The Role of Pets in Literature: A Historical Overview

FFranklin December 23, 2023 7:02 AM

In the world of literature, pets have often played crucial roles. From Dickens's faithful dog Bullseye in 'Oliver Twist' to Hedwig the owl in J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series, these animals are far more than mere companions. They provide comfort, serve as symbolic representations, offer insights into characters' personalities, and sometimes even drive the plot. This article takes a journey into this fascinating aspect of literature, exploring how pets have been represented in literary works throughout history.

Pets in Ancient and Medieval Literature

In ancient and medieval literature, pets often held symbolic or metaphorical roles. In Aesop’s Fables, animals were used to teach moral lessons. For instance, the story of 'The Tortoise and the Hare' uses these animals to convey the message that slow and steady wins the race. Similarly, in the medieval European folk tales, animals like the cunning fox or the brave lion were often used to represent human characteristics.

Pets in Renaissance Literature

During the Renaissance, pets in literature started to take on more individual characteristics. Pets were no longer just symbols; they became characters in their own right. In Christopher Marlowe’s 'Doctor Faustus', for instance, Mephistopheles takes the form of a dog, serving as a constant reminder of Faustus' pact with the devil.

Pets in 19th Century Literature

The 19th century saw an increase in realism in literature, and with it, a deeper exploration of the relationship between humans and pets. 'Black Beauty', written by Anna Sewell, is a prime example. Told from the horse’s perspective, it uncovers the cruel treatment of horses in the Victorian era.

Pets in Modern Literature

In modern literature, pets continue to serve as important characters and symbols. J.K. Rowling’s 'Harry Potter' series is filled with pets that play critical roles, from Hedwig the owl representing Harry’s connection to the magical world, to Scabbers the rat who ends up being a man in disguise.

Here's a brief rundown of some famous pets in literature:

Pet Literary Work Author
Bullseye 'Oliver Twist' Charles Dickens
Black Beauty 'Black Beauty' Anna Sewell
Hedwig 'Harry Potter' series J.K. Rowling
Lassie 'Lassie Come-Home' Eric Knight
Marmaduke 'Marmaduke' comic strip Brad Anderson

In conclusion, the role of pets in literature is vast and varied. They offer readers a new perspective, serve as metaphors, symbolize various aspects, and often form the emotional core of the story. Literature, in turn, mirrors the evolving relationship between humans and their pets, reflecting societal attitudes and beliefs about animals.

More articles

Also read

Here are some interesting articles on other sites from our network.