Friday, September 5, 2014

The Best of Literary Animals

I've wanted to do this post for a couple of weeks; I've never seen anything like it in my internet ramblings, and it's yet another in this year's feature series "Best Of". So far we've done best of heroes, heroines, sidekicks, friendships--and today, we're going to do best of literary animals.

I've never been hugely enamored with animals. I like them if they like me and aren't too rowdy, but I was afraid of big dogs up until a couple of years ago, and my only experience with animals thus far has been with a beloved, spunky, opinionated cat we had for almost seventeen years.

Now that our kitty is gone, our contact with animals has mostly become theological debates on whether or not animals go to heaven (I'm inclined to think it's highly possible, but we have strongly divided opinions, and always end up saying we simply don't know.) and occasional cuddles with some kittens whenever we happen to see them.

Even though I never surrounded myself with animals, I recognize and treasure the intrinsic friendships that animals and humans can have. It's a special bond; and some of the animals in literature are heroes just as much as the humans are.

These are the animals I love the most in the books I've read. If you want to help me expand this list, I would love to hear your favorites as well. :)

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The Black (The Black Stallion)
I put him up top because The Black is my favorite animal ever in the history of literature. I read the whole series (some books towards the end I wouldn't recommend) and loved every horse race he won. It didn't matter how many. It didn't matter that I knew he was going to win them. He was a wild, free spirit, and I love Alec's friendship with him. I've lost count of how many times I've read The Black Stallion, and though I haven't picked it up in years, I would read it in a heartbeat and live all the magic over again.
Strawberry/Fledge (The Magician's Nephew)
The London cab horse in The Magician's Nephew that got to see the dawn of Narnia, and become, not just a tired old cab horse, but a mighty fellow with powerful wings. He had the privilege of taking Digory to get the apple. Without Strawberry, the tree in Narnia would never have been planted, and Digory would never have been able to take the apple home to his mother; the wardrobe would never have been built--and the four Pevensies would never have gone to Narnia. So many things wouldn't have happened without this trusty old fellow. He deserves his meed of praise.
Jewel (The Last Battle)
While Jewel is a unicorn and not a horse, he really belongs in the horse category. Besides, I like unicorns. I like to think they could have existed, even though they don't, and I'm happily deceiving myself. He and Tirian made the best of friends, and they stood valiantly together in The Last Battle, and said goodbye to each other like old comrades.

"Dear King... Farewell. We have known great joys together. If Aslan gave me my choice I would choose no other life than the life I have had and no other death than the one we go to."
-The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis 

Shadowfax (The Lord of the Rings)
Gandalf's horse. The beautiful white stallion that can gallop across the plains and take his master on important business--who comes at a whistle, and stands with Gandalf in the epic battles for Middle Earth. He deserves to be remembered, for he helped save Faramir, stood before the Nazgul when all other horses fled, and *spoiler* according to LOTR Wiki, accompanied Gandalf into the West. *end spoiler*

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Barnabas (At Home in Mitford)
He's the best big black dog that ever kept an elderly Episcopalian priest company. As big as a refrigerator and only controlled by quoting Scripture verses, he brings spunk and love and heartache and new beginnings to Father Tim's routine existence. He also eats practically eats dollar bills.
Top (Mysterious Islands)
The loyal sidekick of Cyrus Harding, Top escapes with the five Union prisoners in this Jules Verne classic, and keeps them company as they make a life for themselves on the island they shipwreck on. He is a noble dog, one of the few that doesn't die half-way through the story, and is never happier than when he is with his master. Where Cyrus Harding goes, there Top shall follow--into all comfort or danger. A worthy fellow.
Colin (Prester John)
Another well beloved dog. Davie Crawfurd meets Colin when he arrives in Africa, and the two quickly make friends. In the midst of a dangerous native uprising, Colin follows Davie through capture and peril and walks miles to find him when Davie is forced to leave him behind.
Bran and Sceolan (The High Deeds of Finn MacCool, by Rosemary Sutcliff)
They were Finn's reward for rescuing the young babies of a warrior from a giant, and he treated them well. Another layer of epic wonder in the Irish legends of Finn MacCool.
Nugget (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson)
He's fun. The little dog who became a giant, he's the beloved companion of Tink and Janner and Leely, and gets them in and out of trouble a million times. Invaluable help in battling the Fangs of Dang, and crippled Leely's special companion. The book leaves me rather befuddled, but Nugget is sure to delight any young dog lover.

