“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened” ~ Anatole France
Recently there has been a rise in the number of animal memoirs. Many of these books, such as Marley & Me and Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world, are about our domestic friends. But I’d like to discuss some great tales about more exotic animals who have befriended humans.
Let’s start in Africa where some very famous animal-human relationships have been forged. Born Free is Joy Adamson’s memoir about her friendship with the African lioness Elsa. Joy and her husband George raised Elsa from a cub and released her back to the wild. Born Free was followed by Living Free and Forever Free, which continue with the story of Elsa and her cubs. So popular was Elsa that there was also a movie (the theme song of which was a hit too) as well as a television series.
Another interesting lion story is A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall. Christian was bought from Harrods department store in England and lived in London with his humans for a year before being reintroduced back to the wild in Africa by none-other than George Adamson. The official website is here, and includes the famous video footage of Christian’s reunion in the wild with his previous caretakers.
Lions aren’t the only African species to have connected with humans. The popular book and movie Gorillas in the Mist tells the story of Dian Fossey and her time spent with gorillas. Dian was actually one of 3 women who dedicated their lives to studying the great apes. Birute Galdikas has written several books detailing her study of orangutans in Borneo, one of which is Orangutan Odyssey, and of course there is Jane Goodall and her lifetime dedicated to chimpanzees, celebrated in the book 50 Years at Gombe.
In North America there are many cases of humans rescuing and living with wild animals. Two of my all-time favourite books are Rascal by Sterling North, which tells the story of the author’s year spent raising a baby raccoon, and Paddy: a naturalist’s story of an orphan beaver by D.H. Lawrence (which will forever change the way you think of these industrious animals!).
If you’re a bear-lover like me you might enjoy the goings-on at Bear With Us Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre for Bears in Ontario. Every year this wonderful facility rescues and rehabilitates orphaned or injured bears before releasing them back to the wild.
If you’re more interested in canines, you might like the film A Man Among Wolves about Englishman Shaun Ellis, who spent time living with a pack of wolves in the United States. Or how about The Daily Coyote, about Charlie the coyote. Charlie’s blog has a huge following of over 1 million fans and he also has a website here.
The above suggestions are only a smidgen of the many animal-memoir books and movies available in the Winnipeg Public Library. For the complete catalogue list please click here………and happy reading to you!
When Judy isn’t at work as a Customer Service Assistant with the Winnipeg Public Library, she spends time with her 9 animal companions.