Monday, April 24, 2017


NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined reading and viewing linked or noted below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

One of my favorite talking animals is Phillip Pullman's polar bear, Iorek Byrnison. I remember being very struck by this moment when Lyra meets Iorek:

"Lyra's heart was thumping hard, because something in the bear's presence made her feel close to coldness, danger, brutal power, but a power controlled by intelligence; and not a human intelligence, nothing like a human, because of course bears had no daemons. This strange hulking presence gnawing at its meat was like nothing she had ever imagined, and she felt a profound admiration and pity for the lonely creature. He dropped the reindeer leg in the dirt and slumped on all fours to the gate. Then he reared up massively, ten feet or more high, as if to show how mighty he was, to remind them how useless the gate would be as a barrier, and he spoke to them from that height.

'Well? Who are you?'

The voice was so deep it seemed to shake the earth. The rank smell that came from his body was almost overpowering."

Andrew O'Hagan on Fiction's Talking Animals: "From Achilles' horse to Lassie, animals provide moral authority and sympathy in fiction, often giving voice to the silenced and oppressed."  Click heading to read the rest of the article.

Then click link below to read an excerpt from ONE of the following. (Or write about a talking animal book you've already read.)

 And, finally, click HERE, to watch Mark Wahlberg talk to farm animals.


Syeda Khaula Saad said...

I have to admit something that may not make me very likeable, but growing up, I never quite enjoyed stories about animals. Or maybe, it was rather that I enjoyed human characters more. But I just know that aside from Clifford the Big Red Dog (which is a children’s book, not young adult fiction) and Aesop’s Fables, I steered clear of books with animals in them. Perhaps it was because I was not allowed to have pets, but nonetheless, stories of the sort never interested me. So when O’Hagan tries to be relatable with “most of the children of the world” at age 10, I feel myself becoming left out.
But when O’Hagan began speaking about how “animals present a challenge to our humanist bearings,” I began to think of this.
I am not sure how relevant this is, but do you notice that in many movies, people will not even bat an eyelash at most deaths of characters, but as soon as a dog dies, it is a crying fest? That is because animals are perceived as these all-innocent creatures. So when we give them human-like personalities and such, they become invincible in the literary world.
I appreciate how O’Hagan looked at more sophisticated works and their use of animals, because it just goes to show that whether they are used as leads, as crutches, or sources of humor, animals play a crucial role in literature. And sometimes, the use of them can help us understand humans better than the use of actual humans.

Susan Lee said...

Perhaps it is because I am an only child, but I always wanted my stuffed animals to be real. The idea of having an animal companion sounded fun and interesting. Reading characters that had animal companions that talked and shared stories was something that I envied much as a child. It seemed so interesting to have not a human but an animal sharing ideas and secrets. I definitely add flair to an otherwise mundane story. When I read Philip Pullman’s story when it first came out, I was captivated by the idea that each human had a daemon that represented his or her soul, almost as captivated as the Iorek was with the idea. The incorporation of intelligent ideas advanced the ‘fantasy’ aspect of his story. I feel like without that inclusion it would have just been a story that attacked the Catholic Church and other government systems that were in place. With the inclusion of animals for each of the characters, however, the story became a fantasy that is targeted towards people from many different, if not all the demographics.

I read ‘The Amber Spyglass’ by Phillip Pullman and I felt they did an amazing job incorporating animals into it. As I mentioned already it made me as the reader want to have my own animal daemon. The companionship the main character, Lyra had with her daemon was so special and meaningful that I can’t imagine the book without it. It made a difference that this relationship was with an animal because It made it feel more lasting and believable.

Becky Clark said...

Growing up, I always read books featuring animals and loved reading ones where the animals talked. Hagan talks about reading books with talking animals because it presents the idea that we do not know as much as we think we know. As a kid, I knew that animals couldn’t actually talk but I imagined that they had their own secret language that they could communicate with each other. Animal books transported me into their world where humans could understand them. It was the “special relationship” Hagan describes where “children were somehow more like animals, closer to unspoiled nature.” I like the idea that there is more to animals than we can see. Some of the most memorable books I read were The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Time Cat by Llyod Alexander. C.S. Lewis’s book has so many magical talking creatures in Narnia. While I am not a fan of the overly religious themes, Narnia is a complex world that held my interest as a kid. I don’t think I ever found the talking animals to be extraordinary but I could accept that they were part of the world and magical. Time Cat takes place in a more modern day society and is about a boy who has a talking cat that can travel back in time. I enjoyed this book because I had pet cats and could imagine myself talking to them. My cat can’t speak English, but she understands me. Hagan mentions there is a loss to a child’s experience of reading which is “we are expected to grow up and find the connection ridiculous.” I don’t think this ever happened to me. I am not like a child, who can accept talking animals immediately, but I view it more as animals are complex creatures we do not know everything about. They may not talk in our language, but they can still communicate.
My favorite part of the Wahlberg video was when he talked to the sheep because the sheep just wore an expression that he could care less Wahlberg was talking to him.