1st Peter and 2nd Peter (Jane of Lantern Hill)
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Jane and her father got a kitten and named it Peter, but when the Snowbeams gifted them another kitten, which they insisted was named Peter and must stay that way, Jane's dad christened them 1st Peter and 2nd Peter. Absolutely adorable, even if Mrs. Snowbeam thought it was sacrilegious.
The Christmas Day Kitten (James Herriot's Animal Stories)
This was Junior B's favorite story when we read aloud to her, which threw the rest of us for a loop because it was such a tear-jerker. She would be sitting there in rapt attention, perfectly enjoying it, while the designated reader teared up and got a tight throat from the sadness of it. A lady loses her pet cat, and finds special redemption in this little kitten. (The kitten was the happy part). This tale is probably in the adult James Herriot books as well as the children's version, but I can't remember which one.

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Jup (Mysterious Islands)
Jup the orangutan. He is not a talking animal, just a regular one, and when the five manly explorers wrestle him down and tame him, they train him to perform different tasks for them, and take a great liking to him. He has a simple-hearted loyalty and honesty in his animal way, and he's a wonderful animal companion.
Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, and Still-Mo (title the same name)
The five red squirrels--these little fellows were our first introduction to Sam Campbell and his real-life adventures in Wisconsin. We loved them. We laughed over their antics, hoped that they would all stay together, and loved how their stories brought comfort to a group of young soldiers wrestling with the horrors of war. I highly recommend their acquaintance.

Talking Animals
Badger (Wind in the Willows)
I loved Badger. He's an introvert of sophisticated tastes. A wise old fellow who knows how to help with problems, and has no nonsense about him. He saved Mole and Water Rat in the Wild Wood, and they spent a cozy night in his tunnel.
“Badger hates Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing.”
-The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Tolkien's eagles (The Hobbit)
How could we have a post about literary animals without Tolkien's eagles? Technically they're birds and not animals, but a post on The Best of Literary Birds is a little beyond the scope of this blog. :P The eagles annoyed me in The Hobbit because they stole all the thunder in the high intensity scenes, but I loved them in The Return of the King, and they grew much more lovable throughout my acquaintance with Tolkien. Now in The Hobbit I smile at them, because they save everything. And I must confess that when I watched the movies, more than once I was on the edge of my seat clinging to the fact that the Eagles must be showing up soon.

These are some of my favorite animals. All loved, and ones I have read about over and over again.

And I'm not averse to pets in real life either, far from it. I think they're a beautiful gift that God has given us--something that can bring great joy to our lives, and constant sources of love and fun. Someday I hope to be a happy writer with a husband and a rag-tag bunch of children, one cat, and one bearded dragon. The bearded dragon might never happen--but then again, you never know. It might.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Aww...I loved this post. You picked some great animals-I had forgotten how nice and introverted Badger was. :) It's my opinion that animals are a very important gift to us. ;) If you look at it, they're exactly like fiction. I mean, we don't exactly need fiction to learn important truths-we could get it from non-fiction just as well-but it's an important way of communicating and it's a way to relax. Puppies and kittens and all other animals are simply there to give comfort and put joy in our lives and that's their purpose. Sometimes it's nice to know that your pet doesn't have any problems. ;)

    Those James Herriot children's stories were really good! Like the dog that never barked, and the kitten who lived with the piglets. I just get a happy ache thinking about them. :)

    I still don't totally get your liking for bearded dragons. XD I mean, they're nice and all, and I'm not opposed to them, but it seems a little weird. :P I hope you're able to get one someday-maybe you could get one of those cute little babies. :)


    1. I'm so glad you love animals. <3 <3 Keep right on loving them, and I know the Lord will open doors for you to enjoy them in real life someday as well as in books. :) There are some days I just want to hold a cat for comfort....And I think something about an animal softens people because it relies on them to take care of it.

