Tag Archives: The Furry Canon

The Furry Canon: Watership Down (Roundtable)

This article in our series debating the Furry Canon is a roundtable discussion of Watership Down by Richard Adams, first published in 1972. Your panelists are JM, Jakebe and Huskyteer.

JM

Jakebe, Huskyteer

Thanks for letting me lead off this roundtable exploration of Watership Down for the [adjective][species] Furry Canon project. Jakebe, I know that this is a book close to your heart, as it is close to the heart of many lapine furries, and by asking me to read and comment you’re risking have me piss all over something personally important.

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The Furry Canon: The Chronicles of Narnia

Guest post by HuskyteerHuskyteer writes stories and poems about talking animals. Most of these are published within the furry fandom, but sometimes one escapes into the wild. She enjoys motorcycle adventures, aviation museums, karate and cider.

It’s one of the most iconic moments in literature. Even if you haven’t read the books, or seen a TV or cinema adaptation, you’re probably familiar with the image of a little girl walking through the back of a wardrobe into a snowy forest lit by an old-fashioned streetlamp. Both the scene and the title of the book – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – are sufficiently recognisable to be used as shorthand and appear in parody.

If that scene is all you know, it’s worth delving deeper. As well as the wise and noble, but also slightly terrifying, Aslan – ‘not a tame lion’ – there are creatures ranging from sublime unicorns to ridiculous but heroic mice. Badgers, bears, moles, mice, not to mention non-humans like centaurs, fauns and dryads (the Narnian mythos tends towards the classical).

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The Furry Canon: Equus

Equus, Peter Shaffer’s 1973 play, features a cast of humans and horses. The horses, of course, are humans dressed as horses. They are intentionally abstracted, usually wearing nothing equine beyond minimalist horse heads and tack that never obstruct their human faces. The horse costumes are the extent of bodily anthropomorphism in the play. The horses’ actors and actresses move like horses; they do not speak. Why do I render my verdict, then, that Equus belongs in the Furry Canon?

[EDIT: After warranted critique, I’ve decided to reverse my verdict. While Equus should not be part of the Furry Canon, I think it addresses matters relevant to the furry experience, albeit torqued by mental illness. Read on for my reasons.]

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The Furry Canon: Black Beauty

Would I recommend Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic Black Beauty for inclusion in the furry canon? Yes, but with one qualification: the book’s central conceit is innovatively furry; the rest of the book is not.

I will begin with the furry element of Black Beauty: it is, as its subtitle proclaims, the auto-biography of a horse. More than just the story of a particular, modern horse’s life—not merely as a symbolic or allegorical gesture—it is a horse’s life told in the first person. In his own voice, Beauty guides us through the daily adventures and boredoms of a horse’s life, commenting on his masters’ behavior, his material condition, and his emotive reaction to it all. Though Beauty never vocalizes an English word, he is a talking horse by virtue of the fact that he addresses us.

And I am sorry to say it, but this is the extent of the book’s anthropomorphism. Despite his internal rational faculties, Beauty is definitely a horse. Throughout the entire book, I waited for him to act in some way that would reflect the thoughtfulness of his narration, but no: this is not a fantasy, and Sewell makes sure that Black Beauty’s behavior fits solidly within equine parameters.

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The Furry Canon: Animal Farm

This article is an updated version of a piece published on [adjective][species] in March 2012.

Animal Farm is George Orwell’s 1945 classic novel.

Orwell is considered to be one of the great authors and Animal Farm, along with Nineteen Eighty-Four, is considered to be one of his masterpieces. Animal Farm follows the story of anthropomorphic animals that overthrow their human farmer master and run the farm on their own terms.

I re-read Animal Farm with the idea that I would review it for [adjective][species]. I was planning to conclude that it’s a great book, and a great furry book, that all furries should read it, and it’s an easy book to recommend to the [adjective][species] Furry Canon.

I have re-read Animal Farm, but I’m not recommending to the Furry Canon. Read something else.

