Wilbur the pig from Charlotte’s Web.
Bree from C. S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, and even Aslan the Great Lion himself.
Talking animals are as pervasive in children’s literature as orphans.
I know I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of my pets talking to me (You mean, you really hate that brand new toy I just bought you? You want what for dinner?) Maybe it’s a dream for all animal loving children, but for some of us the desire to read about talking animals never leaves, even when we’re adults. Am I the only one who wishes that for just one day of the year I could hear what my dog is really thinking?
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But just like the debate of whether swords and sorcery should be included in novels written by Christians, some could make a case against those talking beasts. After all, God didn’t make my dog with a tongue that can speak.
Or did he?
Have you ever wondered if maybe, just maybe, animals could speak to humans before the fall of man? What if this gift of speech was lost in the same breath as our gift of living forever in these flesh and blood bodies?
Is it a crazy idea? Heresy? Or is it just plain wishful thinking? Maybe it’s all three. But there are two Biblical accounts that make me wonder.
Think about this: Eve heard a serpent speak in the Garden of Eden, but did she seem at all surprised? Did she question her sanity and ignore the crazy snake or run away and chalk it up to a little too much time in the sun? Nope. What did she do? She started a conversation with the animal as if it was an everyday occurrence.
What about Balaam? Here’s a guy who’s minding his own business, riding down the road with the top down on his donkey when all of the sudden said ride scrapes his foot against the guard rail. We all know the story, right? Mr. Balaam has a little road rage incident, grabs the nearest branch, and gets ready to take out his fury on that innocent beast of burden. So the donkey tells him off.
Does Balaam act even a little surprised the animal talks? Nope. He too begins a conversation with the beast as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world to have a discussion about ethics with your donkey!
I know, I know. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say animals could talk before the fall, or any time for that matter. It also doesn’t tell us there are eight planets orbiting the sun. (Maybe it if did poor Pluto wouldn’t have been so disgraced.) I’m certainly not looking to create a new doctrine or hoping my pup named Shiny (that’s not a typo) will finally be able to tell me whether his name embarrasses him.
But this is why I didn’t shy away from including talking animals in my fantasy novel Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone. In fact, one of the central themes of the book deals with the loss of communication between the creatures and the humans. Something or someone must bridge the gap. Enter Alison Henry, a normal girl from our normal world who finds herself in the land of Torone where she’s the only one who can hear the animals speak. It’s an adventure even an imaginative girl like her has a hard time grasping.
Here’s the thing. Whether God intended for animals to speak in our world or not, sometimes we just need to listen a little harder. Maybe I’ll never hear my pets verbally espouse the virtues of milk bones, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look into their eyes and see real love. Or feel it in my own heart toward them. That’s a theme that can benefit every story, don’t you think?
Oh. Did I mention that in Torone, dogs can fly? Wonder what the Bible would say about that!
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Explore C. J. Darlington’s novel Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone in the Lorehaven Library.
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