Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Last night, my dog Riley curled up on my legs while I was in bed trying to figure out what to blog about today. As I lay there, feeling his heartbeat against my skin, an idea hit me: animal sidekicks.


Some of the best and most overlooked characters in fiction are the animals. They create comic relief, like Pascal in Tangled. They provide companionship, like Narknon in The Blue Sword. And they offer a sympathetic ear, like Hedwig in Harry Potter.


Just as in real life, animals in fiction are often the best friends a person can have. They don't judge, gossip, backstab, or really have any agenda at all. (Besides being fed, of course!) Sometimes they even save your life, like Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. Or ride into battle with you, like Talat in The Hero and The Crown. Or set you free, like Rosie in Water for Elephants.

Okay, in case it isn't totally obvious by now, I'm a big animal lover, and today's post is a tribute to our furry, feathery, scaly, and otherwise strangely skinned friends. If I could, I would adopt all of these beasties straight out of the pages I met them on.

What about you? Who are your favorites? Which animal sidekicks would you curl up with at night?

KH

24 comments:

Dawn said...

I did love Pascal in Tangled - how cute was he?! I love Hermione's Crookshanks - I always thought he knew stuff, not just your average cat, y'know. Even though it's not the same, my daughter and I love the dogs in Phantom Tollbooth. She's 16 and it's still one of her faves!

Sarah said...

Crookshanks IS hard to beat. There were a lot of good ones in HP. I really don't often read books with animal sidekicks (though there was the heartbreaking one in Courtney Summers' Cracked Up To Be) because most books for older teens don't really include them in a major way.

Sunlight Shadows said...

You mentioned two mcKinley books, so I'm going to mention another. Ash in Deerskin (technically adult, but that's never stopped this teen before) saves Lissar's life in more ways than one, plus Ossin's fleethounds sound so beautiful. ;_;

Also, this probably doesn't count because they talk, but the Narnian animals always made me jealous. Especially Jewel the unicorn and the horses in Horse and his Boy.

chelleyreads said...

You're right--the animal companions in books are always overlooked. My favorite ones from books I've read that I would love to adopt are Hedwig from HP and Lyra's dæmon Pantalaimon from the Golden Compass. I like the idea of how both animal companions are like a part of the hero or heroine in the two books that it hurts both of them when they're apart.

Thanks for the great post and happy reading!
-leslie
booksandmakeup.blogspot.com

Sonje said...

You know I love HP like nobody's business, but I have to say that I've always found Hedwig a bit lacking. I wanted to like her more because she's an owl and I have an owl thing (which you also know), but there's not much to her "character." I agree with others who site Crookshanks as the best animal sidekick in HP. At least he does stuff and knows stuff and even has his own secret life in the Prisoner of Azkaban.

When I think of animals in books, I think mostly of the books I read as a child. I never wanted to read anything that didn't have an animal story line, and those books - books for children - were willing to make the animals more than sidekicks. They were main characters. I loved the BLACK STALLION series - read all of them and there were more than 20! I also loved MY FRIEND FLICKA, BLACK BEAUTY, and THE CALL OF THE WILD, just to name a few others.

kaye (paper reader) said...

I'm such an animal lover that this is incredibly difficult. Let's see...this list is probably going to be incredibly stream of conscious-like:

Meeko from Disney's Pocahontas is one I'd probably like to have a good snuggle with, and Mushu would cheer me up when I need a laugh. Grimalkin from The Iron Fey series would tell me what I needed to hear even if it's not what I wanted to hear.

Charlotte from CHARLOTTE'S WEB, even though she's a spider, would there for those wise mama moments.

I wouldn't mind a Pascal either, though! And I always loved the rabbit from THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, does he count?

Nonie said...

I love this topic! My favorite animal sidekicks are probably Toothless, Pascal, Sebastian from the Little Mermaid, Blackjack the Pegasus from the Percy jackson series, and of course I can't end the list without Crookshanks and Hedwig. :)

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I just finished reading 'Blood Red Road' and Saba's crow Nero is just adorable. I'm actually scared of birds in real life, but in books I guess they're okay, haha. I just lovvved his character. He was quite human-like, with intelligence and emotions. I loved the way his character and his relationship to Saba was written.

We Heart YA said...

