Top Ten Tuesday: Animals from Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This topic was submitted by Paige @paigesquared and Jennifer Y. @ Never Too Many to Read and is lovely – especially as at the moment I am reading The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood to my daughter, which I am actually loving!

Podkin the Rabbit in The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

A plucky tale of rabbits… this turned out to be a darker story by far than I had anticipated.

Bluntly, Podkin’s entire warren appear to have been killed by the villainous Gorm who are rabbits fused with metal who can convert other creatures into themselves – think rabbit-shaped Borg, perhaps. And this is Chapter 2!

And my daughter loves it! Even if in the tense moments I do remind her that the Gorm are only rabbit-sized and would look really cute trying to attack us!

The plot does feel a little derivative in places but Larwood’s prose has a muscularity to it!

However, generally anthropomorphised animals tend to leave me a little cold, so I am going to limit myself for the rest of this list to animals in books who remain true to their animal nature – mythical perhaps, wild or domestic, but definitely

Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

Whilst I just said that I wanted to avoid anthropomorphism, this first choice butts up against that decision because Manchee, our hero Todd Hewitt’s dog, can talk.

This works in the world of the novel – alien planet, post colonial war which seems to have caused widespread unfiltered telepathy so that all men’s thoughts are broadcast to everyone around them.

And allows animals to talk.

And Manchee, despite this ability, talks about what dogs probably would talk about: generally poo.

And whilst Todd never wanted him and felt he was a rather underwhelming birthday present, his role within the novel is both tragic and heroically loyal.

Spider the Dog in The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Susan Hill did not think to leave any ghost story trope untouched in this novel – which makes it a dream to teach! – and Spider the dog is no exception.

What would you expect? A loyal companion? An early warning ghost alarm system? Confirmation that the experiences Kipps has in Eel Marsh House have an existence outside his own subconcious? Check, check and check. And she is described simply as

a sturdy little terrier with a rough brindle coat and bright eyes.

Daybe the Daybat in Railsea by China Miéville

Not the most imaginatively named creature in the world, but that is an issue for Sham Yes ap Soorap, the protagonist of this novel who rescues the injured daybat and nurses him back to health.

A debt which is repaid later on in the novel.

The dragons in A Natural History of Dragons, The Lady Trent Memoirs, by Marie Brennan

I mean, dragons.

They are always going to be an appeal since meeting Smaug in The Hobbit as an impressionable young boy.

Unlike many dragons, these are beasts and animals – imposing, dominating and apex predators – rather than mythic or magical and Brennan literally dissects their corpses at times. At least as much as she can before they turn to dust.

Mocker-Jack the Great Southern Moldywarp in Railsea by China Miéville

Yes the second animal from Railsea – and no mere pet or sidekick here. Moldywarps are the vast tunnelling moles beneath the loose soil over which the rail tracks are laid – they are the unseen vastness of the whale in this re-imagining of Moby-Dick – and Mocker-Jack is the enemy, the antagonist. Is Moby-Dick himself.

But Miéville’s words describe him best.

A living earthquake. Shaking the edge of the world. Black earth parted, & animal enormity burst forth.

Pale leviathan, shoved up from the under. It gnashed in epic rage. That mouth! A vast slavering, where steeple-fangs jostled. The mole howled. Haunches like overhangs, claws like towers, shoving into light.

The vast harsh velvet beast breached.

Rinn the dolphin in On Midnight Beach, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Rinn the dolphin’s arrival is the starting point – the inciting incident – of this Young Adult novel.

He brings with him prosperity (tourists and dolphin tours) but also conflict with the rival neighbouring town and eventually tragedy. But he never stops being a dolphin with a real physicality.

Up close it didn’t look like Flipper off of the telly or the shiny pretty dolphins on the greeting cards in our shop. It was covered in scrapes and gouges – random slashes near face and fin and tail, parallel lines hatched its sides as if someone had raked its skin with a pitchfork, a nick out of its dorsal fin the size of a fifty-pence piece. There was one particularly vicious mark along its right side and a single white scar that ran above and below its left eye, like the marks clowns paint on. The eye between the marks was watching me.

Richard Parker the Tiger in The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

If Richard Parker is a tiger, anyway. I love this novel but I am not the greatest fan of the final twist.

But this “450-pound Bengal tiger” with whom Pi shares a lifeboat and forms a wary but deeply profound bond with is a wonderful creation.

Even if its name was a misnomer, where a clerk transposed the name ascribed to the tiger – Thirsty – and the name of the hunter who had trapped him – Richard Parker.

Captan and all the dogs in Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Another of the Carnegie Medal longlist novels, this one abounds in animals: fish and bees, horses and dogs – which is unsurprising as it is set on the mountains of Maine during the Great Depression as a town family adjust to what is essentially frontier life.

And Captan is the mangiest, roughest looking beast! Yet still fiercely loyal and protective. When we first see him,

At first I thought coyote, but it wasn’t. Too big.

And then I thought wolf, though I’d seen only one of those. But he wasn’t a wolf, either. Too . . . blunt. Not enough snout.

And then: dog, though not the kind I knew.

Wild dog, maybe.

He had a big head, a lean body, and was well brindled—some of him brown, some red, some gray—with an ample tail and a coat still winter-thick.

Even from five paces away, I could see an enormous tick hanging from above one eye, so full of blood it waggled as the dog tipped his head to one side, his face fiercely curious.

Moby-Dick the Sperm Whale in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

I cannot not end on the big daddy of them all: Moby-Dick. Especially as I included Mocker-Jack.

Whatever symbolic, metaphorical power he wields (considerable) and whatever diabolic intelligence and malevolence Ishmael attributes to him (which says more about Ishmael and Moby-Dick), he is at the end of the day a great big albino whale doing what whales do. Swimming about and eating!

Ahab is the monster here!


Many thanks for reading and I have tried to avoid the more obvious animals (direwolves and magical owls in particular, as well as Tolkien’s giant eagles…) and some classics and some more contemporary releases. Please do comment if anything catches your eye, I read and try to respond to them!

As always, time is against me for my reviews and I am so so behind so next week’s topic will be a great opportunity to at least touch base on some of those upcoming reviews.

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Topics

  • May 4: My Ten Most Recent Reads (maybe share a one-sentence review to go with?)
  • May 11: Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)
  • May 18: Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences (Submitted by Jessica @ A Cocoon of Books)
  • May 25: Book Quotes that Fit X Theme (Pick any theme you want, i.e., motivational quotes, romantic dialogues, hunger-inducing quotes, quotes that fill you with hope, quotes on defeating adversity, quotes that present strong emotions, healing, etc. and then select quotes from books that fit that theme.)

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