Top 10 Animal Characters

1. Cloot

Trinity series  by Fiona McIntosh 

I bought the first book in the Trinity series, Betrayal, randomly at an op-shop years ago, because I thought it looked and sounded interesting. Once I started it I was totally hooked, but couldn’t find the second book, Revenge no matter how hard I looked and had actually read Betrayal several times before I finally found Revenge in a second-hand bookstore. The third book, Destiny, was even more of a battle and there was actually a gap of a couple of years between reading Revenge and Destiny, which is very confusing with a fantasy trilogy! One of the reasons I persevered was the quality of characters such as Cloot. Cloot was originally a crippled man who the hero of the books, Torkyn Gynt, rescues from a pack of men torturing him. When Tor and Cloot travel to the Heartwood, Tor finds out his true destiny and the significance of Cloot appearing in his life, and  Cloot is transformed into a Peregrine Falcon. Cloot is a great character both as a man and as a falcon (tho he’s much more majestic as a falcon). He’s like Tor’s conscience because he’s always at his side giving advice and stopping him from getting a big head or loosing his temper, especially because he can only talk inside Tor’s head. He also has some of the best one-liners!

Cloot in the flesh 🙂

2. Fiver

Watership Down  by Richard Adams

The character of Fiver was what drew me into Watership Down at the beginning. As a weird little kid I loved that he was the runt (the fifth in the litter) and that he ‘knew’ things that the other didn’t. I rooted for the little guy all the way through, and was thrilled whenever Hazel (the main character in the book and Fiver’s brother) stood up for Fiver or helped him go on and he grew stronger as the tale went on. Also to this day whenever I think of Watership Down I see Fiver’s poor little face from the very dramatic (and at the age I was, traumatic!) scene in the movie when he has a violent prophetic episode 😦 poor Fiver!

Oh Fiver, you adorable little weirdo 🙂

3. Warren

Rhubarb and The World According to Warren by Craig Silvey

Warren the golden lab provides a healthy dose of humour in Rhubarb, a book that could easily become depressing, and he must have been universally popular because shortly after Rhubarb Craig Silvey’s publishers produced a picture book all his own 🙂 I haven’t found The World According to Warren yet, but I’m sure it is very cute because Warren is such a unique character. For a guide-dog he’s kind of lazy and easily distracted, but his devotion and love for Eleanor is so clear from the start and he has a definite pride in his work.

I would love to see the world through his eyes

4. Horatio

Corinna Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood 

It was hard to pick a singular pet from this series as the books are filled with a host of colourful cat characters, from Belladonna the elegant companion to resident witch Meroe; to the insane ginger kitten, Lucifer who is quickly running out of nine lives; to the Mouse Police, Heckle and Jeckle who diligently catch vermin in the bakery in exchange for noms. But I just couldn’t go past Corinna’s tabby and white tom, Horatio, who quietly rules the whole lot of them, including all humans 🙂 Horatio is the quintessential princely cat. His perfect day would consist of waking to a dish of milk lovingly poured by his mistress, followed by a leisurely morning of snoozing and fur maintenance until his adoring public started to flow through the bakery, at which point he takes his place by the cash register to receive sufficient worship, and then ending by retiring to the roof as his mistress sips a G & T and strokes him to blissful slumber. Oh! and exquisite fish for dinner of course!

I imagine Horatio to look something like this 🙂

5. Hedwig

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Weirdly enough it wasn’t all the cool magic and flying on broomsticks and stuff I envied in the Harry Potter books or movies it was the fact that owls brought their mail!! If I was going to Hogwarts I totally would’ve gotten an owl rather than a toad or rat (didn’t work out so well for Ron!) or cat (even tho I love cats) because, come on, when else can you have an owl except when you’re a witch/wizard?! Hedwig is (was :() such a beautiful owl and even tho she couldn’t speak and wasn’t involved in much action, she played a very important part and is one of the most memorable parts of the books to me.

I want a goddamn owl!

6. Maruman

Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

Maruman is the grumpy, one-eyed and somewhat insane feline companion of Elspeth Gordie, the main character in the fabulous Obernewtyn Chronicles. From the first book (Obernewtyn) Maruman is by Elspeth’s side communicating with her telepathically and cryptically predicting her future. As the books go on it is also revealed that Maruman is the Moonwatcher and as such is destined to protect Elspeth on the dreamtrails. Maruman is a very ancient, often cantankerous and quite loony cat, and that is why I like him 🙂 I don’t think the Obernewtyn Chronicles would be the same without him. I am still waiting for the next  book in the series – The Sending – whose release keeps being delayed 😦 The latest date that has been announced is November 2011, but I’m not holding out hope that this is correct as there has been many dates announced before, but even still I will be waiting with bated breath until it is released.

Come on already!

