Cri-kee (from Disney’s Mulan)
Khan (from Disney’s Mulan)
Abu (from Disney’s Aladdin)
Fang (from Harry Potter)
Footstool (from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)
Lucifer (from Disney’s Cinderella)
Okay, what two things do these characters all have in common? (Besides the obvious, that they’re fictional.)
They’re animals and they don’t speak.
But they’re memorable.
Because they have a personality. They may have more personality than would be typical for an animal. They may even have atypical personality period. (Horses don’t really make all that noise. They’re fairly quiet animals. Don’t go into a stable expecting all the horses in there to start calling to you just because you walked in.)
Each of these animal sidekicks has a personality all their own. If you think about each one, assuming you’ve seen these movies or (in the case of Fang) read the books, you’ll be able to call to mind these characters.
It’s because they’re not just flat animals put in to fill the space and make it seem like you took the time to create a world.
I can think of far fewer examples from actual literature. But the most prevalent one that comes to mind is Faithful from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet. Faithful is the main character, Alanna’s, pet cat. But there’s more to Faithful than meets the eye. (Aside from the strange eye color.) Faithful has a lot of personality. He’s vain, loyal, and a real lifesaver. And he’s a cat.
Another example is Cloud from Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals quartet. Cloud is Daine’s horse. And that horse has some major personality. She’s obstinate, blunt, and loving. She’s Daine’s best friend throughout and always faithful companion. Even when Daine felt less than herself.
Have you ever put much thought into the animal companions of your characters (if they exist)? Or do they just sit there like lumps on a log with the only purpose being to throw in some non-human life in hopes it rounds out the world around your characters?
Me? I did in one of my previous projects. It was a fantasy and there were animals all around, from the horses they rode to get from point A to B, to the dragons and mystic creatures whom my characters encountered. (And lots in between.) I love infusing personality into animals because I think a lot of people tend to underestimate just how much an animal can really contribute to our lives and to the lives of our characters.
Did I miss your favorite animal sidekick/secondary character? Tell me who it is, why you love them, and why I should read the book/see the movie. (No erotic, no R-rated movies, please. Or if you recommend it, at least tell us that it’s in that vein so I can avoid it.)