Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Animals in Literature

Ten characters we’d name our pets or children after? Hmm, no, I don’t think so. None of my three children are named after book characters and neither are my two cats. It’s just not something I would do, so I have tweaked the subject of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday meme (hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish).

I’m not crazy about books about close friendships between humans and their pets because the animals often meet sticky ends, or else there’s usually a heart-rending scene of some sort that leaves me in floods.

My favourite animals characters tend not to have much to do with the world of humans, but my No. 10 choice is from a non-fiction book.

My favourite animals from literature:

  1. ginger_and_pickles_storeGinger and Pickles in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter

These are a cat (Ginger) and dog who keep a grocery shop. Their customers, mostly mice and rabbits, are naturally rather frightened of them, which is not good for business:

The rabbits were always a little bit afraid of Pickles.

The shop was also patronized by mice—only the mice were rather afraid of Ginger.

Ginger usually requested Pickles to serve them, because he said it made his mouth water.

‘I cannot bear,’ said he, ‘to see them going out at the door carrying their little parcels.’

‘I have the same feeling about rats,’ replied Pickles, “but it would never do to eat our own customers; they would leave us and go to Tabitha Twitchit’s.”

‘On the contrary, they would go nowhere,’ replied Ginger gloomily.

2. mr-jackson2

Mr Jackson in The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter

Mr Jackson is a toad and although I am mortally afraid of frogs and toads, I am very fond of Mr Jackson because of his ‘fat voice’ and his good humour. Mrs Tittlemouse narrows the door to her house so he won’t be able to visit and does not invite him to her party but he is handed ‘acorn-cupfuls of honey-dew through the window, and he was not at all offended.’ [see above]

‘Tiddly, widdly, widdly! Your very good health, Mrs. Tittlemouse!’ says Mr Jackson.


3. old-brown

Old Brown in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter

Old Brown is an owl who Nutkin teases. He generally ignores the squirrel (‘Mr. Brown paid no attention whatever to Nutkin. He shut his eyes obstinately and went to sleep.’), but then Nutkin goes to far and it almost ends very badly indeed.

I remember reading this book to my eldest son Elesh when he was in hospital for his heart and he was quite upset when Old Brown catches Nutkin by the tail. ‘Nooo, Old Brown kisses Nutkin!’ he protested.

I like the old Owl and would have liked him to skin the annoying little squirrel as he’d initially intended!


4. dayan

Dayan in the Dayan series, written and illustrated by Akiko Ikeda

Needless to say, I love this cat, but although I find him irresistible, I know cat lovers who find him weird. Check him out for yourself.


5. uncle

Uncle (as drawn by Quentin Blake) from the Uncle series by J.P. Martin

Uncle is a millionaire elephant who has a BA and lives in a castle called Homeward. He is called a tyrant by his enemies, and I guess you could describe him as a benevolent dictator. He wears a purple dressing gown, drinks cocoa out of a pail. When he gets really angry he kicks those who have crossed him 50 feet into the air. What’s there not to like?


6. cheshire-cat

John Tenniel’s version of the Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Well, he’s a cat. And he can will himself to appear and reappear. And he leaves his grin behind for a microsecond before it too vanishes into this air.


7. mogget2

Mogget (really my cat Igor) in the Abhorsen books by Garth Nix

He is not really a cat, but an ancient Free Magic construct in the form of a white cat, bound by a red Charter magic collar to serve the Abhorsen. However, my once-pet Igor reminds me of him. If Igor were really a magical creature in the form of a cat and was bound by magic to do nothing for me, it would explain a lot.

Mogget is sarcastic and scornful. He has a complex history and he develops in interesting ways. Again, he is not really a cat, but perhaps cats aren’t really cats either, but only appear so to us humans because we wouldn’t be able to handle their real selves.


8. badger_profile

Mr Badger in The Wind in the Willows (portrait by C.G. Young)

He is gruff, but kindly and he ‘simply hates society’, which I can relate to. I like the tough way he deals with Toad, whose father was a good friend. Although he thoroughly disapproves of Toad’s behaviour, Badger is also forgiving and tries his best to encourage Toad to improve himself. I would like to be like Mr Badger. But I’m not.


9. rabbit

Rabbit in the Pooh books by A.A. Milne

Rabbit is my favourite character from Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. He and Owl are not toys, but woodland animals with real brains instead of stuffing for brains. According to Pooh, that’s why Rabbit never understands anything.

Rabbit is sarcastic, brisk and practical. He sometimes seems to have a strange sense of humour. Here are some of my favourite Rabbit moments from the books:

“What I said was, ‘Is anybody at home?'” called out Pooh very loudly.

“No!” said a voice; and then added, “You needn’t shout so loud. I heard you quite well the first time.”


“Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”

“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”


“Hallo, Rabbit, isn’t that you?”

“No”, said Rabbit, in a different sort of voice this time.

“But isn’t that Rabbit’s voice?”

“I don’t think so,” said Rabbit. “It isn’t meant to be.”


“Hallo, Pooh,” said Rabbit.”Hallo, Rabbit,” said Pooh dreamily.

“Did you make that song up?”

“Well, I sort of made it up,” said Pooh. “It isn’t Brain,” he went on humbly, “because You Know Why, Rabbit; but it comes to me sometimes.”

“Ah!” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them.


10. capy

The capybara in Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell

Durrell goes to South America in search of animals for British zoos. One of the creatures they collect is a capybara who keeps them awake by playing his cage like a harp, twanging at the wire mesh with his teeth. Capybaras have such solemn, dignified expressions that this musical one must have been quite a sight.




One thought on “Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Animals in Literature

  1. Mogget — loveable, irascible, dangerous — is currently my favourite cat, but there were a few I loved that we used to read to our kids such as Orlando the Marmalade Cat, the cat from Carolyn Sloan’s Carter is a Painter’s Cat (pictures by Fritz Wegner) and also The Patchwork Cat by Nicola Bayley, with words by William Mayne. But I also loved reading Jane Pilgrim’s Blackberry Farm books, with their nostalgic pictures so reminiscent of the immediate post-war period in Britain.


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