As promised this week we explore more narratives featuring four-legged characters and those catering to lovers of all things canine.
Perhaps one of the most enduring tales with animals as the protagionists, and elements that may resonate in these times of social flux, is George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Inspired by the events of the Russian revolution and the ensuing Stalinist rule, this allegory has its roots firmly in political rebellion and cataclysmic social change, with animal-lover Orwell exploring a wide array of themes including the hypocrisy of tyranny, social stratification, political ideology, the power of language and more through the farmyard characters.
This political fable which owes much to a moral tradition extending all the way back to Aesop, was included in Time’s list of top 100 books of the English language and has been a staple in school curriculums for decades.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Greene is a classic account of fun and adventure with a few life lessons thrown in for good measure.
Following the lives of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger, this study in friendship is also a beautiful evocation of the natural world. It is steeped in nostalgia and despite Toad’s often chaotic exploits, hearkens back to a much simpler time … the perfect way to while away a rainy winter afternoon.
Perhaps one of the most enchanting of all animal characters would have to be a little fellow name Winnie-the-Pooh who makes his first appearance in the book of the same name penned by AA Milne in 1926.
Everything about Winnie and his stories is beautiful and simple and delightful, from his origins as a beloved toy to Winnie’s naive but incredibly loyal and steadfast nature and his diverse circle of friends, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Roo and Kanga.
Winnie-the-Pooh was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928 and the character is also included in books of verse When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927) all illustrated by EH Shepard.
The books enjoyed Harry Potter-like success and the characters were seized upon by Disney making them global and timeless celebrities.
Pooh’s inherent wisdom has also been explored in books like the Tao of Pooh while Piglet features in The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff.
Now to stop dog lovers champing at the lead, let’s look at the books which celebrate man’s and woman’s best friend.
In A Dog’s Purpose by W Bruce Cameron, Bailey finds himself reincarnated as a puppy after life as a stray and so begins his journey to discover his true purpose.
During these travels he provides a unique perspective on the human/dog relationship in a story of enduring love and friendship which proves that everyone has a reason for being.
Spoiler alert, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein will break your heart … and then put it back together.
Central character Enzo is described as ‘a philosopher with a nearly human soul’ who has some wonderful insights on life and ironically the human condition, in a beautifully-crafted must read for Homo sapiens companions.
Then there’s …
– One Good Dog by Susan Wilson which illustrates what happens when two souls hit rock bottom and end up being the other’s salvation.
– Marley and Me, and although subtitled Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, readers soon realise that ultimately John Grogan and his family would not have given up a minute of the 13 years they spent with their impossible hound.
– Flush penned by Virginia Woolf and described as the ‘veritable canine classic’. The constant companion of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Flush offers up an incredibly insightful social commentary combined with wit and whimsy.
– Call of the Wild. Central character Buck lived a life as adventurous as author Jack London. He experiences the extremes of existence in the Alaskan wilderness before finally surrendering to his true nature and embracing complete freedom.