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La Rivière Bourbeau by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté

Yesterday, I wrote a rather long post.  It is full of information for people who want to read the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling where there are all kinds of animals, old and new.  But it quite suffices to know that ‘modern’ authors have incorporated ancient animals into their books.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, suddenly I wanted to tell you that a blog of his kind is a mere guide.

Several posts ago, I mentioned that I had had to prepare a course on Animals in Literature.  Given that I was busy doing something else, preparing my course proved quite a task.  So I suffered my worst episode ever of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

However, preparing and teaching beast literature allowed me to discover a marvellous world which I simply organised.  I knew about the various manners in which tales are classified and came up with a course outline that presented animals in literature in a concise and pleasant manner.

No, I did not expect my students to read all of those texts.  There are thousands, so that would have been ridiculous.  But my students were given the overall picture and read a few fables, a few beast fairy tales, and they learned about beast epics, Reynard the Fox.

I could not expect them to read Reynard the Fox, so I chose to present a few of Reynard’s tricks.  As for mythological and mythical animals, again I could not expect them to read complete mythologies and become acquainted with all medieval Bestiaries.

The one book everyone read was Kenneth Grahame‘s The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908But together we glimpsed at Peter Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh, Rudyard Kipling‘s The Jungle Book and Just So Stories,  Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit.  As well, each student prepared a little talk about one animal (the Unicorn, the Dragon), or about one book, and if possible illustrations, such as Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.  Beatrix Potter was a marvellous artists.

So, although my blog was long, I would suggest you simply enjoy some of these figures, except that you have the benefit of knowing where they fit.  This can be useful when mothers and fathers read stories to their children.

Yesterday’s post abridged

In short, yesterday’s post was about, first the upside-down characteristic of Beast literature and, second, about the continuity in beast literature.  The fantastical animals of mythologies and myths are reborn in modern stories, J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter’s creator, being a good example of a mixture of ancient animals, like the three-headed dog of Greek and Latin mythologies:  Cerberus, and new fantastical creatures.


1 November 2011