Possibly the only thing better than a great story is a great story with memorable animal characters. Who can forget the unwavering dedication of Hedwig the majestic snowy owl, or the fierce bravery of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the mongoose? Fluffy, furry, fanged, or feathered, there are many unforgettable literary animal characters that have made lasting impressions and taught us all how to be better humans through their examples of loyalty, bravery, and cleverness.
Here are just a few of our favorite animal characters found in literature—along with unexpected fun facts about the books and authors who brought them to life:
Aslan—The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. The ruler of Narnia, this majestic lion is the embodiment of goodness and justice. Aslan allows the creatures in his kingdom to live independently, but is there to lead and protect them when needed.
Did You Know? The character Lucy was named after Lewis’ goddaughter, Lucy Barfield.
Charlotte and Wilbur—Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Who could forget the spider Charlotte, who saves her pig companion from the dinner table by spinning messages in her web? And while Wilbur isn’t great at sticking up for himself, he is a true friend to Charlotte. He takes care of Charlotte’s 514 babies—even carrying the egg sac in his mouth to keep them safe in Charlotte’s absence.
Did You Know? Charlotte’s Web may have been inspired by White’s attempt to save a pig his father butchered. White recounted, “I haven’t told you why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze.”
Hedwig—Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. A gift from Harry’s friend Hagrid, Hedwig helps Harry adjust to the wizarding world. Hedwig delivers mail for Harry, offers him comfort, and defends him when he’s in danger.
Did You Know? Though Bloomsbury originally printed only 500 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there are now 450 million copies of the print book worldwide!
Baloo, Bagheera, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi—The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. The Jungle Book is a collection of stories filled with animals that generations of readers have grown to love. Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther save young human Mowgli’s life and teach him the ways of the jungle. In another story, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a heroic mongoose who rescues his human family from deadly cobras.
Did You Know? While Kipling was born in India and lived there for several years, The Jungle Book was written when he lived in Vermont.
Boxer —Animal Farm by George Orwell. This dystopian tale is not a children’s story per se, but rather a political satire. Boxer, a hard-working and devoted horse, is crucial to the early success of the farm animals’ revolution. Boxer uses his great strength to help his fellow animals and to work toward the ideal of all animals being equal. He is very naïve and far from intelligent, but his dedication to a cause he believes in still makes him a character worthy of admiration.
Did you know? George Orwell was actually a pen name. He was born Eric Arthur Blair.
Black Beauty—Black Beauty by Anna Sewall. Narrated from the horse’s point of view, Black Beauty describes life in 19th century England—a time when horses were vital to both industry and everyday life. Black Beauty is good-tempered, determined, patient, and caring. He builds solid and dedicated friendships with people and horses alike. During the course of his tale, Black Beauty is in turns valued and abused by his human companions. This aspect of the story helped raise people’s awareness of how animals were treated.
Did You Know? Sewall’s family owned a pony that she loved to spend time with. She intended the novel to be a message for horse owners to take proper care of their horses. The novel is credited with lending a hand in influencing the humane treatment of horses.
Chester—The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. Chester is a tiny cricket who suddenly finds himself in the big city of New York. He becomes friends with a boy named Mario, whose family owns a newsstand in Times Square. Chester’s talent for making beautiful music draws listeners and business to the newsstand. By working with his friends to get through the hard times, Chester teaches us the true meaning of friendship.
Did You Know? Selden came up with the idea for the story when he heard a cricket chirp in the Times Square subway station one night. The story resulted from that moment of inspiration.