Sierra Commons said...

I think it's interesting that there appears to be two (at least) types of "talking" animals in stories- those that have some sort of extra bit of meaning tagged on (that O'Hagan talks about in his article) and those that are just characters that happen to be animals.

Series I read: like Redwall which is basically medieval times with mice, badgers and rabbits; Warriors, about cats living in clans in the woods; Guardians of Ga'Hoole, about owls doing their owl-thing in a fantasy world. Of these, only Warriors takes place in a world with humans in it, and the story focuses on the animals. In these stories, the animals aren't really animals the same way they are in stories with a human focus. They're really just characters with animal bodies and movements.

One instance of animals I've encountered a lot in books I've read is ones that talk through telepathy (and often form significant bonds with humans in the story). Very often these "animals" are more than animals, either being an otherworldly creature in animal form or a mythical creature. The daemons in His Dark Materials are like this, and though they aren't -really- animals, the concept that they reflected the inner personality of one's soul is a fascinating concept (and certainly had me wishing I could see mine and wondering what it would be when I was younger). Other series that include a close bond between human and "animal" are Dragonriders of Pern (dragons, duh), and the Heralds of Valdemar series (these animals, called Companions, take the shape of white horses but it is clear they are not horses and indeed seem to be some sort of higher-being that has chosen horse form).

In the end, I'd have to say that animals definitely add an instant "something extra" to stories, especially for a lot of kids. I think there's just something delightfully conspiratorial about it, that the adults of course don't believe but the kids do. Not to mention animals are cute and fluffy, or cool and strong, can fly through the air and run faster than people- pretty compelling companions for sure.

Jenny Huang said...

I love the way Andrew O’Hagan describes fiction’s talking animals. My favorite paragraph began with “Our house was chaotic…” I loved the way he describes the dog’s point of view – how something as mundane or as simple as not being potty-trained to pee on the newspaper becomes something existential and so human. O’Hagan describes dogs and fathers as having two things in common: loving liver and craving absence – and it’s so strange to think that such complex creatures like humans, with emotions and thoughts and ideas, can be condensed into a simple creature like a dog, who only eats and poops and runs. I like that he describes talking animals in literature as “deepen[ing] the concerns of realism.” He uses so many specific instance of animals in literature and describes them very distinctly, so you know exactly which one he is referring to. I suppose with any animals in literature it’s a lot more difficult to capture an individual personality or character about them, because they are so limited in their thoughts.
I read the excerpt of Watership Down, which O’Hagan describes in his article as being a humane book. It was about a “group of rabbits making their way to a hill north of Hampshire” but actually was about so much more – reading the excerpt allowed me to think that there are so many ways for fiction writers to get across ideas without necessarily utilizing human characters. I quite liked the way Richard Adams described setting in Watership Down, allowing me strong visuals for the place where the rabbits lived. Additionally, he says “he had not the harassed look of most ‘outskirters’” – and the idea of making all of these animals into something so much more would not have even crossed my mind until I read O’Hagan’s article. The imagery given and characters made from the rabbits seem so human. Making these animal characters more humane and contemplative represents a kind of unsaid symbolism. As O’Hagan says, “Talking animals present a challenge to our humanist bearings.”

Maggie Lu said...

