Blood, Toil, Tears and Fur

(This is a lightly edited reprint of a column from Anthro Magazine #20)

I’ve always admired Winston Churchill, perhaps more than anyone else who ever lived. Somehow he managed to cram not one but a whole succession of lives into the span of one. He rode in the last cavalry charge of the British Army; wrote more books than most full-time authors (winning the Nobel Prize in literature along the way); became arguably the most successful columnist and reporter of his day; was a noted watercolorist; coined terms like ‘seaplane’ and ‘iron curtain’; arguably invented the tank; not only prepared the Royal Navy for World War I but also led it during the early and most crucial parts of that conflict; and sponsored key social legislation that few associate him with today. He was present on Wall Street just after the Crash of 1929, in Cuba during the insurrection against Spain, and personally fought in desperate, bloody actions in India. He remains the only person ever voted an honorary citizen of the United States, by special Act of Congress. Oh, and by the way, he also led Britain during the proudest and toughest period of her history, when she stood alone for freedom against Adolph Hitler and all of occupied Europe. Mustn’t forget that part!

He was also without question a furry, long before there was a name for such a thing.

Shocked? So was I, when I first came upon the truth while reading The Last Lion, a biography of the man by William Manchester. Unlike all the other biographies I’d read, this one was up close and personal—more about the man himself than his accomplishments. In it I learned of the troubled, attention-starved youth with a wild and vivid imagination, who couldn’t ever quite fit in and all but failed out of school because he couldn’t deal with the regimentation of rote learning. I cried with the adolescent who refused to abandon his nurse despite the fact that he was mocked for it by his peers—his parents had cast her off to live on nothing, and young Winston helped her with money from his own allowance and kept in close touch until the day she died. Later, I grew to know the brilliant young man whose keen intellect eventually became apparent to everyone, but whose poor social skills kept him an outcast. And, I have to admit, everything seemed to be fitting a familiar sort of pattern.

But I couldn’t quite put a name on it until I ran into his fursuit.

Yes, it’s true: Winston Churchill owned a fursuit. More than that, he owned a whole closet full of costumes, though apparently this was his favorite. He wore it quite frequently, it seems, playing and roughhousing with his grandchildren. As difficult as it might be to picture, according to Mr. Manchester Winston Churchill loved to dress up as a gorilla.
I blinked when I read that part, as little bells and whistles began to ring in my mind. Churchill also kept odd hours, sleeping twice a day instead of once, and did his best work late at night. In a nation noted for its eccentrics, he was an oddball. Winston loved animals deeply—his home was supposed to be a working farm, but he could never bring himself to slaughter any of the livestock and even worried for days once over a sick goldfish. More and more alarms went off…

…until finally I hit the hard, definitive paydirt, the letters between he and his wife.
Here’s a quote from Manchester…

Like other lovers, they invented pet names for each other. Clementine was “Cat”, or “Kat”, Winston was “Pug”, then “Amber Pug”, then “Pig”. Drawings of these animals decorated the margins of their letters to each other, and at dinner parties Winston would reach across the table, squeeze her hand, and murmur “Dear Cat”.

Or, at a later date…

“We are going to bathe in the lake this evening,” he told her in a typical note. “No cats allowed! Your Pug in clover, W.” And she would assure him that while he was gone “your lazy Kat sits purring and lapping cream and stroking her kittens.”

These were not one-offs, taken out of context. Due to Churchill’s odd schedule and frequent travels, he and his beloved Kat didn’t see much of each other, and even while living in the same house they wrote each other frequent letters. Practically all of them are full of love—and they’re equally full of what we today would recognize in a heartbeat as typical anthropomorphic on-line role-play.

Here’s another example, among many. In closing a long letter in which Churchill’s political enemies are clawed to pieces, Clementine wrote her husband:

“Good-Bye, my Darling. I love you very much. Your Radical Bristling—” here she drew an indignant cat.

It goes on and on and on in this vein. A modern-day fur, looking at this body of correspondence, cannot help but feel right at home. Indeed, he might even envy the easy and natural way that these two very-much-in-love individuals unselfconsciously communicated using the anthropomorphic symbols and language that clearly meant so much to them. Matters continued in this vein to the very end, as did their love. If any part of Churchill’s life can be described as filled with joy, this was probably it.

A lot of people seem to enjoy bashing furs. These same sorts of people seemed to enjoy bashing Churchill as well until he grew into such a historical giant that no one dared any longer. He started out life as an awkward, troubled, sickly and accident-prone youth that no one understood and who seemingly couldn’t get ahead. But he grew tall and strong, perhaps taller and stronger than any other man of his time. There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that, were he alive today, we’d find him attending furcons and hanging around in furry chatrooms.

I’d submit that Winston Churchill’s furriness, along with the intelligence, creativity and sensitivity that so often accompany it, was an essential component of his colossal strength. Certainly, it was a major part of who he was, and how he saw the world.
Which apparently wasn’t, if you’re reading this, so very different from the way that you and I see it.

About Rabbit

Rabbit Is the author of over thirty published furry novels and novellas as well as numerous columns and articles in other furry venues. He’s a retired Tennessee auto worker.

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23 thoughts on “Blood, Toil, Tears and Fur

  1. Fascinating. And I love the reminder that furries have been around much longer than the internet has existed, which contradicts claims made by a great many members of the community.

    Manchester’s biography is humongous, in three volumes of which this most recently released is the last. I’m daunted at the idea of reading those thousands of pages, but perhaps it would be worthwhile.

