“And in That Moment I Leapt upon His Shoulder”: Non-Human Intradiegetic Narrators in The Wind on the Moon
2. Eric Linklater’s The Wind on the Moon
3. Talking Animals and Anthropomorphism
As soon as the non-humans speak, they are transformed from objects under the sisters’ gaze, to subjects in control of the situation. The sisters, too, change, from spectators to polite participants in a new social setting, and proceed to introduce themselves, as they would to adult humans, people of some significance. This key scene is then followed by extensive intradiegetic narratives by the Puma and the Falcon, (which will be analyzed in detail below), and by then we are already prepared to listen to these characters and learn more about them.They were both so beautiful that Dinah and Dorinda stood between their cages and could not decide which to look at first.“Good afternoon,” said the Puma. “Hail!” cried the Falcon.“How do you do?” said Dinah and Dorinda.
Bekoff thus underlines that the limitations of our human existence, our dependence on language for reasoning about the world, makes some anthropomorphism necessary, if not unproblematic. However, Bekoff is talking about understanding actual animals. Representations of talking animals in literature have often been used for purposes other than conveying animal consciousness. Lars Bernaerts et al. mention satiric, didactic, and ethical functions, (Bernaerts et al. 2014, p. 70), and Karla Armbruster notes functions such as providing an outsider point of view, or voicing social criticism of various kinds (Armbruster 2013, p. 18). Clearly, in most such cases, except perhaps in the voicing of suffering of animals, anthropomorphism is of little use to the animal thus represented, or to anyone wishing to reach some understanding of that animal’s mind.we have by necessity a human view of the world. The way we describe and explain the behavior of other animals is limited by the language we use to talk about things in general. By engaging in anthropomorphism we make other animals’ worlds accessible to ourselves and to other human beings. By being anthropomorphic we can more readily understand and explain the emotions or feelings of other animals. But this is not to say that other animals are happy or sad in the same ways in which humans (or even other members of the same species) are happy or sad.
In other words, fictional works with non-human character narration affords us a possibility to access subjects that would be otherwise inaccessible, and therefore deserve an effort on our part, to read them in good faith. Nagel, although of course ultimately pessimistic about our possibilities of ever understanding what it is like for another being to be it, makes the point that “even to form a conception of what it is like to be a bat (and a fortiori to know what it is like to be a bat) one must take up the bat’s point of view” (Nagel 1974, p. 442). One way to enable that attempt, that leap of imagination, is to allow animal narrators to express that consciousness in a mutual language. Furthermore, if the text as a whole is, “both inviting the reader to identify with the nonhuman animal as a fellow living being and reminding him or her of the inevitable differences between humans and other species” (Armbruster 2013, p. 24), this places the burden of a nuanced interpretation more firmly on the shoulders of the narratees, and on the readers.The nonhuman narrators, who tell their own story in a way which is impossible outside the world of fiction, are indeed pronouncedly anthropomorphicized, [sic] yet they can still raise significant questions about nonhuman existence and its relationship with human existence. Anthropomorphic representation should not necessarily lead to anthropocentric interpretation, which excludes the nonhuman protagonists.
4. Direct Speech, Character Narratives, and Narrative Levels
[A]ny discourse can be seen as a narrative, since, given the proper context, any discourse can imply a story. Following this reasoning, the difference between a character addressing a speech to a listener and a narrator narrating a narrative to a narratee is not quantitatively determinable. One could thus label any character whose direct discourse is presented a narrator. One definition of “embedded narrative” would then be “character discourse”: all intradiegetic narrative is embedded narrative.
