7 animal narrators in literature

When I set out to write this piece, my list of animal narrators in literature stretched over two pages -- from Animal Farm to Watership Down, I remembered dozens of books narrated by animals.

Or...I thought I did. Although many classic works of literature, for adults and the younger set, are written from the point of view of the animals, they're not actually narrated by those animals as I had remembered. I thought Jack London's White Fang featured the wolf-dog as a first-person narrator; it doesn't. I also thought one of the rabbits narrated Watership Down, but I'd gotten it confused with one of the film versions. And I'd completely forgotten how depressing Bambi is. (Yes, Bambi: A Life in the Woods is a book. Yes, that book has a Facebook page...? No, his mother's death is not any easier to take on the page than it is on the screen.)

But the list of novels narrated by the furry (and feathered) set is pretty distinguished: children's classics, best-selling authors, humor, horror, and a detective series I haven't read but am psyched to check out. So let's get to it: seven notable animal narrators -- and please let me know what I've forgotten (or review what's listed) in our comments section!

1. Black Beauty
Adapted many times for the big and small screens, and beloved by horse-crazy girls for over a century, Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse is just that -- the memoir of a black steed from his days on the farm as a colt to his varied adventures pulling a hansom cab in 19th-century London. Some bits are still hard to read (I'm thinking of the dark section with Nicholas Skinner), so Beauty's eventual retirement to a comfy farm was a huge relief to this impressionable kid.

2. The Chet and Bernie mysteries
Bernie is a hapless private investigator; Chet is his loyal dog, and the narrator of the detective series, which features clever Hitchcockian titles like To Fetch A Thief, and The Dog Who Knew Too Much. I don't usually read detective novels, but Spencer Quinn's sound fun (and Chet, who has one white ear, sounds cute).

3. Cujo
Talk about hard to read. The name "Cujo" has become a shorthand for out-of-control, scary, or rabid dogs since Stephen King published the book 30 years ago. It's largely narrated in the third person, but people tend to forget the sections in which the dog's stream-of-consciousness narration takes over. (King, meanwhile, has admitted in his craft memoir On Writing that he barely remembers writing the book itself thanks to a period of abusing alcohol...although that might explain his extremely accurate descriptions of terrible headaches.)

4. Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel
I haven't read this one either, but I couldn't resist including this YA novel that explores the U.S. Camel Corps -- an Army experiment from the 1850s that hoped to use camels for transport across the desert instead of horses -- from the point of view of one of the camels. Ali, the book's hero, is born in Egypt, then winds up in the Corps, though he still longs for the dunes of his youth. Author Kathleen Karr went to the Sahara to research the animals, and has described mounting a camel as "like you're riding an earthquake."

5. I Was Hitler's Cat
We all know Hitler had a dog, Blondi; N.J. Dodic humorously imagines the journal of Hitler's cat, Tutti, who portrays Eva Braun as a bimbo, Hitler as a micro-manager, and various other figures of the Third Reich in sarcastically unflattering terms. Satirizing these monsters is not an easy job, and you may feel strange about laughing, but Dodic uses a cat's innate disdain for humans to cut these criminals down to size.

6. The Labrador Pact
A portrait of a marriage in trouble from the perspective of the only creature who sees everything, The Labrador Pact (published in England under the name The Last Family in England) is narrated by a black Lab named Prince, who observes the strange and sometimes self-destructive behavior of his owners, Adam and Kate, then determines to figure out what secret Kate is keeping before it destroys the whole family. Evidently Brad Pitt's production company has picked up the option for Matt Haig's novel, although I don't know how well a canine narrator will translate on film. (Unless he taps his pal George Clooney for voice-over duty.)

7. The London Pigeon Wars
Written partly in, if you'll forgive the pun, pigeon English, TLPW follows London thirtysomethings who think they're content -- until their friend Murray returns to the group and throws their lives into question, while at the same time causing a pigeon-community contretemps with a piece of chicken. Not every reviewer was convinced by author Patrick Neate's whole-cloth avian language, but I for one can empathize with the desire to pack a narrative with as many groaner puns as possible.

Further reading:
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