Anthropomorphism– the attribution of human form or behavior to an object, animal. I.E.- Anything done by Disney.
I think most of us grew up with something along these lines. Whether it be a singing mouse, a trouble-making Wabbit, a lasagna-eating cat, and so many other characters, we’ve seen an anthropomorphized animal. Today, many people think this is entirely about physical alterations and not the behavior. I believe there is another term, but I forgot what it was and couldn’t find it on the Internet.
I’ve always found it strange when people argue over this topic. Some feel that talking animals bring down the maturity of a story. They cite Alice in Wonderland as if it’s a wholesome story and not a literary acid trip. I’ve even run into some readers who believe every fantasy world needs some type of talking animal. To be fair, they count dragons here. Long ago, I got into a debate with someone who thought every world with magic has talking animals because a wizard set out to enchant all of them. This person meant EVERY world and there was no questioning how there would always be a wizard with this bizarre fetish. As if Gandalf and Radagast got stoned and went on a bender in the forests, which is oddly believable after seeing the movies. Finally, you have people who simply don’t care, which is the majority.
Personally, I think it all depends on the delivery, which is a phrase that should be inscribed on my chest. I always say this because it’s true. Nearly every literary trick depends on how the author does it. A talking animal can fit into a world of magic, especially if they have either a back story for the ability or the power of speech is across the Animal Kingdom. For example, unlike other Pokemon, Team Rocket’s Meowth can speak more than his name. At some point, this is explained as him learning how to speak at the cost of being able to learn any more attacks. At least this is what I heard when I paid attention. So there’s a sacrifice for such a power in this case.
One thing that does annoy me is when every talking animal is friendly, except for the alpha predator. The squirrels and rabbits are kind, but the grizzly is a serial killer? The variety of human behavior seems to end at the universal beliefs about certain animals. Prey animals are kind and predators are sociopaths. I’ve spent time watching the squirrels around my house over the years. There are some pretty mean squirrels out there, so to think all of them are nice is a mistake. While we’re here, can someone explain why every animated duck from the old days seems to have some mental issue? Daffy Duck is a conniving, greedy coward and Donald Duck is a rage-a-holic. I’m not even going to get into the extended web-footed family here.
So, what do people think of talking animals or animals with human behavior? Have any favorites or examples of it done horribly wrong?