I talk to animals. Maybe I should be more specific. You see, I don’t go around to any old worm, ant or cockroach asking them how their day is going. No, I’m much more selective with my Doctor Dolittle tendencies. My dog, Jack, for example. <—-That’s him, over there to the left. The one with the crazyman eyes looking like he’s about to eat my face off (It’s not his best angle). Yep, he’s worthy of the kind of Homo sapien to beast exchange I might participate in. And in case you were wondering, yes, he does on occasion talk back.
You see, I’m that person who walks into a pet store and believes that every cute, little non-toilet-trained ball of fur is looking at me, and only me, begging to be taken home. I’m fairly sure I was the nightmare child that begged and begged for a puppy, a kitten or a hamster. One time I believe I actually hid my auntie’s new puppy down my jacket and hid in the back seat of the car for a reasonable amount of time thinking my ploy a great success. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Ahh, my days as a 7 year old dog snatcher now long passed, and yet I still have not grown out of my animal talking ways.
Jack and I have some good ol’ yarns. He usually monopolises the conversation, telling me how much he needs a scratch behind the ears, shouting at me for not paying him enough attention for the last hour, telling me how happy he is to see me in the morning after 7 or 8 hours of no play. Yep, Jack and I, we are quite the intellectual conversationalists.
Anyway, there is a point to this animal talking admission. I realise that together with my post about talking trees you may be starting to wonder if I’m actually a bit of a loony, escaped from the crazy house, slightly ‘unhinged’. Yes? Well, rest assured I’m about to defend my stark raving madness. The fantasy fiction buff that I am, I’ve always noticed how many writers in this genre incorporate some affinity for animals in their stories. Whether it be an ability to understand and talk to animals, or where the animals are spiritually connected to their human protagonists, or simply conveying a love and caring for animals as pets or companions.
I know that one prevalent convention of the fantasy genre is that the main character is often isolated or cut off from society in some way. Harry Potter had his friends but they couldn’t always be with him or go through the trials he undertook. And so there was his owl, Hedwig, to keep him company. In the Farseer Trilogy series that I’m reading at the moment (see my previous post) some people have the ability to talk and bond to animals. The main character, Fitz, is one of these people, and again, is in many ways detached from society. His animal bonds offer him the companionship and friendship that he cannot find in the human company he keeps. In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials every human has a daemon, which is essentially a person’s soul in the shape of an animal. Isobelle Carmody is another animal lover, advocating, in her Obernewtyn Chonicles, for animals in such a way that a horse must agree and be willing to carry a rider. Where animals are not owned or considered pets, but exist as equals amongst humans.
I’m sure there are many more examples, but I wonder at this manifestation of animal equality and the many stories whereby the humans have the ability to speak to animals. Does it stem from some guilt at the maltreatment of animals over the centuries? Or is it some inner, subconscious response to a desire to realise such a possibility? Perhaps I’m just looking to substantiate my predisposition to talking to animals. Who knows? What I do hope, is that in the very least it results in an awareness of animals – not so much as to offer them a seat at the dining table perhaps, but as living things just as worthy of the respect and decency that we expect for ourselves.
Jack says it’s time to play. The beast has spoken.