Abstract and Keywords
This essay surveys the representation of animals in folklore from the fables of Aesop to the search for Bigfoot. Unlike most of modern culture, folklore attributes great power, understanding, autonomy, and significance to animals. While folklorists have often found this deeply poetic, they were also made uncomfortable by the suggestion of magic and, to protect their claim to superior rationality, tried to distance themselves from folktales. The English demonized animal helpers in fairy tales, while the French gave these figures human form. The Grimm brothers and other romantics removed fairy tales from the context of everyday life by placing them in a remote realm such as an ancient civilization, a marginal social order, or the enchanted world of childhood. As the naturalistic paradigm, with its implicit anthropocentrism, declines, folk literature provides models for more balanced relationships between animals and human beings.
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