1. Animals in Literature: Is The Big Bad Wolf Bad Everywhere?

    The Big, Bad Wolf, Aslan, Charlotte, Paddington Bear…to name some beloved literary animal characters. Join this investigation of animal characters in your favorite stories!

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    Animals in Literature: Is The Big Bad Wolf Bad Everywhere?

    Woven into the fabric of our earliest folktales and nursery rhymes are the assumptions that wolves are dangerous, foxes are clever, and ants industrious. Is the assignment of human characteristics to animals—anthropomorphism*—universal or culture specific? Do they evolve over time?

    In this project, we invite you to join the investigation of animal characters so abundant in literature. These animal characters can be found throughout the centuries and around the globe. Together we will identify specific recurring patterns in these animal characters as well as distinct personality traits attributed to these creatures.

    For this project, you can pick any literary genre**—a fable, fairy tale, contemporary story, novel—in which one or more animals is present and displaying human characteristics (i.e., talking, arguing, joking, gossiping, etc.).

    Search your bookshelves, visit your school or public library, read a story electronically and immerse yourself in the fascinating and abundant world of humanlike animals. Will we find kind wolves, clever sheep and spiders, or timid bears?

    * Anthropomorphism: ascribing human traits or characteristics to animals.
    ** Literary genre: a category of literature.

     Go to Investigation page