7. The Doorman

The Messenger by Markus Zusak 

The Doorman is the faithful companion of Ed, the protagonist in The Messenger. He is a huge, old and smelly Rottweiler, German Shepard cross that enjoys a good long snooze and sharing a coffee with his master. The Doorman is the comic relief in The Messenger, providing Ed with perspective as he lives through some very strange happenings. He is non-judgemental and almost immobile most of the time but he has a quiet, unashamed dignity. He doesn’t care that he stinks to high heavens and is surprisingly unfazed when Ed’s mate has to kiss him after loosing a bet. But most of all he is a loving, loyal dog – the classic man’s best friend 🙂

A fine likeness of The Doorman

8. The Librarian

Discworld series by Terry Pratchett 

The Librarian is an interesting character to be on this list as when he is introduced in the first Discworld novel – The Colour of Magic – he is human, and only becomes an Orang Utan in the second book – The Light Fantastic – when the powerful magical book, the Octavo, erupted with a beam of magic. Despite being an Orang Utan the Librarian remains at his post caring for the unpredictable and sometimes volatile spell books at the Unseen University and actually finds that his new form is perfectly suited to climbing the high shelves. The Librarian’s vocabulary consists of the single syllable – Ook – (with the occasional Eek! at times of panic or anger) but it is amazing how many emotions or phrases can be conveyed in that syllable and most of the wizards at the University have no problem understanding him or are phased but the fact that an ape is running the library.

I would certainly welcome an Orang Utan Librarian 🙂

9. Gylfie

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky 

Gylfie was one of my favourite characters in book one of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series – The Capture – and in the movie. She has so much spunk and bravery for such a small and young owl and she always seems to know how to put the main character, Soren, in his place. She is very sharp and intelligent in both the books and movie as well as having a dry sense of humour, but she is not tolerant to jokes about her size and can be quite self-conscious. Plus, being an Elf Owl she is very adorable!

Gylfie in the movie - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

10. The Great A’Tuin

Discworld  series by Terry Pratchett

The Great A’Tuin, Sky Turtle, is much more than an animal character as she carries the whole Discworld (perched on four elephants) through space on the back of her shell. When the series begins it is made clear that the sex of the Great A’Tuin is not known but many adventurers and scientists have tried to discover it by venturing over the edge of the Disc, with unsuccessful results. However it is discovered that the Sky Turtle is female (or at least assumed so) at the end of The Light Fantastic when A’Tuin travels to the hatching site of her eggs which all contain little Sky Turtles with their own elephants and Disc. I personally think that having a Disc-shaped world on the back of four giant elephants who in turn stand on the shell of a gigantic turtle swimming through space, is one of the most unusual and creative ideas in literature and is a real testament to Terry Pratchett’s imagination.

"Great A'Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters."

Top 10 Books About Animals

I’m a big animal lover and I happen to read a lot of books that feature animals, so I thought why not do an animal themed Top 10 this month 🙂 Sooooo first I present my Top 10 books about animals and then the Top 10 animal characters.

Enjoy 🙂

1. Watership Down  by Richard Adams

Lovers of my previous Top 10’s will know that I’m quite fond of the rabbit epic, Watership Down, but it had to be in this list because, basically, it’s awesome 🙂 It may have been the first book with an entirely non-human character base that I loved as a kid, but made me feel grown-up. It’s an excellent story with a wealth of details about the rabbit’s social structure – Adams even created a rabbit language, political and social hierarchies and other clever little tidbits that make the story really rich and believable. Even if you don’t really like books about animals, I would recommend it.

2. Redwall  series by Brian Jacques

Another book (or series of books) that showed me animal stories didn’t need to be boring! I read a fair few of these when I was in primary school (tho I can’t remember which ones exactly) and I thought it was so cool that someone wrote a series of books about mice and other woodland creatures that battle with tiny swords and protect little castles! One day I hope to read the series again from the start, especially because it’s still going with the 22nd book being released earlier this year 🙂

To battle!

3. Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH  by Robert C O’Brien

I think I was given this book for a present when I was a kid, and I still own the original (and very well-read) copy. It’s another book about rats and mice but very different to the Redwall series. instead of mice with swords the story revolves around a field mouse called Mrs Frisby and her family who have fallen on hard times since their father was killed by the farm’s cat. When her son Timothy falls ill and their home is threatened by impending plowing, Mrs Frisby seeks the council of a wise owl who on hearing the name of her late husband refers her to the Rats of NIMH. The rats are former lab rats from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which are highly intelligent due to the testing they underwent there. The book is a classic of children’s literature and received the Newbery Medal in 1972. Robert C O’Brien’s daughter Jane Leslie Conly (O’Brien’s actual name was Robert Leslie Conly) also wrote two sequels after her father’s death: Rasco and the Rats of NIMH and R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH which I don’t think I have read and there was two animated films made based on the books.

This is what happens when you experiment on lab rats people!

4. Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky

So far I have only read the first of this series – The Capture – but even from the first book I was attracted to the detail Kathryn Lasky went into when describing owl culture and behaviour. The book showed some real research into the anatomy and day-to-day life of various owl species, while telling an exciting and emotional story that acknowledges kids intelligence by using real scientific names of species and not shying away from harsh realities – after all, owls aren’t really cute and fluffy, especially in the world of these books! I look forward to reading more of the series (there is 15 in total!) and in fact the second book – The Journey – is on one of my “to read” piles just waiting to be picked up 🙂

I ❤ owls ^-^

5. Promise of the Wolves  by Dorothy Hearst

This was a book that I ordered off my bookclub a few years ago for a few reasons: 1. I had to buy at least one book each month; 2. It was cheap; and 3. The cover was cool and the blurb sounded pretty interesting. The story follows Kaala, a young wolf who barely makes a place for herself in the Swift River Pack as she is a “mix-blood” and is almost killed at birth for this reason. Kaala and her litter mates are given a chance at life when their mother is banished instead, but they are constantly trying to prove their place in the pack. On top of all this, one day Kaala saves a drowning human child when the number one wolf law is to stay away from humans. From then on Kaala’s curiosity over humans grows as does an inexplicable bond to the girl she saved and she has to evaluate the reasons behind the promise of the wolves: Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. The book is set in Northern America at the time of the earliest native Americans and is a very interesting look at how the human-canine bond may have formed. The series (the second book of the Wolf Chronicles – Secret of the Wolves – apparently comes out this month and the third – Spirit of the Wolves – is due early 2012) were meticulously researched over many years and it certainly shows. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

It was the eyes that drew me in

6. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready

I only started this series in 2009 and it has become one of my favourite fantasy trilogies. While the characters are all human, animals play an integral part as each person has an animal aspect that gives them certain abilities. The first book – Eyes of Crow – starts with the main character, Khia, coming up to the time when a Spirit will choose her and already there has been signs that she will be Crow, namely the fact that she can tell if someone or something near death will die or not. The books weave such a rich mythology based on the Spirit animals paired with spirituality similar to that of the native Americans, which makes the plot and characters much fuller and more believable. If you’re a lover of quality fantasy, I’d definitely recommend you give them a go 🙂 As I said before the first book is Eyes of Crow followed by Voice of Crow and ending with The Reawakened.

I wonder what my Spirit animal would be? 🙂

7. Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

This is a great little young adult fantasy series that follows Daine (full name Veralidaine Sarrasri) a young orphan who finds out she has Wild Magic enabling her to speak with animals as well as other abilities that are developed throughout the books such as healing animals, inhabiting animal’s bodies and shape-shifting. The first book – Wild Magic – was given to me by one of my mum’s friends when I was in my teens and I loved it so much that I went looking for the second book – Wolf Speaker – at my local library and soon after also borrowed the third book – Emperor Mage – and the last in the series – The Realm of the Gods. Tamora Pierce is one of those fantasy writers that churns out series’ like a machine so there is actually a few other series’ she has written that are set in the same universe as the Immortals quartet – the Song of the Lioness quartet; the Protector of the Small quartet; the Daughter of the Lioness duo; and the Provost’s Dog trilogy but I have yet to read them.

Daine - queen of the beasts 🙂

8.  Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Many people wouldn’t consider these classics of absurdist children’s literature to be books about animals but there are so many great animal characters in them (namely the White Rabbit; the Cheshire Cat; the March Hare; Dormouse; Dodo; the Caterpillar etc etc) that they had to be mentioned. I’ve been a huge Alice fan since I was a child and still can’t go past a remake or reimagining (The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor and the mini-series Alice are particularly good). I even had an Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass themed party for my 22nd where me and my friend made jam tarts, hedgehog balls and other themed nibbles; and we played pin the tail on the mock-turtle and a special version of pass the parcel 🙂

Curiouser and curiouser...

9. The Wind in the Willows  by Kenneth Grahame

This book is the first chapter-based book I remember being read when I was little. All my picture books and collections of nursery rhymes had been on constant rotation by the time I was about 3 or 4 so mum decided to try reading a little bit of Wind in the Willows to me on nights when I didn’t really feel like a particular story. I was so enthralled by the antics of Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toad Hall that soon it was the only book requested at bedtime. When I was a bit older I also loved the puppet-based tv show. Badger was my favourite ^-^

Nothing beats animals in dapper little coats and waistcoats 🙂

10. The complete works of Beatrix Potter

In my opinion Beatrix Potter was the Queen of children’s stories about animals. She has created classic characters like Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck that are still known of today, which is pretty impressive considering she wrote her stories more than a hundred years ago and she’s been deceased for almost 70 years. Since I was really young I’ve owned The Complete Adventures of Tom Kitten and his Friends; The Tale of Peter Rabbit; The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (one of my personal faves) and a few in the miniature collection, and I still treasure them. I also was very fond of the tv series.

Nawww! look at em in their little clothes! ^-^

Keep your eyes peeled over the next day or two for my other Top 10 – the Top 10 Animal Characters 🙂

Happy Reading!