    1. Most of Manchester’s works are easy to read– he’s one of my all-time favorite authors. (I also heartily recommend “The Arms of Krupp”, which I consider his finest.) While I haven’t read the recently-published third volume of “Lion” yet, the first two books were wonderful.

  2. Amazing. All the talk of “first wave” and ” second wave” furry seems a bit pointless in this light. I don’t know what he would have made of the modern fandom, but as you make clear he had a deep appreciation of anthropomorphics.
    If he was ever photographed in his gorilla suit, I can’t find it on Google image search. Too bad. I would also be very interested to find out what he thought of the wartime propaganda films made by Disney and Warner Brothers.
    Thank you for this post. It’s a little mind bending, but you’ve made a brief but excellent case that one of the giants of the twentieth century was in fact a furry. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever see or hear a reference to him again without imagining him romping around in a gorilla suit. Well done.

    1. I just finished the third volume of the biography mentioned above. Churchill had a private theater at his home. While he liked other sorts of films as well, apparently he appreciated Disney stuff at least as much as anything else. It was shown quite frequently there, for all the latter part of his life. I’d assume from this that he’d probably have enjoyed the wartime productions as well.

  3. Are you sure you’re not just taking a few disconnected things and trying to stretch them into something you want? I think many people will look for things in famous people’s lives and then try to interpret that to share something with that person. It might be interesting but I don’t think it’s as convincing as you do.

    The gorilla suit would be your best bet of proving furriness but there are so many blanks, chiefly his motivation for wearing a gorilla suit. You say he had a lot of costumes. Maybe he just had a playful side. Indeed you don’t mention if those costumes were all animal costumes or just a variety of fancy dress. Then you even say he wore it to play with his grandchildren. That suggests more it’s a fun thing to do for an eccentric man who loves his grandkids rather than a person who identifies with a particular animal.

    Then you mention some other random things that have nothing to do with being a fur. Keeping odd hours doesn’t mean anything. He was a very busy man and actually sleeping twice (you don’t say those times were though) seems like it might actually be a perfectly normal thing to do. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783) He might work at night but so do many people. It’s peaceful then and it depends on your circadian clock. Then that loves animals doesn’t say a whole lot either. Lots of people love animals and stories of people having a farm where they never actually kill anything aren’t all that uncommon.

    Lastly you bring up the letters which are again not particularly convincing. People make nicknames, often using animals, without any furry connection. Our language of relationships is full of animal derived terms, such as a sexy vixen or kitten, puppy love or affectionately calling someone pet. That all happens outside of the furry fandom. So if someone is doing that and then keeps playing with those terms says less about whether they are a fur than whether they have a playful personality.

    Yes, it’s interesting. But none of that is exclusive to being a fur nor particularly convincing. It seems more like you want a certain result and are trying to force unconnected pieces together into a furry puzzle.

    1. It’s sort of hard to ask for much more in way of “proof”, given that a) the man’s dead so we can’t ask him and b) his biographers almost certainly never heard of “furry”, so wouldn’t be looking for signs of it. Besides, the last I heard we don’t even have an official definition of “furry” to work with. Therefore hints like this, IMO, are the best we can hope for. Personally, I find the letters to be about as convincing as convincing realistically gets.

      I’ll also add that I didn’t say more about the rest of the costumes for lack of information. My source wasn’t specific about the rest.

    2. I think part of this depends on your definition of “being furry.” To me some of your points, such as the odd hours seem valid, but others seem nonsensical. It might be helpful to read your how you define “furry.”

      In some people’s definition, using animal nicknames is indeed an example of furry-ness, albeit one that is very mainstream and so not typically seen as unusual. Furthermore not everyone who does it would self-identify as furry, but that does not necessarily mean they aren’t displaying some aspects of behavior along a furry continuum,

      1. I’m no more prepared to offer a firm definition of “furry” than anyone else, but I _am_ observant enough to note that people who are “odd” in our particular fashion often, but not always, share other oddnesses as well. High-ranking among these, in my experience, are a preference for non-standard hours. Your mileage may and very likely will vary.

        Thanks for your very kind words!

        1. I was addressing my comments about defining furry to Rakuen since he dismissed many of the points of evidence that you, Rabbit, gave which in my mind were definite furry indicators–particularly those letters. I was curious thus as to what his/her definition was.

        2. Rabbit, no need to ask for forgiveness, the error was mine. I should have been more clear regarding to whom I was addressing my comment about definition.

          I think your definition and mine are much closer than Rakuen’s. I thought your case for Churchill being furry was well-made, and I came away convinced.

          It was a very interesting post; I am sorry for any miscommunication on my part.

      2. Trying a different browser now because all my attempts to reply have failed so far…

        To me being a furry means having a preference for furry characters over normal characters. Pretty much none of what was described in the article showed that. Some could be interpreted that way but there are more likely interpretations.

        For example let’s say all furries use animal nicknames, a fairly likely assumption. But it’s also, as you put it, mainstream so let’s say, conservatively, 10-15% of the general population uses animal nicknames. For use of animal nicknames to be a good indicator of someone’s furriness you need most people using nicknames to be furry. So that means even in this scenario you are wanting something like 8-12% of the population to be furries. I don’t think furries are anywhere near that common.

        1. Here is where the fandom’s nomenclature breaks down. For me, the definition of a furry is “someone for whom anthropomorphic animals are an important part of life on the symbolic or artistic level”. You can easily see, given the differences in our definitions, why our opinions differ. And let’s not argue the definition here; I think it’s long since been proven impossible to settle the matter in any authoritative way.

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