Animal Tales

Ivan T. Sanderson
ALTHOUGH Ivan Sanderson calls his new book an anthology, it is actually more than a collection of stories about animals. The first chapter is a history and analysis of animal tales, and gives serious consideration to the place of such tales in the literature of the world. Classified, first, by their literary form, they are divided into eight groups, ranging from “scientific observation” to the “fantastic impossible.”
Then Mr. Sanderson divides the earth into five great belts of vegetation and, breaking these into subdivisions, chooses each story with a different setting, to include animals of all the regions of the earth: the lion, elephant, bear, wolf, jaguar; a host of smaller creatures, such as viscacha, koala, and fennec; birds of the air, whales of the Arctic Sea. and even luminous fishes a half mile down in tropical waters.
Mr. Sanderson has not chosen the obvious — Kipling, for one, is missing; but he has reprinted many old favorites as well as some that are new and less well known. Representing the older naturalists are Francis Buckland, Paul Du Chaillu, and Alfred Russel Wallace; the story of Bambi’s childhood and the account of the arrival of Cherry Kearton’s penguins are two of the more recent selections. One story is published here for the first time. “The Last Moon of Azu,”a tale of the great West African forest told by Afa the Hunter to Ivan Sanderson.
He gives the geographic setting for each animal story; in warm and vivid tones he describes the forests, deserts, and prairies, as they were when the animals first inhabited them and as they are today, after man — or, in one instance, the beaver — has changed their aspect. These little introductory essays are done with humor and understanding. Of the African plains he writes: “The animals dominate the scene. They are more important than men and they often exceed the trees in number. . . . East Africa still gives us a glimpse of what many areas of our world must have been like at the close of the last geological age before man began his systematic slaughter of all living creatures.”
A concise and sympathetic biography of the thirty-one authors included adds to the value of the anthology. Thirty-one enchanting brush paintings illustrate the book, which, with a story for every day in the month, will be as much of a “Treasure" on the naturalist’s shelves as the earlier books of this gifted young artist and writer.