Depicting Animals: Anthropomorphism and Naturalism in Children’s Literature

Animals have become an essential part of children’s lives, enriching their experiences and nurturing their imagination. Children are exposed to animals through a wide range of mediums, such as literature, movies, music, and toys. Furthermore, many children have pets, establishing a special bond and fostering a sense of responsibility and companionship.

The relationship between children and animals is reflected in early children’s literature, where animals have been incorporated as characters since its inception. Animals serve as friends and companions, with whom children can share their joy, sorrow, secrets, and fears. The depiction of animals in children’s literature can be categorised into two main styles: anthropomorphic and naturalistic.

The anthropomorphic portrayal, also known as the older approach, is prevalent in literary genres like fairy tales and fables. In this style, animals assume human characteristics, allowing children to relate to them more easily. On the other hand, the naturalistic portrayal aims to present animal characters in a realistic and authentic manner, free from human attributes. This approach has gained popularity in contemporary children’s animal literature, likely influenced by the growing urbanisation and the desire for a connection with untamed and unspoiled nature.

“The Pig Who Made It Big”: A Journey from Farm Animal to Beloved Pet

Stories like “The Donkey Doctor” and “The Pig Who Made It Big” blend both naturalistic and anthropomorphic elements in their depiction of animals. These books strive for a realistic portrayal of animal behaviour and characteristics while incorporating human-like attributes to enhance relatability and emotional connection for young readers.

In the story “The Pig Who Made It Big” the depiction of the animal, specifically the pig, showcases a transformation from being a simple farm animal to becoming a film star and eventually a cherished pet. The story explores the pig’s journey from being initially overlooked and dismissed to being recognised for its talents and intelligence.

The pig is portrayed as curious and initially bewildered when the film crew arrives on the farm. It expresses self-consciousness and hesitates to be in the spotlight due to its perceived unpreparedness. The pig’s concerns about its appearance and cleanliness add a touch of realism to its characterisation.

Initially, the film crew sees the pig as a unique and interesting addition to the film. The director appreciates the pig’s natural and unaltered appearance and encourages it to be itself. The pig’s abilities are recognised and admired, leading to the realisation that it has untapped talent.

The Bond Between Children and Animals: Empathy, Companionship, and Responsibility

The Pig Who Made It Big

The pig’s participation as an extra in the film gives it a sense of pride and happiness. It receives compliments from the actors and discovers qualities within itself that it had never known before. However, its joy is short-lived when it overhears a conversation about consuming pork, which shatters its newfound confidence.

The story takes an unexpected turn when the dog approaches the pig and reveals that it will become a pet and live with him and the director. This twist provides a positive resolution for the pig, offering a new life and the opportunity for a loving and caring environment.

The story highlights the pig’s emotional journey, from feeling undervalued and objectified to finding acceptance and a sense of belonging. The director’s decision to give the pig a name and treat it as a cherished member of the household emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding towards animals.

“The Donkey Doctor”: Challenging Stereotypes and Recognising Animal Values

The story “The Donkey Doctor” shows the donkey, in a sympathetic light. The depiction of the animal emphasises its loyalty, endurance and ability to serve people. The story highlights the challenges the donkey faces, such as carrying heavy loads and abuse. However, it also represents the potential for animals, such as donkeys, to contribute to society in significant ways.

The donkey is depicted as a grumpy and tired being, with sad eyes and a tired appearance. This description evokes a feeling of empathy for the animal, emphasising its hardships and difficult living conditions. The attitude towards the donkey varies throughout the story. At first, the donkey is seen as a utilitarian being that exists solely to serve humans. However, a boy with the ability to communicate with animals sees beyond this perspective and recognises the donkey’s suffering. The boy’s empathy and promise to return instills hope and a sense of worth in the donkey.

The Importance of Animals in Children's Lives: Nurturing Imagination and Empathy

The donkey’s life takes a positive turn when a young man, now a veterinarian, returns to the island and establishes the “The Donkey Doctor” farm. This transformation represents a shift in the social perception of animals, recognising their potential to contribute to therapy and healing. Donkeys become part of a specialised team engaged in animal-assisted therapy, helping people overcome fears and emotional difficulties.

The story challenges prejudices and stereotypes associated with donkeys, portraying them as more than mere burden-carrying creatures. It highlights the misconception that donkeys are lazy and demonstrates their ability to empathise, heal and even serve as “doctors”.

The Bond Between Children and Animals: Empathy, Companionship, and Responsibility

Children often confide in animals, sharing their emotions, fears and secrets, as animals provide a non-judgmental audience and source of comfort. Interaction between children and animals includes gestures, body language and tone, allowing for open communication beyond verbal language. Research shows that children who are in regular contact with pets tend to develop more empathy and have a better ability to understand the feelings of others in different situations.

Communication with Animals: Beyond Verbal Language in Children’s Literature

In animalistic prose, there are two primary ways of communication between animals and humans. The first method involves describing the movements, sounds, and behavioural changes of animals to infer their “speech.” The second method involves translating animal communication into human language, allowing animals to freely express their thoughts, feelings, desires, and warnings through dialogue and other forms of communication. This anthropomorphic portrayal facilitates deeper connections and engagement between young readers and the animal characters.