5. Intradiegetic Narratives in The Wind on the Moon
5.1. The Puma
As we can see, the Puma’s narrative is a second-level narrative, marked by threshold markers, quotation marks and a reporting verb at the beginning and the end (when another intradiegetic narrator, the Falcon, takes over with another second level narrative). At least partly, the Puma’s narrative belongs to Genette’s first function, because it explains what kind of life the Puma used to have. It belongs to the story, the fabula, in as much as it tells us that she used to be a wild animal, not born in the zoo where we first encounter her. Her mentioning of the Indian children foreshadows (but does not exactly predict) a later explanation, of how she was captured by a human and sold to England. Then her narrative smoothly shifts gears into the third, thematic, function, telling a story of similarity or contrast. In this case, by contrast, it calls attention to the theme of mental and physical imprisonment as opposed to liberty of body and mind. This is done partly through an affirmation of the Puma’s sensory faculties (visual, audial, olfactory, and kinesthetic) and through the introduction of certain motifs and metaphors that will return in the Puma’s narratives, and that characterize her and distinguish her from the other animal narrators. The Puma is for example fond of all kinds of imagery, but especially similes: “smooth as a young leaf,” “stars like a shoal of little fishes,” “blood like quicksilver”, and metaphors.“Don’t you like being in a zoo?” asked Dorinda. The Puma’s cage looked very comfortable, and behind it there was an outrun with bushes and a bare stony rise, and a little brook. The Puma was silent for a while, and then she said, “I used to live in a forest in Brazil, and in every part of the forest there was something new to look at. Every tree had a different shape and some were smooth as a young leaf, and some were rough and deeply crinkled. Their branches made pictures against the sky, and at night they became a fishing net and caught the stars like a shoal of little fishes. Flowers like trumpets grew upon the trees, sweet-smelling and among the huts of an Indian village were small brown children playing in the sun. There were long winding paths in the forest, I could run for fifty miles. There was a river, sometimes brown and swirly, sometimes clear and smooth. I used to lie on a branch above the water and look at my reflection in a greenish pool. And when I was hungry I went hunting, and that was the loveliest thing in life, to go hunting in the moonlight, and feel your blood like quicksilver in your veins. Not a bird wakes but you hear it. Not a leaf closes but you see the edge turn in. Nothing moves but you smell the wind of its movement. And you go like a shadow through the trees, and even your skin and your claws are laughing and alive.” “I suppose a Brazilian forest is good in its own way,” said the Falcon, “but I wish you could see Greenland”.((Linklater  2013, pp. 99–100), my italics)
The first thing to notice, is perhaps the motif of inter-species connection and gratitude which is established here and which recurs repeatedly until the end of the novel. But it is also important to note the thematic and metaphorical similarity of this narrative to the first. The Puma’s description of her surroundings evokes the original metaphor of the stars seen through the branches. Her running and enjoyment of the speed is elaborated on, as well as the physical sensations and sensory faculties involved in hunting, and the manner in which she finds her prey. In the first narrative she says: “Nothing moves but you smell the wind of its movement” (Linklater  2013, p. 100) and in the second, she describes an actual instance of this is in similar words: “I caught the draught of their [the deer’s] movement” (Linklater  2013, p. 194).“Children” said the Puma, “let me tell you this. You have done me the greatest service in the world. You have given me freedom, and I am grateful. You have given me life again. All last night I walked in the Forest with the smell of the trees and the rich ground in my nostrils, and the darkness was beautiful, the sky with a few stars looked through the branches…I had not known there were deer in the wood until I caught the draught of their movement. So I turned and followed up the wind, and in the first dawning I found a stag going to drink…Faster I went, fast and easy, till the morning air was whistling past my ears and the forest floor slid below my feet like a torrent racing down a mountain, and the labouring haunches of the stag came nearer…I drew near-level with him…and in that moment I leapt upon his shoulder…and as the sun came up, I made my kill. For that glorious moment and the headlong chase in the morning, I thank you. For the life you have given me, thank you. For the freedom of today and the liberty of tomorrow, thank you”… Both Dinah and Dorinda were somewhat horrified to learn that the Puma, so soon after regaining her freedom, had killed a deer.
