It may seem odd to associate such a horrific and deadly disease as rabies with “popularity.” It is anything but! Yet since prehistoric times that is exactly how humankind has dealt psychologically with our most memorable tragedies and primal fears: by telling stories about them and depicting them in our art. This is the very essence of “whistling past the graveyard,” as the old phrase goes.
The term rabies comes from a Latin word meaning “madness.” Surely that is one of the reasons this pathogen has always inspired so much fear: for in the process of killing its host, it first destroys the mind, which is the seat of an individual’s personality. Indeed, some of the most familiar and frightening horror creatures in popular culture—vampires, werewolves, and zombies—are derived from mythologies that harken back to the days when a normal, healthy person could be suddenly transformed into a raving, drooling monster just from the bite of a maddened beast.
Among the very first dogs known by name in Western literature is Argos, who appears near the end of Homer’s Odyssey. In that great Greek epic of ancient times, he is depicted as the very epitome of faithfulness: waiting patiently for 20 years for Odysseus to return home from the Trojan War, he immediately recognizes his old master at first sight. Only then is the sick and feeble dog able to pass away in peace. Thousands of years later, we in the modern world can still recognize and appreciate this common bond between human and animal.
That is just one of the many reasons dogs are called “man’s (and woman’s) best friend”! Since the time of Homer, many more books have been written and stories told about the canines we love who love us back, entertain us, provide for us, work and play with us, protect us, inspire us, teach us the virtues of kindness and wisdom, and keep us company when we are lonely. Here are five of our favorites. Continue reading “Literary Dogs”
Of one of his feline companions, H.P. Lovecraft—famed author of the fantastic and macabre—once wrote: “In its flawless grace and superior self-sufficiency I have seen a symbol of the perfect beauty and bland impersonality of the universe itself, objectively considered, and in its air of silent mystery there resides for me all the wonder and fascination of the unknown.”
What is it about cats that has so fascinated and mystified the world’s greatest writers throughout history? That is another mystery that may never be solved. Nevertheless, here we present some of our favorite feline quotes—some witty, some philosophical, but all insightful—from some very notable authors. Continue reading “Literary Quotes About Cats”