@Dawn-
Yay another Pascal lover! And yes, how could I forget Crookshanks? He's a popular one here, it seems.

@Sunlight Shadows-
I really want to read that! Well, I really want to read ALL McKinley's books, actually.

@leslie-
That IS a cool idea -- how tightly bound the person and their animal might be. That concept can be found in Robin McKinley's PEGASUS, too. (We HIGHLY recommend that book.)

@Sonje-
I used to love all those horse books too! Unicorns and pegasii as well. :)

@kaye-
YES MEEKO! AND MUSHU! Disney does animal sidekicks so well. The Velveteen Rabbit is kind of a special creature all his own. I think I read my copy of that book so many times the pages started falling out... :P

Donna Gambale said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE. This may even inspire a post of my own one day, and if so, I will wholeheartedly give you and this post credit for being awesome and brilliant and inspirational.

Pascal and Maximus were my favorite characters in Tangled!!! The Maximus and Flynn scenes were hilarious.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Black Beauty! or the Black Stallion!

Or Lassie! ... wait .... the older dog in Incredible Journey--okay, I'm showing my age here *laughing*

stephaniemooney said...

When I was a kid, I was in love with the THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, so my list is rather long. I'm sucker for realistic animal friends in fiction too. I loved Rontu in ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. Oh, and Meeko and Flit in Disney's POCAHONTAS.

Mary said...

For the longest time, I'd avoid books with animals because they'd be killed off (Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows scarred me. Deeply.). Now? I love Harry Potter for all the awesome Bestie Beasties especially Fawkes the Phoenix and Trevor the Toad. Oh, and Hedwig!

We Heart YA said...

@Donna-
Aww, thanks! YES, Max and Flynn were hilarious. (And I know this post is supposed to be about animals, but Flynn in general was dreamy.)

@Kathryn-
Pssh, nah, Black Beauty is classic. ;)

@stephanie-
Hmm, it's been so long since I read ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS that I don't remember Rontu. But I do remember learning the word "comorant"...?

@Mary-
Yes, unfortunately many beasties do get killed... We like Robin McKinley's books b/c she loves animals too much to kill them off, usually. We avoid the famously sad books.

Fawkes! We forgot about him!

KH

Anne Bennett said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting on reading outdoor. I love the book The Sky is Everywhere and think it is a perfect outdoor book.

Concerning animal side kicks, have you read Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein? It is narrated by a dog, Enzo. It is a wonderful and uplifting story.

Small Review said...

Two of my favorites are Taggle from Plain Kate by Erin Bow and Grimalkin from the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (both talking cats). They both add so much life to the stories. They've also both utterly captured my heart. :)

Semisweet said...

Hey there!

Just checking out your blog and some of your older posts. New follower! And I dig this post in particular because there have definitely been times when I've read a book or seen a movie or tv show and fallen in love with the animal companion as much as (or more than!) the human lead. : )

Happy Tuesday!

Ann @Semisweet

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

I love Toothless! He was so adorable! I also love some of the choices already mentioned...Meeko and Pantalaimon are fabulous!

Bailey said...

Awesome post idea. I love animals in movies. Pascal is definitely one of my favorites. He is adorable!!

Jadey! said...

Pascal was adorable but i much preferred Maximus the Horse! Rewatched Tangled the other night <3

Crookshanks is my Number One literary animal though, alongside Scabbers (if he counts!). Does Dobby count as an animal?

We Heart YA said...

@Anne-
Yes, I've read Enzo's story, and he was a wonderful narrator!

@Small Review-
I wonder if I'll get to read about Grimalkin in SUMMER'S CROSSING. That's the only part of that series that I have right now...

@Ann/Semisweet-
Hiya! Thanks for dropping a line. :)

@Jadey-
Haha, I think he's more person than beast. But don't worry, I won't tell Hermione that you asked! ;P

KH

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I just took my lil one to se How to Train your Dragon. It was fab!

athanasia-d said...

Pascal in Tangled was amazing but i also liked the horse too (i can't remember his name though).

i love stories with animals, Marley from "Marley and me" was one one my favorites..

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

OMG I love Mia's cat in The Princess Diaries...Fat Louie! :D Animal Sidekicks RULE.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
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Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
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The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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