Watching Mark Wahlberg talk to animals was funny especially with the “say hi to your mother for me” line, and seeing the animals’ reactions and the chicken twitching. He talks to them like humans and I know they don’t understand him, but I wonder what they are possibly thinking in their language. I like that in Andrew O’Hagan’s story, he gives some insight about various well known books. Idealizing animals and using them in stories add to the imagination level in stories because each animal’s character/personality is so different that they seem like humans. The article shows that animals are not solely in stories to add cuteness; they have their own thoughts and in some cases, some animals are actually the antagonists. I definitely agree that having animas in a story represents a special relationship between a child and the animal.
Of course, Charlotte’s Web is a classic example of a fiction book with talking animals. I remember the book being read to us in elementary school, and my teacher would change her voice based on characters. Wilbur and Charlotte have such different personalities, which adds more to the story and it’s not just about Fern. The life of a pig is very adventurous and interesting – from going from Fern’s dad almost killing him to being nurtured by Fern to being sold to meeting Charlotte, who is developed as such a sophisticated and intelligent character, he has human-like thoughts through it all. The whole storyline is so sad because it is so realistic, which allows readers to connect to better, with Charlotte saving Wilbur’s life and then dying, and Wilbur being left with Charlotte’s offspring. What this book portrays so well is the great chemistry between two animal/insect friends and making their personalities, actions, and interactions so realistic that readers can empathize.
In addition, although it is not a book, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, will always be one of my all-time favorite movies. The whole movie is the adventure story of three animals, Chance, Shadow, and Sassy. They have their own cat and dog language to communicate and it’s interesting because although their actions are similar to how human would act as well, is it obvious that their way of thinking is influenced by the way animals would act or think. This is what makes any story with animals so good in my opinion, because of the fact that there are still certain aspects of the story that are clearly affected and different than if a human were the one in those shoes.

Louise McSorley said...

I grew up in a house filled with animals (mostly dogs). Over the years we had three birds, a rabbit, fish, a pack of dogs, a cat, two ferrets, and a hamster. Having all these animals probably helped make me feel such a connection to them. I remember being very young when for a whole week straight I pretend to be a dog: I ate dog food (dry food, of course, I wasn’t that gross), drank their water (actually that’s extremely gross), ate their biscuits, and even tried to walk down the stairs like a dog (it’s very dangerous and I don’t recommend it).
Then as I got older and my house became more unstable, I felt even more connected. I agree with O’Hagan’s quote about animals acting as a “gateway” almost to better moral and political understanding: “The sheep's plight was ready matter for human sympathy, and I saw a connection there between speech and politics that would never go away.” Animals are mistreated and abused everyday (both domestically and through industry) and they have become a symbol for the oppressed and silenced.
Last spring I had to read The Golden Compass for a class. And while I only half read it, I was familiar with the story because of the movie—which remains one of my favorite movies ever and has inspired much of my writing. My best friend adores the series but I was always a very poor reader and obnoxiously picky so I never quite got around to reading any of the books. The excerpt from The Amber Spyglass portrayed Iorek in an interesting way, though. He is still an animal—albeit more intelligent than the “lesser creatures” and perhaps as intelligent as humans. For me, the most animalistic feature shown to us is when he eats the carcass of the man—a man Iorek respected greatly. The man is eaten raw and Iorek must use his “deft claws.”

Michael Mintz said...

Anthropomorphic Animals in my opinion can be really fun if done correctly, stories like Winnie the Pooh or The Golden Compass are great examples. Stories that make you forget that the characters aren’t human yet whenever something they do is a bit weird or different makes you consider it is normal due to the fact you remember their not actually human. When Piglet is blown by the wind you remember he is a stuffed pig doll and not a shy child. However even though there are great examples of how to create Anthropomorphic animals a lot of stories just use this idea in creepy and disgusting ways. Sexualizing the characters. Doing this often completely throws off the reader and re-changes the whole focus of the story. Especially if they were doing a great job making the character feel normal. Then when they sexualize the character you realize mid-way that the character is not actually human but some walking animal. Of course there are some people who have that type of preference however that and then completely overturning a story with one scene is different. Also you could also have Anthropomorphic characters who just live in a world without humans is also interesting making the human itself the alien presence inside their world. These types of stories are often interesting show the alienation and loneliness the human feels, or how emotion can transcend race or differences. By changing a race to a different race one could use them as analogy without having to worry as much as offending some people.

Colleenie vonVorys-Norton said...

Having taking animals in stories is a way to show the human experience from another point of view. Writing for their point of view gives humans a why to see their own actions in a new way. Having a human observe another human is a normal occurrence, but having an animal try to figure out humans is completely different. In Pax by Sara Pennypacker, the reader is able to understand what is happening while the fox isn't. It's incredibly heart breaking to see his story from the foxes point of view because it is much more impactful to see the world through the innocence of his eyes.
Animals have a childlike innocence that adults crave to get back and children can relate to. Seeing the human world through another eyes can be very helpful for children because they can figure out the world with the animals. Having children being able to understand difficult subjects through animals can transfer over to their lives and how they are able to process the world. That is why many children's books involve animals. Its easier for children to understand animals actions then human ones because they can relate more to animals then to adults.
On the other hand, adults can be effected by animals when the animals are written in more mature ways. Animals can remind adults of their past and having the animals be in turmoil can be very effective in invoking emotions from adults. Having animals in stories is not always childlike and can actually help with understanding and the emotional plot of the story.

