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Tails Within Tales

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Chapter Summary

Individuals have an immemorial urge to tell stories involving characters who behave in human ways but are not human: gods, spirits, monsters, satyrs, vampires, zombies, superheroes, androids and gynecoids, animals, and even, in children’s stories, fire engines and the like. The earliest art we know of was obsessed with animals. They dominated the walls of Chauvet cave, thirty thousand years ago, twice as far back as Lascaux and Altamira, and even the twentieth century’s most celebrated artist endlessly painted, drew and sculpted bulls and minotaurs. Cave paintings are not narratives, but if cave dust turned out to be fossilized speech that we could decode and carbon-date, we would find that animal stories long precede even Chauvet. Where the records do survive, stories leaving tracks along the border between humans and other animals range from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Mahabharata to this morning’s comic strips.

Keywords: animals; cave paintings; children’s stories; comic strips; Epic of Gilgamesh; humans; Mahabharata

10.1163/ej.9789004157736.i-296.82
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