5.2. The Falcon
As we can see, the Falcon’s initial tale is very similar to the Puma’s in certain respects. It fulfils Genette’s explanatory, first function, in showing what his life was like before he ended up in the zoo, and simultaneously performs the third, thematic function. The enormous expanses of his former homeland and especially his birds-eye perspective in describing the snow covered tableland cut by ravines, contrasts with his life in captivity, and develops the motif of (lost) freedom. His narrative also introduces the Falcon’s particular species-specific capacities: his ability to fly at high speed and with great precision, and his sense of sight, which is exceptional. Both of these abilities turn out to be crucial to the plot, which also makes this an example of Genette’s fourth function, the dramaturgical one.“I suppose a Brazilian forest is good in its own way,” said the Falcon, “but I wish you could see Greenland. There is nothing in the world so beautiful as that enormous tableland, covered with snow, peaked and shining in the sun, cut by great ravines, and patched by blue shadows. I used to ride upon a breeze, a mile above it, in air like crystal, and on either side I could see a hundred mile of snow and sea, and icebergs shipwrecked on the beach, and the pack-ice moving, and the Eskimos in their kayaks, fishing. Then I would close my wings and dive like a bullet through the diamond sky, down to the little bushes and the glinting rocks…Headlong down, the thin air screaming, then crash—wings out, head up, and halt two feet from the heather—when I struck swiftly, straight-legged, at a fine fat ptarmigan, too slow to escape, and dashed him to the ground. Ha! The delight, the swiftness, and the freedom!” “Freedom,” sighed the Puma. “Life without freedom is a poor, poor thing”.((Linklater  2013, pp. 100–1), my italics)
This narrative is an example of the explanatory first function since he explains that he has found the bottle and how; but it is also thematic, (the third function) because we recognize the motif of hunting and killing. In addition, it is an example of the dramaturgical fourth function: it will enable the kangaroos to find their bottle. It also characterizes the Falcon as energetic, rational, thorough, and quick of thought, as Dorinda points out, to her sister and to the reader.“And then, barely an hour since, I was quartering the field by the gate-keeper’s lodge, for the tenth, or twelfth, or fourteenth time, though the light was going fast, when I saw, not the bottle, but a plump young rabbit, and I thought to myself, There’s my supper. So I stooped upon the rabbit, but the light being bad I nearly missed, and I barely gripped him by the hinder parts as he was vanishing down the hole. I pulled him out, he was squealing like a baby, and as I pulled I could see, beyond him in the hole, the bottle that you lost. It was too deep for me to reach, but the hole is near the edge of the field, on the far side of the road, eighty yards from the gate-keeper’s cottage, and so that you will find it easily, I have stuck in the soil behind it the rabbit’s white tail.” “What a clever thing to think of!” said Dorinda. “Poor rabbit,” said Dinah. “A fat and tender rabbit,” said the Falcon. “I enjoyed my supper very much”.
In this section, the Falcon first takes control of the narrative situation in his own, rational voice, and then proceeds to relate the direct speech of the Bantam Hen, a third level narrator, (signaled by threshold phrase, italicized by me, and double quotes).“Let me tell the story in my own way,” said the Falcon. “It began when I killed, early one morning, a cock pheasant in a gaudy suit of feathers…No sooner had I killed than a little Bantam Hen came running from the farmyard calling: ‘Well done, Falcon! That was a very proud and dangerous bird…We are grateful to you, Falcon, and we shall be still more grateful if you will kill another of our enemies’”.
5.3. The Bantam Hen
The fact that the Bantam’s speech is related by the Falcon, who gets a considerable amount of praise here, must not be forgotten. Even so, my reading is that the Falcon makes an effort to speak “in the persona” (Nelles 1997) of the Bantam, because the direct speech, with its deferent, prattling tone, both signals and expresses the differences between the Falcon and the Bantam. He is big and dangerous, and presumably capable of killing a much larger animal than the pheasant; she is a very small, domesticated bird, and apparently silly enough to approach a bird of prey who might as well attack her as listen to her. She is also mistaken in her assumption that the Falcon’s killing of a pheasant also makes him a likely killer of the python. Even so, this scene actually both foreshadows and initiates the killing of the Python by the Bear in the zoo, and is thus an example of Genette’s second and fourth functions.…but when that supply [of ostrich eggs] is finished, he will return to us, for eggs of one sort or another he must and will have. And therefore Falcon, I ask you, who are a brave and noble killer, to kill him as you have killed this naughty Pheasant, and save us Bantams from further loss and sadness.
This final intradiegetic, explanatory, narrative—which naturally evokes strong feelings of empathy with and grief for the Puma—is also the Falcon’s goodbye, as he sets off for the icy expanses of Greenland.But I have other news for you…I flew back to Bombardy to see what happened after we left. There has been a revolution there. All the many prisoners whom that man kept in his dungeons have been set free…They have buried the Puma in the garden of the house where she was killed, and set up a monument to her….
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This is a fascinating passage of the novel that can be compared and contrasted with Donna Haraway’s ideas on animal training as a way to facilitate communication without language (Haraway 2008), but here it is the animals who train the humans. However, this discussion falls outside of my scope for this article.
© 2017 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Danielsson, K.M. “And in That Moment I Leapt upon His Shoulder”: Non-Human Intradiegetic Narrators in The Wind on the Moon. Humanities 2017, 6, 13. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6020013
Danielsson KM. “And in That Moment I Leapt upon His Shoulder”: Non-Human Intradiegetic Narrators in The Wind on the Moon. Humanities. 2017; 6(2):13. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6020013Chicago/Turabian Style
Danielsson, Karin Molander. 2017. "“And in That Moment I Leapt upon His Shoulder”: Non-Human Intradiegetic Narrators in The Wind on the Moon" Humanities 6, no. 2: 13. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6020013