Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fantastic Creatures & Animal Companions — Don't Ya Love 'Em!

Recently I posted here on Here Be Dragons. And also on Re-Discovering Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. Meanwhile, over on my own blog, I've been Having Fun With Epic Fantasy Tropes. Between these three distinct trains of blogging thought, I got to thinking about the importance of companion creatures in myth and folklore, an importance which has flowed through into Fantasy fiction.

Returning to dragons, for example, Kim Falconer recently mentioned Menolly, from Anne MacCaffrey's, Dragonsong, in her post on Music As Character.  In addition to Menolly's music, however, I was always entranced by her companion fire-lizards — essentially miniature dragons. How cool is that? And, of course, the adult dragons, such as Ramoth and Mnementh, with their telepathic bond to their human riders, are both fantastic creatures and the ultimate in cool companions.

More recent dragon companions include Temeraire in Naomi Novak's series of the same name and Saphira in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series. Yet the Pern novels are not the first where I discovered miniature dragons. Yarrow, in Ursula K Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, carried a tiny dragon on her arm...

Ged, the main character in A Wizard of Earthsea, also has an animal companion for a time. The otak is a wild creature but it comes to Ged of its own volition and remains with him until its death.

While in the Harry Potter series, animal companions are important for wizards and witches in training, the most significant of these being Hedwig, Harry's snow-white owl.
Harry & Hedwig

Some other very significant animal companions include FitzChivalry's wolf comrade, Nighteyes, in Robin Hobb's' Farseer series, and Todd's dog Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting-Go by Patrick Ness. (I know, I know, technically it's Science Fiction, but I'm mentioning it anywyaz!)

No mention of animal companions can overlook horses: from Shadowfax in The Lord of The Rings, to Aerin's Talat in The Hero and the Crown, or The Horse in Kristen Britain's The Green Rider. And Madder, in my own The Wall Of Night series may be worthy of  a mention...

As for fantastic creatures, I don't think any discussion would be complete without mentioning the daemons and the panzerbjorn in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Or the giant eagles, companions to the reeves, in Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. Or, or, or —

Really, there are so many! But feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite. :-)


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we


Terri Garey said...

My favorite animal companions were Wolf, Ayla’s devoted companion in CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, as well as Whinny and Baby in the second “Earth’s Children” book, VALLEY OF THE HORSES. Still one of my all-time favorite series. I also loved Nighteyes!

Helen Lowe said...

Those are GREAT animal companions, Terri. I think CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR was a ground breaking book and series and one that has stood the test of time.

billabong1502 said...

To me, the most fun and best animal companion is "Loiosh".. a Jhereg (winged reptile whose teeth inflict poison on its victims). He is companion to Vlad Taltos - an assasin by trade...
This combo is simply magical... I never tire of reading their interactions... just writing about it makes me giggle...
They are from the Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust.

Another cute animal companionship I found between Gemma and the meerkats in the "The Unbalanced Earth" trilogy by Jonathan Wylie.

I recall watching (and loving) the TV series "Beastmaster"... that hunk of a guy had a couple of interesting animal companions... (ferrets, tiger, snakes, ... you name em).
oh... and in the series "The Adventures of Sindbad" Maeve + Bryn had a hawk companion... (might have been their mentor - a sorcerer who got turned into one by the evil sorceress)

I am sure I can come up with many more examples... if given a few hours/days (*laughs*)

Helen Lowe said...

Hey, I'm sure you could! These are great examples. Impossible though it may seem, (including to me now I remember!) I had forgotten Loiosh: how could that be?!

There's even more in SFF, too, including the "dragon" at the end of CJ Cherryh's "Forty Thousand In Gehenna" and Honor Harrington's treecat...

billabong1502 said...

"These are great examples. Impossible though it may seem, (including to me now I remember!) I had forgotten Loiosh: how could that be?! "

Loiosh: "Boss?"
Vlad: "What is it, Loiosh?!
Loiosh: "Helen forgot about us..."!
Vlad: "...."
Loiosh: *bites Vlad's ear* "did you hear what I just said?!"
Vlad: "...sorry; Loiosh. zoomed out there for a bit...trying to come up with a suitable way to punish Helen for her forgetfulness".
Loiish: "I know!! let's .... "
Vlad: "Loiosh?"
Loiosh: "yeah, boss?"
Vlad: "Shut up and let me think!"

Helen Lowe said...

Ha, ha! I tremble in my shoes. :)