Dan O'Connor said...

I guess there is something special that comes from the perspective of an animal that one can't find when reading or writing humans. By setting a story about an animal or within a world of animals there are certain things that people will know already. I mean people understand concepts of animals. A pig and a fox and a dog all are connected with certain ideas of how they should act or something. The pre-established connection helps with laying a base for who or what these characters are. I guess too then that playing with these images might create an interesting inversion of thought. For that reason animals seem like such good candidates for satire and politics and fables.
I read the excerpt from Watership Down and Pax. Watership was interesting and Pax made me genuinely a little upset. Animals occupy such a particular spot within society, how they are both dangerous nature and domesticated friend. As a child one of my favorite books, Redwall, was about talking animals. Thinking about that book now I can only say how less special it would have been if it were about people instead an abbey full of mice and their friends. For a child I think there is something important about the world of animals, how it is in some respects just cooler, but how the grownup world is i don't know to full of itself? I don't mean to suggest that these animal stories are better or less complex, but maybe there is something part of humanity that animals can better display than people can.

Crystal Lam said...

When forced to read Watership Down before entering high school, I dreaded the thought. Without reading the summary or flipping through the pages, I assumed the book was about war and politics (for some reason...maybe it was the title). Imagine my surprise when I started reading then novel and there were talking bunnies. I thought it was the funniest thing. My summer camp friends thought I was crazy for reading late into the night rather than conversing with them. On the one hand I had to finish the book before summer ended but the story itself was captivating. At the time, the writing was a bit dense for me. It seemed to move very slowly and complicated a simple matter. Then I became immersed in their language and funny names. Their problems became more serious and I genuinely cared for the characters. The writing was so amazing that I started relating more to the rabbits than the humans.
I like how O'Hagan groups several books about talking animals together and discusses them as one entity. It is interesting to see the similarities between each and how many of the books are written and set in European countries. Reading the article, I remember the satire of Animal Farm and the buried meanings in the pigs' conversations. For school, we read Watership Down in preparation for Animal Farm, getting us used to the idea of talking animals. The whole idea of having animals talk is a great way to interest children and at the same time satirize topics that if written about with human characters, could get authors into political messes.

Leah Usefara said...

Watership Down is fucking scary. I got the movie on one of my birthdays and I was excited because it was about rabbits, had a pretty cover, and was the first DVD that I owned (all I had were VHS copies of the Powerpuff Girls and the 1970s Scooby Doo episodes). I never expected demonic things to happen. I still remember the frothing rabbit and the image of rabbits bunched together and dying, trying to get out of their holes for air after being closed in. There was so much death and suffering and for some reason, I kept coming back to watch it. I don't know why I did. Maybe I was sadistic, maybe I thought if I re-watched it then I would get a different story. It was different from American Tail and The Secret of Nimh, who talked about immigrants, slavery, and animal experimentation. Maybe that was because I knew Watership Down was closer to home. People went hunting for rabbits all the time. People razed their property and get it evaluated for gas or oil all the time. People see rabbit or gofer holes all the time and wonder where they go and what would happen if they filled them. They, along with me, never thought about it if the rabbits actually had feelings and thoughts and friends of their own. Even other movies with anthropomorphic animals having friends seemed totally okay and not scarring because they were fantasy to me. Watership Down was gritty and realistic to the child me.

Katie Steely-Brown said...

I loved this discussion of talking animals in fiction, particularly children’s fiction. Growing up, I was drawn most often to books with talking animals— these were the stories I read over and over. I feel strongly drawn to a particular quote in the middle of O’Hagan’s essay: “Like children all over the world, by the age of 10 I'd come to believe that most of the really humane creatures were not really human at all.” When I was feeling particularly upset with the world around me, I would go back to my books with talking animals, who I felt seemed both purer and at times smarter than humans. The often inevitable deaths of these animals often hit me stronger than human deaths in books, reducing me to tears each time I read them. A particular favorite was Aslan from the Narnia books — one of my all-time favorite book series. I was impressed by his knowledge and wiseness, and at his bravery when he suffered torture for being a lion and was put to death. Another was Hedwig the pet owl from the Harry Potter series — Hedwig did not actually talk, but was described to have a human level of empathy and intelligence that made the scene where she sacrificed her life to save Harry from a killing curse traumatic as she actually had more kindness and goodness than many humans in the book series. The use of talking animals in literature allows us as humans to really see our own behavior from another perspective and analyze how poor our behavior can be, and makes the morals of a story both hit harder on a reader and be more memorable.

