Sunday, March 6, 2011

Those clever and compassionate critters

In the beginning of Wild Animals I Have Known, Ernest Thompson Seton writes:

“THESE STORIES are true. Although I have left the strict line of
historical truth in many places, the animals in this book were all
real characters. They lived the lives I have depicted, and showed
the stamp of heroism and personality more strongly by far than it
has been in the power of my pen to tell.”

I feel the same way about the animal stories that I have written and drawn. With pencil, brush, or even film camera, we can only capture faint shadows of the real animals.

Animals show personality, compassion, love, intelligence, insight, foresight, creativity, and a host of other traits that we arrogant humans try to claim are reserved for ourselves.

I recently discovered this video thanks to my Homestead comrade Luke. A story of friendship and compassion between a canine and a pachyderm.

And THIS video shows one of the most impressive displays of insight by an animal. The raven is the star. Biologist Bernd Heinrich presented Ravens with a never-before-seen puzzle, and 80 per cent of them found the solution with no demonstrable trial-and-error learning.

Ravens and their brain-power have become a subject of fascination for many people, including yours truly. I discuss the subject in my Crater Lake campfire presentation “Tricksters in Myth and Science.” And of course, the mythic Raven is co-star of the my epic comic book (right). I have just completed a new mini-comic, which does not involve a raven, but does involve his distant cousins--mergansers, bald eagles, and others. I'll have more to say in an upcoming post, when I announce its release. In the meantime, I'll be drawing more of our wise and caring relatives, the other animals.

Merganser spreads her wings

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