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The Furry Canon: Redwall

Article by Toledo (@toledothehorse). To the furry community, Toledo has mainly been an amateur artist. But since he can’t stop his brain from analyzing furry things, he has decided to put his hoof to the keyboard more often.

I’ve been around the fandom in some fashion for fifteen years. Even longer have I had fleshspace friends who sang Brian Jacques’s praises. But before this week, I had never read anything Redwall. Somehow I’d avoided reading about all those medieval mice and rabbits and otters. Of course, part of that is explicable: before I encountered the furry fandom, the only animals in which I’d had any interest were dinosaurs and dragons. Little woodland creatures put me right off. I also had little interest in anything medieval until around the same time1. Between these two apathies, I’d missed the prime years for Redwall fandom.

Essentially, I am evaluating whether Redwall deserves to be a part of the [adjective][species] Furry Canon without a hint of nostalgia. I do not present this as a claim of objectivity, of course, but only that of an outsider looking in—and to make clear my relationship with the text.

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Introducing The Furry Canon

There is a long and rich tradition of furries in fiction. From the classics of Aesop’s Fables to the latest and greatest in sci-fi/fantasy novels, comics and movies, we’ve seen countless stories featuring anthropomorphic creatures. Many of those stories are fine for what they are—morality tales or pieces of fizzy entertainment that allow us to escape into a different world for a time. Some of them, however, touch us so deeply, that they become landmarks for our personal development. When we find ourselves in the company of like-minded individuals, we find that many of us share the same landmarks; entire communities have developed on the backs of this shared connection.

JM (editor horse-in-chief of [a][s]) and I were talking about Fred Patten’s article “What The Well-Read Furry Should Read,” which features what Fred considers to be the top ten classics of the fandom. It’s not a bad list, but we had a number of questions. How on Earth did he manage to narrow down hundreds of years of furry fiction down to a ten best list? What was the criteria to make something truly great? How did Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Animal Farm make the list, but Maus and The Wind in the Willows did not?

I know how subjective terms like “greatest” can turn an innocuous list into a flashpoint of debate, and we here at [a][s] love our opinions and classifications as much as the next data-wonk. So we thought—why not create our own list of novels and stories that we believe serve as cultural touchstones for the furry community? If you wanted to give someone a list of four or five novels that explained the furry aesthetic and the community’s fundamental love of anthropomorphic animals, what would you include?

Thus, the idea for “The Furry Canon” was born. We’d like to introduce an ongoing, occasional set of articles that digs into a book or set of stories, reviews them on their own merits and then determines whether they should be added to a list of stories we feel represent the “idea/aesthetic” of furry as a whole.

This is a delicate operation. Who the hell are we to determine what gets added and what doesn’t? Well, we’re enthusiastic readers, just like you. To hold ourselves to an objective (or at least transparent) standard, we thought we’d make a list of criteria that would help determine whether or not a work should be added to the list.

QUALITY. Obviously, we wouldn’t add just any book or story to the Furry Canon. If we’re going to suggest these works the curious or uninitiated, at the very least they should be excellent books to read. Is the work strong enough that, even without the elements we’re most interested in, we’d be inclined to read it?

LONGEVITY. This is a little trickier, but there are a lot of stories that set the world on fire for a year or two, then mysteriously and suddenly fade away. Does the work still hold up, even across the gulf of time and the changes society has undergone since it was published? Is it a perfect encapsulation of a point in time of the furry community or the broader world? Is there something in the work that’s still relevant and vital?

RELEVANCY. Does the story capture a central aesthetic, idea or emotion that’s quintessentially furry? Does it serve as a cultural signpost for the community, something that we can know and understand? What is it about the work that serves as an excellent representation for our fandom?

Obviously, our decisions on what gets included and what does not won’t work for everyone—but we’re hoping that over time, we can cultivate a list of our own that works well as a literary representation of our community.

So, what do you think, [a][s] readers? What novels or collections would you put forward as candidates?