Siming Hsu said...

I came to the realization a few months ago, after paying a visit to my childhood home to finally clean out whatever I'd left behind when I moved out for college, that I loved reading dog books when I was a girl. However, after reflecting on it, I realized that none of these books were about the fantastical talking animals that so many children know and love. The bookshelf that I had been cleaning out was stuffed with the paperbacks I'd loved as a child, and if there was an animal featured in them, it was usually a puppy. Nicholas Edwards' Santa Paws series, Beverly Cleary's Ribsy, Shiloh, Because of Winn-Dixie, A Dog's Life. I could go on. I think something in me instinctively reached for these books where the focus was on the animal-human relationship, rather than giving human qualities to the animals themselves. Or perhaps it just had to do with dogs in particular, especially since, at nine years old, I had just met the love of my life, Scooter, who I talked about a little in class.

Aside from my preoccupation with human-canine companionship, I found other forms of fascination with talking animals as a child. Charlotte's Web was one of my favorite books and movies, and the Watership Down movie was a constant source of joking between my friend, who owned it on VHS, and I - despite the fact that the one time we actually sat down to watch it, we became too disturbed and had to stop after a few minutes. Animals are easy for children to understand - they are loyal, mighty, and beautiful, and to give them human qualities often makes their stories easy to digest for children. I think even children understand that animals have an inherent innocence to them; they are not evil, but simply a part of nature. Sometimes they are our guides into greater adventures, like Alice's White Rabbit; sometimes they are our guardians, like Narnia's Aslan. And when interacting with one another in a human-free environment, they are reflections of human society in an easily digestible setting.

Christopher Yi said...

I’ve always enjoyed the idea of using animals as a comparative guide to humanity. Animal characters always seems to act with a sense of purpose and are creatures of routine as they are created to fit their respective natures and counter the unpredictable and instability of humans. The idea of having an outside perspective on human actions and emotions can really highlight how strange some of the actions and ways in which people think. The sense of occasion and majesty when introducing an anthropomorphic animal is always a highlight of any story but they should never be used as a mere decoration. Exploring the idea of giving animals a voice is so pertinent in the structure of a story and there’s too much potential wasted for just having a talking animal or animal companion as just becoming background noise. I used to have a rabbit and he was very temperamental. Seeing the bit with Andy Sandberg made me chuckle because I would talk to my rabbit as if he were human sometimes. Whenever I moved his toys he would thump around as if he was saying that I was intruding and destroying the carefully crafted world that he spent so much time creating. People have a natural fascination with animals and when they are executed well, they can lift a story to being almost iconic.

Richard Urquiza said...

Anthropomorphic animals have always been a fascinating aspect of children's novels and classic literature. They always seem to be a straight-frowardness to their characters in regards to what they want. Their simple but determined desires allow for easy conflict between them, such as Mother Wolf and Shere Khan, and other fables and stories. As natural beings, animals are useful to personality mysterious and wise figures that know of wisdom beyond normal human understanding.

Animals are also an easy way to increase character sympathy with readers or audience. It is hard for someone not to care about a dog or cat person. They also help establish reader immersion. There is no need to describe much to the readers about the characters' appearances, as they already know what a certain animal looks like.

As with any writing, it is important to add elements that are unique so they stand out to the reader, so that they stay interested. Animal creatures accomplish this in spades. However, my favorite aspect of using animals as characters is how visually interesting and iconic they can be, such as the characters from Alice in Wonderland or Wind in the Willows. The amount of symbolism that can be added with beasts is truly inspiring, such as with he raven in Edgar Allan Poe's masterful poem of the same name. Equally so is the fun a writer can have with playing with the designs of creatures, such as with the Cheshire Cat.

Over all, animal characters add a lot of creative aspects to an author's writing easily and efficiently.

Melissa Cecchini said...

Thinking about it now, I think my answer to talking animals is that we don't want to be alone in our existence. We want other creatures to share our experiences and to be able to communicate with us about their own. We do research on dogs that lets us know all about their complex brain processes, and we put apes to their communicative limits because we want there to be more than just us. I think it's because when humans are all we've got, we get lonely. Lonely and bored.