      Oh, I loved the dog that never barked! And Oscar, the cat about town. We mustn't forget Oscar...he's such a Jake sort of cat. It was fun talking about these animals at lunch today. :)

      Bearded dragons are cute and dramatic and sophisticated. They fit in with the color purple and Irish legends and big fat books full of adventure... :) I'll have to get one from that nice man at the Creation Museum someday.


  2. Absolutely loved it, Lady B!! And that you added so many horse stories. :) We have The Black Stallion series and we enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommend that for family viewing. :)

    1. Oh, wonderful! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :D You have an lovely variety of animals all around you at your place, and while caring for them must take a lot of dedication, I know they also give a lot of delight and companionship. I love seeing how much you love them. :)

      I've never seen the Black Stallion movies before! But he's my favorite horse...


  3. What a cute post! I had a comment typed out Friday night, but I closed the wrong tab and lost it--and was too tired to rewrite it. And then I tried again this morning, but I lost it 'cause it didn't go through. :P But here it is now: I loved your post. C.S. Lewis's animals were always my favorite. The good ones, especially. I loved Jewel. And I still have a lot of the Black Stallion novels on my shelf--though I don't think I'd recommend them all.

    You must read Black Beauty someday, though. He would have made it onto your list, I'm sure. Black Beauty, and his friends, Ginger and Merrylegs, inspired my sisters and my love for horses. :)

  4. Aw! Losing comments must be going 'round the blogosphere lately. Thanks so much for typing it out again.

    I had forgotten that you've read C.S. Lewis! He has so many wonderful animals. :)

    Years and years ago Collin and I raced through Black Beauty (guess who won? :P) and I don't remember much about it, so I'll have to read it again. I have a faint recollection of Merrylegs, and Black Beauty I recall as a very sweet horse. :)

  5. Oh, I love this post so much, Schuyler! It made me really happy reading about all those wonderful animal characters in fiction ^_^. I am not familiar with all of them, but the ones you mentioned put a big smile on my face. I am not a crazy animal person either, but I am fond of faithful dogs, and little kittens (cats are. . . uhm. . . okay.), and I think horses are some of the most beautiful and graceful creatures God has created; and then there's the deer, and the lambs <3. Those are my favourite animals, though I generally much prefer to love and enjoy them generally, and am probably a little less experienced "hands-on" with animals!

    Strawberry/Fledge!! I love the flying horse of Narnia so much ^_^, and Jewel <3 <3 - he's my second favourite character in The Last Battle; I am so glad you included him! He's so beautiful, but also faithful and upright. A true friend and comrade to the king. Actually, I was unsure whether you've read the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis - it is nice to know you have, as they are some of my favourite books :). Have you seen the film adaptions? While they are "talking animals", some of my other favourites in Lewis' Narnia books would be Reepicheep the Mouse, and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver!

    And of course. SHADOWFAX! "The lord of all horses", as Gandalf would say. . . I always get such shivers in that scene from The Two Towers when Gandalf whistles for Shadowfax to come, and he comes floating across the fields glimmering white tail and mane, and so gloriously beautiful. <3 <3
    Ah, Tolkien's eagles are quite special too, I agree. There is that amazing feeling of hope in their arrival. It's wonderful! Actually, I was glad they changed the scene in The Hobbit movie vs. the book when the eagles rescue the dwarves, that they don't croak and talk, but are stalwart and true and silent, simply giving an eagle's cry. . .

    Oh, I must tell you, Schuyler! I just borrowed James Herriot's first two books from the library "All Creatures Great and Small" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and I am so excited to start reading them, especially since I've already watched a few episodes from the BBC adaption "All Creatures Great and Small" for Herriot's books, and really love what I've seen so far - you're so right. . . one moment you're laughing so hard it hurts, then next moment a soft sadness comes and you feel like tearing up :'(.

    Some other favourite animals in literature would be Timmy from "The Famous Five" by Enid Blyton, all the wonderful animals in "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge, Jack Laura's dog in "The Little House" books, "Clause" the pussy cat from "The Treasures of the Snow" by Patricia St. John . . . just to name a few :). And there is "Joey" from the "War Horse" movie - that is one special horse!

  6. Oh, oh, HOW COULD I FORGET REEPICHEEP? And Mr. and Mrs. Beaver? I loves those animals so much. :)

    Thanks so much for commenting. I loved it.



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