Friday, December 17, 2010

great anthropomorphism!!!

greetings, my sweet little tenders!  the snow is falling - as is intended for the winter season - and i am pleased by its soft blanketing of the farm land across the road from the window through which i am staring.

in the spirit of december being magic again, it seems a good time to discuss anthropomorphism in animals.  you know, what with rudolph talking and all.

anthropomorphism, according to our faithful wikipedia, is a term coined in the mid 1700s.  it was used to refer to any attribution of human characteristics (or characteristics assumed or believed by some to belong only to humans - which is a good point to bear in mind, sweet ones) to animals or non-living things, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. most cultures possess a long-standing fable tradition [think aesop] with anthropomorphised animals as characters that can stand as commonly recognised types of human behavior.

yann martel's 'beatrice and virgil'
we do not trust humans inherently.  we are given to bouts of dishonesty, war, murder, rape.  animals, we trust them.  they open their mouths and speak what may appear to be a great truth, such as the final words of the great stag in gustav flaubert's the legend of st julian the hospitaller, "accursed! accursed! accursed! thou shalt murder thy father and thy mother!" - and they carry the weight of a prophet.  the strength of which can change a man from a ruthless animal killer to a saint. seriously.

but are animals innocent?  no, they most certainly are not.  apes are known to gang up on and ruthlessly murder their peers for no good reason. animals also lie, deceive, murder and rape.  animals can be evil, plain and pure - but would we call them evil or simply adhering to their nature? we tend to excuse them for their overwhelming grace and majesty.  at least, i do.   why does our nature haunt us whereas the nature of animals enchants us?  i don't have this answer.  nor do i require one.  i love those fuzzy buggers, big and small.

let's talk about some good examples of anthropomorphism:

george saunder's fox 8, obviously. again, if you don't have this rare-to-find story [changed my life kind of story] please don't hesitate to contact me and i will send you a copy no problem.  it needs to be read and spread!

one of my most beloved of aesop's fables is the story of the fox and the crow - a tale that warns against vanity.  we sure could take a tip from mister fox.

my dearest friend, the cat lady of parkdale regularly gives sensitive and omniscient voices to cats on her blog, cats of parkdale.

well. you all know by now that i have a deep love and respect for joanna newsom as both a musician and lyricist.  so does her near-ten-minute work of genius monkey and bear [song] succeed, yet again, in drawing from me a sort of blissful chill upon hearing it. the lyrics are right here, to further your sense of overwhelm. please take the time, little tenders.  this is a beauty.

another contemporary example would be roald dahl's [1970] fantastic mr. fox. it is rare that a book meets its film counterpart and they find themselves eye-to-eye, as equals.  but the film, directed by the most excellent auteur and autodidact [alliteration!] wes anderson [of steve zissou/rushmore/royal tenenbaum fame] is, in my most humble of opinions, equal to the book.

let's also listen to a bittersweet tale of unrequited love in tom wait's fish and bird.

let us not forget felix salten's bambi, about which i have already blogged.

i would be remiss if i didn't mention disney's robin hood. robin hood and maid marion are red foxes!  it's just the best bloody traditionally animated film ever made.  don't argue with me.  i've got proof.

beatrice and virgil, a painful and heart-wrenching novel written by canadian author yann martel.

in all of the aforementioned films/novels, there is a common trope: one cannot trust a human.  the misanthropic sentiment encourages me to believe that the creators of these animal-characters also believe in the enduring beauty and trustworthiness of our fur-laden earth-sharers.

what wouldn't you give to wrap your arms around a majestic stag?  to feel the nuzzle of a red fox into your neck?  to burrow your body under the weighty arm of a great lion?  to trace your fingertips in the creases of a beautiful full grown african elephant

now consider what you wouldn't give to hear them whisper their secrets to you?