In real life, I own two adorable guinea pigs named Bobby and Zebra, and our household is made all the more cosy by our cat, Daniel. I love animals. When an animal is harmed or, god forbid, killed in a piece of fiction I am enjoying, I am likely to cry. I often consult doesthedogdie.com, and watching Hachi was a tearful experience for me. In this blog post, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite animals in fiction.
Historically, animals have always served a special purpose in fiction. When your characters are animals rather than people, all kinds of satire and societal criticism suddenly becomes possible. Think of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animals are also sometimes used to convey a life lesson, as they appeal to children as well as adults. Think of the works of Dutch writer Toon Tellegen, French de La Fontaine and Aesop in the world of the Ancient Greeks.
Hedwig – Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Of course, the Harry Potter series is a treasure trove of animals. My personal favorite is probably still Hedwig, but I also have a special place in my heart for Crookshanks, Fang, Padfoot, Trevor and Ginny’s unnamed
Puffskein. I feel like animals are much more appreciated in the Wizarding World than in our society, and I really like that. It undoubtedly has to do with the fact that many animals, owls in particular, have a purpose to wizards. Still, it pleases me. And I think Pigwidgeon is happy to be of service!
Benjamin Bunny – The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny – Beatrix Potter
You might marvel at my decision to draw the attention to Benjamin, rather than his much better-known companion Peter Rabbit. But I have a reason for that. I just love, love, love, love animals wearing human clothes. In real life, I find it a little weird and demeaning, but in fiction it’s nothing but adorable. So here, have a look at Benjamin’s cuteness.
Angus – Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison
If you’ve never read Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging and all the other tales of Georgia Nicholson, you’re in for a treat. The books are witty like Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole. They have Bridget’s focus on the female experience and Adrian’s focus on the teenage experience; which adds up to a wonderful portrayal of the life of a teenage girls. These books have helped me through many a hormone-induced crying jag when I was fifteen years old.
Star of the books, besides Georgia, our clumsy protagonist, is Angus, the Scottish Wildcat. Angus is always happy to provide a diversion when Georgia is bored, or an excuse to go to the park when there are boys playing footie there. Angus is also, as Georgia would say, absolutely bonkers. This cat is a loon on loon tablets and we love him for it.
Captain Nemo – My Heart And Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga
For lack of a better description, I would say that My Heart And Other Black Holes was a depressing read. Spoiler: the book is about two teenagers who form a suicide pact. The point is, though, that both of them decide in the end that living is worth more than dying, and one of the things I think helped them make that decision was Captain Nemo.
Captain Nemo, for me, symbolizes an aspect of both suicide and pet ownership that is often overlooked. If I kill myself, who is going to feed my pet turtle? If I kill myself, who is going to water the plants? If I kill myself, who is going to do my job? Questions like that, things that make a person feel needed, can often make all the difference.
Of course, you argue, such everyday concerns are nothing in the face of an honest to God existential crisis, and perhaps you’re right. However, I brought home my guinea pigs, Zebra and Bobby, on World Suicide Prevention Day 2015, and I haven’t had a suicidal thought since. Of course, I was in recovery by then, but still. I’m the only one who knows how to pick stray pieces of hay out of Bobby’s fur without startling her. I know how to cut the guinea pigs’ nails without hurting them, and I know that chicory is their favorite vegetable. In my own, silly, domestic way, I am needed. All hail Captain Nemo.
Digby – Pushing Daisies – Bryan Fuller
My blog wouldn’t really be my blog if there wasn’t a TV show mentioned somewhere, right? Have I told you before about the brilliance of Pushing Daisies? It is perhaps my favorite TV show in the history of the world. It is also one of the most saddening victims of the 2007 and 08 strike of the Writers Guild Of America. Season two was never even finished, leaving us with the world’s most terrible unresolved cliffhanger. I will devote a future blog post to this show, maybe even more than one.
The plot of Pushing Daisies revolves around magical realism; the protagonist, Ned, touches dead people and gives them back their life. He touches them again, they die irreversibly. If he does not do so within a minute, some other organism of roughly the same value dies. Bring back a rabbit, kill a hare. Ned uses this power to solve crimes, asking the dead who killed them, and sometimes he also uses it for his own good, as is the case with his beloved dog Digby, whom he has brought back from the dead.
As a result, Ned can never pet Digby, never scratch him behind the ears, never brush a hand through his fur. Any touch from Ned would permanently kill the dog. You see the amount of pain this show causes? Do you understand my pain?
In spite of the limitations of Ned and Digby’s relationship, it is a very touching (pun intended) tribute to man’s best friend. Ned and Digby have a number of ingenious ways to get around their limitations, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
Long story short, I have never seen an animal in fiction that did not add to the narrative. Sometimes, animals are central to the plot. Other times, they illustrate the character of their owners. At the very least, they look adorable. What are some of your favorite animals in fiction?