Review: Thinking Animals

Posted: February 2nd, 2016

Animals who speak are found in ancient myths and fables from Aesop’s to the Panchatantra and the Jatakas, in children’s fiction, such as Kipling’sThe Jungle Book, in animated film (although Dumbo is mute) as well as in more recent tales such as the scurrilous Me Cheetah, 2009. These animals talk and think like humans, despite their nature. Novels in which the animals speak and think but not as humans are more rare – Barbara Gowdy’sThe White Bone or Richard Adams’s Watership Down. The point of view of Gravedigger, Tania James’s elephant in The Tusk That Did the Damage, forms one of the novel’s three stories, alongside those of two human narrators, Manu, the younger brother of a poacher, who seeks revenge on the elephant, and Emma, an American documentary-maker, who is defeated by the complexity of the relationships between humans as well as the elephants she has come to film.

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