You never forget your first literary animal. In children’s books and beyond, stories have provided us with dozens of memorable animal characters. Whether they be hairy, feathered, or scaly, they’ve been brought to life in our favorite pages. Here’s a list of animal buddies we’d love to have by our side.
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Rudyard Kipling had a knack for writing memorable talking animals. From Rikki Tikki Tavi to the Camel who got his hump, Kipling brought a host of amazing creatures to life across his literary career. Two of the most notable come from his classic compilation of stories, The Jungle Book. Mowgli the Man-Cub is joined in his adventures by laid-back bear Baloo and cautious panther Bagheera. The valuable lessons they teach Mowgli along the way provide the bare necessities we all need to know.
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One of the most memorable modern animal friends comes from humble beginnings. Dana Simpson’s series Phoebe and her Unicorn started out as a webcomic in 2012. The series developed such a devoted following online that it got its own story books. The titular unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, was freed from an evil curse when young Phoebe accidentally hit her with a rock. As you’d expect, the two became fast friends.
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The His Dark Materials series is filled with magical creatures capable of amazing things. Every major character has their own guardian spirit called a Daemon, and they take the form of animals. As both pets and battle comrades, Daemons stay by their human’s side through thick and thin. Series protagonist Lyra’s Daemon, Pantalaimon, has the ability to shape shift into all sorts of animals. His preferred form, though, is a cuddly, white ermine.
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Two of the most beloved animal friends in movie history actually started out as literary sidekicks. In the 1979 novel by Michael Ende, the young warrior Atreyu is not alone on his quest to save his world from the Nothing. He rides two different beasts: The loyal steed Artax and the wise luck dragon Falkor. These animals helped Atreyu through the story’s darkest hours, making unforgettable sacrifices that made us pull our real pets close.
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Christopher Paolini’s YA fantasy saga took the world by storm in the early 2000’s. One of the main reasons for this was the title character’s pet dragon, Saphira. Together, the two go on an epic adventure, flying across mystical lands and fighting an evil empire. After reading the full Inheritance trilogy, boys and girls alike wanted their own dragon companion.
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Did you really think we were going to leave out everyone’s favorite messenger owl? Throughout the Harry Potter series, Hedwig was by Harry’s side. In addition to delivering crucial messages around the wizarding world, this snowy owl provided a friend for The Boy Who Lived when it seemed like he had none. And don’t lie- you cried in the opening scene of the Deathly Hallows, too.
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Many students have fond memories of reading Kate DiCamillo’s award-winning novel about family and companionship. Walking around her new neighborhood, 10-year-old India Opal Buloni befriends a stray dog at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. She decides to take him home and name him after the place she found him, and a beautiful bond is born. Winn-Dixie becomes an indispensable partner for Opal as she tries to fit in, make friends, and find out more about her departed mother.
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This mild-mannered amphibian may not smell the best, but the animals in the pond behind Sonny’s Trailer Villa love him anyway. He’s been known to tackle larger-than-life situations with quick thinking and a hop or two. He’s not the biggest fish in the pond (figuratively speaking), but we’d love to have this guy by our side in a pinch.
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Here’s a pet for the older crowd. One of the most fearsome species in the land of Westeros is the Direwolf. These ferocious, pony-sized wolves are a force to be reckoned with, and only House Stark has the ability to tame them. Every member of the Stark family has their own Direwolf companion. From Jon Snow’s Ghost to Sansa’s Lady, each fights tooth and nail for their human. What’s more, Direwolves are actually based off a real type of wolf that went extinct centuries ago.
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One of the most beloved animal friends of all time, Norman Bridwell’s Clifford is a must for this list. The best friend of Emily Elizabeth, this enormous canine companion wouldn’t hurt a fly, though his size and clumsiness often get him into sticky situations. At the end of the day, everyone loves him anyway. Clifford is a dog that readers of all ages would like to give a great big hug.
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