bear had a way with words,
and a strong sense of right and wrong, and was perhaps my favourite
character from the books. Think of him as a sort of
Animals That Come To Life For Their Owners
the comic strip Calvin
And Hobbes by
Bill Watterson: Everyone knows Hobbes, right? And yet, the first time
you realise he's just a stuffed toy is a moment of sadness for you.
The strips zoom in and out of Calvin's perspective—showing Hobbes
both as wise mentor and best friend as well as Hobbes lying on the
floor, as a stuffed animal.
House At Pooh Corner
by A.A. Milne: I was going to put Tigger in here, but let's be
honest—Tigger would wear us out in the first five minutes of making
his acquaintance. Instead, it's gloomy Eeyore, the sad donkey that
captured everyone's attention, making him one of the most suggested
names on my social media posts asking for favourite talking animals.
They're all stuffed animals though, who belong to Christopher Robin,
but who have their own lives when he's not there.
That Only Talk To Each Other
by E.B White: Again, a popular pick among my Twitter and Facebook
friends, Charlotte is the motherly spider who is the mastermind
behind saving her piggy best friend, Wilbur, from being turned into
bacon. While she can write English words into her web, Charlotte only
talks to her fellow barnyard animals, and not to humans, who can't
understand her, except for Fern who stays so quiet the animals are
comfortable talking around her.
Richard Adams: Fiver may be the hero in this book about rabbits
travelling from one warren to another to save their skins, but Hazel
turns out to be the best (rabbit) hero after all. You probably don't
spend that much time thinking about rabbits, but after a while inside
Hazel's head, you'll pay more attention to their inner lives next
time. No humans at all, except for a looming outside threat.
White Seal, a
story in The
by Rudyard Kipling: Nope, not all Mowgli fighting tigers.
contains a number of non-Mowgli animal stories, where all the
creatures talk to each other. It was a toss-up between Kotick the
albino seal, who—much like Hazel—has to find a newer, safer
breeding ground for his tribe and Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose, but
Kotick wins in the end, for being a better hero. Again, people are
perceived vaguely as a threat, but not spoken to.
That Can Talk To Humans But Are Not Perceived As Unusual
books by Michael Bond: Was there ever a more loved bear than
Paddington? This adorable bear from “darkest Peru” makes himself
very much a part of his human family, but interestingly, no one
questions why he can talk (and sleep in a bed or eat human food) and
why the other animals can't. It's just one of those things.
thanks to people who responded to my question on Twitter and
Post a Comment
Thanks for your feedback! It'll be published once I approve it. Inflammatory/abusive comments will not be posted. Please play nice.