I don’t remember confusing Charlotte of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” with real spiders as a child but, apparently, there’s some confusion out there between anthropomorphized creatures and the real deal in children’s lit.
(See link below to Smithsonian article on the subject.)
The animals in children’s storybooks and works of fiction not for kids, including George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and Art Speigelman’s “Maus,” are obvious surrogates for people. But I can see where some kids might get confused. Maybe it’s the live action, hyper-realistic and yet completely fanciful depictions of animals in current kid’s movies? I can’t speak with any authority about films for kids. Even as a child I didn’t like kid’s movies and preferred old movies on TV over the often soppy and silly things made for kids back then.
Now, movies aimed at children are much more sophisticated and maybe that’s the problem? The appearance of reality causes children to think that pandas are goofy and lions are intellectuals and zebras are comedians… and that in nature animals play together like kids in a schoolyard.
Because we had a cat, I remember how my allegiance migrated from Tweety Bird to Sylvester. After all, Sylvester was just doing what a cat did naturally and that canary was always taunting him. Eventually, I concluded that the old lady was at fault for having a bird and a cat in the same home and expecting peace and quiet.
Real animals, even the beautiful all white, longhaired stray that was our first family cat, behave as ANIMALS. She was a great ‘birder” and I remember her delivering her prey to my mother’s feet (as my mom was ‘her person’). A sentimental friend of the family was appalled, but my mother ‘thanked” the cat for her tribute and then we buried it in the garden.
The article in Smithsonian brought another aspect of wildness to mind — the role that MONSTERS play in our lives. They often represent the animal in human beings. The overwhelming hunger of the werewolf is like the wild cat on the hunt or the human obsessed with ambition. The loneliness of the ostracized giant is like the male turned out of a pack of wolves when he’s replaced as its leader and the politician put out to pasture or the tycoon after the crash in human society.
There are so many potential analogies. Still, I never mixed up Charlotte with a real spider.
Smithsonian Magazine article link: http://tinyurl.com/p3cduqf