We love animals and reading, so it’s no surprise we love animals in our reading. Thinking back over books we’ve enjoyed that feature non-humans, we’ve been fans of cats who solve mysteries, horses who live beautiful and tragic lives, dog detectives, owl letter carriers, rascally rabbits, motorcycle-riding mice, and fawns who hang out with skunks.
Like their fictional human counterparts, the furred, finned, and feathered take traditional character roles in some books. For instance, in the 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith, an orphaned piglet is the hero. He learns to herd sheep and saves his own life. The book was the basis for the 1995 movie Babe. Going back to the classics, Black Beauty is the story of a horse’s life, told by the horse.
Animals can be secondary characters too, the sidekick that illuminates the hero’s strengths as well as flaws. The Cat Who series is an example of animal companions of this type. Two Siamese cats help solve mysteries, but the stories are written from the point of view of the attendant human.
In fantasy and horror, animals become part of the main character. Folklore about humans changing into wolves date back to the middle ages. Today’s fictional werewolves can be found in the original Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine as well as the Harry Potter books.
Animals can also symbolize a character or trait without explicit description on the part of writers. For example, in our culture, dogs are considered loyal and protective. That’s probably why dog-as-detective is a natural fit for fiction, and why Lassie is still a classic.
What fictional animal friends have you made through books? Let us know in the comments.
HL Carpenter — Read along with us!
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
Connect with HL Carpenter