So then we turn to literature, the place where all our problems are fixed with fiction and magic. We create talking animals not only to create that sense of the fantastic but also to live out the "what if" sense of it. What would talking animals add to the world? What would the contribute to our stories and our society? Creatures like Aslan and Iorek are memorable most because they are these great majestic animals that society prizes as some of the top tier. The way we perceive their beauty and their grace, even their danger to us, influences the way they speak and the human-like mannerisms they adapt. And the Chesire Cat, too. Cats are strange creatures that do really weird things sometimes and have a long and mystical history. So along with making the Chesire Cat have mannerisms to reflect the madness of the Wonderland, there are also mannerisms that are rooted in which animal was chosen for the part.

Sara Hankins said...

Anthropomorphic animals can offer two different viewpoints to a story depending on how they are brought to life. In the excerpt by Philip Pullman about the polar bear king, Iorek Byrnison is very much a bear as is proven by his mannerisms, like how he swims in the sea and eats the remains of his human friend. At the same time he has a human-like thought process, recognizing that the human he ate used to be a friend of his and will attempt to get revenge while also looking for a way to save his polar bear community. I don't know anything about the context of the story, but having animals and humans communicate with each other allows for all sorts of cooperation or competition amongst the species. It could be the main point of the story or just an extra bit of magic that comes with fantasy YA. It's up to the author to turn an animal with a human mind into something far more memorable than a simple animal.

The other kind of anthropomorphic animals seen are the kind like Pax the fox from Sara Pennypacker's book. The excerpt is from Pax's point of view as the family drives to the woods to return the fox to the wild. It's the most heartbreaking one for me because Pax does not have a human-like mind. He is totally innocent in his fox-like world, focusing on smells and sounds just like a real fox would. We see the world through the eyes of a creature that does not understand small nuances of emotion that the humans have, which works our beautifully as the readers pick up what is going to happen before Pax does. The heartwarming love and trust in the animal makes the events of the story more real and allows the reader to escape into a mindset they used to have or wish they had, that child-like innocence that is lost by most of us. This could be why people enjoy reading about animals so much; because it reminds us of our youth when every animal and inanimate thing had a personality of its own and bringing those child-like wonders to life on the page.

Elaina Yu said...

From very early on, I always loved animals, especially wolves, falcons, foxes, and horses. The ones who talked were even more especial, even if they were meant to be “evil” or “foolish.” My childhood was littered with them and I decorated my fantasies with them. Between stories of the Monkey King to Harry Potter to Aesop’s Fables, I always revered them as knowing more than humans did.
It became kind of a joke with my friends who grew up and with my writing, that there are some troupes that I would always fall back to. But in regards to characters that was always the wise all-knowing figure that gives cryptic messages to the narrator, it was always two stereotypes – a blind person and a talking animal (and no surprise, a wolf, falcon, fox, or horse). My intro to creative writing professor had my class final, write a piece about my writer’s obsession. So I talked about my love for water and colors and light/dark motifs. But I also talked about blind characters and talking animals. To me, blind characters, because they aren’t distracted by things that seeing people are, often see more than seeing people can – which is within other things. And talking animals are a high form of their original forms, so that if they have reached a point where they can talk, they must also have vast knowledge of other things. So, to me, talking animals do not value things that humans hold dear such as money and fame, so they are far greater beings than deities and share that with our household gods.

ALEX LYU said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ALEX LYU said...

Anthropomorphic animals provide insight into two different viewpoints for a story. In Philip Pullman's excerpt about a polar bear king, Lorek is clearly a bear, as one can see through his behavior, mannerisms, his tendency to swim in the sea and eat human remains. Simultaneously, however, his thought process is very human, and he recognizes that the human he eats was once his friend, and wants to save his polar community. Much like the story we read previously about the wolf girl, such a technique allows us to bridge the gap between our monkey mind, reptilian brain, and human brain. We simultaneously recognize the human qualities clearer against the backdrop of animal qualities, and then recognize the primitive force that drives us all against the backdrop of a logical mind. Another anthropomorphic animal we see is Pax for Sara Pennypacker's book. The story takes place from Pax's POV as his family drives through the woods to return the fox to the wilderness. Pax does not have an intelligent human mind and seems very animal-like: naive, innocent, instinct-centric. He perceives the world through sights, smells, and sounds, and doesn't understand the nuanced behavior of the humans carrying him. In a way, though, this animal-like animal is still human like. It reminds us of a time when we were children, or reminds us of our children. We see the innocence and still growing conception of the world through new eyes, and it allows us to experience some child-like wonder again, too, in this fantasy world where we are a fox.