As a child, what were your favorite books about animals—that is to say, fictional works featuring anthropomorphized animals (those tales where the animals are human-like in their thinking and behavior)?
My bet is that the book you chose was written by a Brit. Being a geezer, I’m not too familiar with much from the last few decades, but here’s a list of the anthropomorphic animal tales I am most familiar with, and which I consider to be classics:
Aesop’s Fables (Aesop)
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Bambi (Felix Salten)
The Borrowers series (Mary Norton)
Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White)
Dr. Dolittle stories (Hugh Lofting)
A Dog’s Tale and A Horse’s Tale (Mark Twain)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.G. Wells)
Jungle Book, Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)
Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
Redwall series by (Brian Jacques)
Uncle Remus stories (adapted by Joel Chandler Harris)
Watership Down and The Plague Dogs (Richard Adams)
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Mile)
Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
Of these sixteen authors, only five were not British and residents of Britain, namely Twain, E.B. White, J.C. Harris, Aesop, and Salten. Aesop was Greek. Salten was a Jewish writer from Austria (whose works were banned by Hitler in the 1930s). As for Mark Twain and E.B. White, they were quasi-Brits, as they lived in the United States (mostly) but were of British descent. Twain, an American conceived in Tennessee and born in Missouri, was of English, Scots-Irish, and Cornish extraction, while White was at least partly British, as his mother was Scots American; and Harris was at least half Irish.
Although not a writer of books, the Brit Louis Wain, renowned painter and popularizer of cats as pets, should be honorably added to the list of animal-addled Anglos.
Besides the anthropomorphizers which the British isles seem to be rife with, I can’t think of Brits and animals without having James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small, etc., come to mind. Although those works by the veterinarian are non-fiction, not anthropomorphizations, his case seems to support my overarching supposition that Brits are more enchanted with animals than most.
Am I right—are Brits more prone to intently observe and relate to animals than others are? It is open for debate, I’m sure, but it appears so to me, based on the voluminous volumes they have produced about the animal world.
On a different but related subject, put forth as food for thought or friendly debate: Are the British more likely to excel at rock ‘n’ roll than others? As evidence, I present the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Rory Gallagher, U2, Dire Straits, et al (you can add your favorites from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales).
If you include countries with a great amount of British DNA coursing through the bodies of their populace (such as the United States, Canada, and Australia), the case becomes stronger (Allman Brothers, The Byrds, CCR, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk, Journey, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes; The Guess Who, Rush; Men at Work, The Little River Band).
Compare that with the other countries of Europe: Germany has the Scorpions, yes. The Netherlands had Focus (with a hit instrumental named Hocus Pocus in the early 1970s). Abba, from Sweden? I don’t know—I think they were more pop/disco, weren’t they? I know of no rock bands from France, or Switzerland, or Italy, or Spain, or Portugal, or Belgium ... and so it seems that the sun never sets upon British-blooded rockers.
On the other hand, when it comes to classical music, although there were some Brits (Purcell and uh, ... um ...), it seems to be a field wherein other Europeans: Russian, Polish, Italian, but especially German and Austrian—but not Swiss!—excel.
Why? Why the strong inclination of Brits to rock well, whereas it’s the Germans (Bach, Beethoven, Pachelbel, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Handel, Telemann, et al) and Austrians (Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, &c) who lead the field in classical? Is it something in their DNA or their culture (nature vs. nurture), or is it owing to a combination of both?