When I was really little, I had a crush on Mighty Mouse. I really don’t think it registered that he was a mouse. Hey, I also loved Sister Lucy, my first grade teacher, and I’m heterosexual. Go figure. Childhood is weird.
But have I really left childhood behind? I have written several books in which animals can speak (often they don’t shut up)–a parrot named Guinness in Ghosts of Key West (sadly not currently available), a lizard/dragon in Wizard of Time, a fantasy big cat in my WIP…more to come.
Sometimes I think shapeshifting is a grown-up version of this fantasy world. Your stuffed animals cannot only talk and move, they can become hunky guys who make love to you. It’s an interesting human condition, this anthropomorphism. We do it with big concepts (Father Time), gods and goddesses, and yes, still cartoon characters. I love the psychology of this, although I don’t really understand it.
Did you know you could have a fear of anthropomorphism–human characteristics ascribed to non-human entities? There’s a subclass of folks who get skeeved by robots who almost look human. Evidently, the closer they look to humans, the more creeped out folks get.
“Anthropomorphism is a well-established device in literature. Aesop’s Fables, a collection of short tales written or recorded by the ancient Greek citizen Aesop, make extensive use anthropomorphism, in which animals and weather illustrate simple moral lessons. The Indian books Panchatantra (The Five priniciples) and The Jataka tales employ anthropomorphized animals to illustrate various principles of life.
Anthropomorphism is commonly employed in books for children, such as those by Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Brian Jacques, C.S. Lewis, and Beatrix Potter. Rev. W. Awdry’s Railway Series depicts steam locomotives with human-like faces and personalities.
However, anthropomorphism is not exclusively used as a device in children’s literature: Terry Pratchett is notable for having several anthropomorphic characters in his Discworld series, the best-known of which is the character Death. Piers Anthony also wrote a series regarding the seven Incarnations of Immortality, which are Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil, and Good. Neil Gaiman is notable for anthropomorphising seven aspects of the world in his series Sandman, named the Endless, Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.”