Sure, actual animals are wonderful, but come on—there’s nothing quite like the fantastical creatures we find in books. They can have magical powers, and strange fur and feathers, and even when there are pictures of them, you still get to use your imagination to envision exactly what they look like. Plus, imaginary creatures are way more fun (and easier!) to draw. Who’s to say how many legs a Wild Thing even has, right? Right.
Here are some of our favorite creatures of fancy. Did we miss any good ones?
Tock (The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster)
Tock the watchdog has a lot going for him. For one thing, he’s a dog, but he’s also a clock: two in one! Also, once you get past his gruff exterior, he’s loyal, loving, and punctual—and he makes sure that you never waste a single moment of the day. I tend to like my dogs lazy, with a side of cuddly—but I think Tock and I would still hit it off. Bonus: you’ll always know when it’s time to feed him (although…dogs without clocks in their bodies always seem to know when it’s dinnertime, too).
Pretty Much Everyone (Moomintroll series, by Tove Jansson)
There’s the sad, scary Groke, who freezes everything in her path, and can never seem to get warm. And the tiny but dynamic duo of Thingumy and Bob, who are always up to mischief. Finally, of course, there’s Moomintroll himself, the round-nosed, small-eyed, and sweet-tempered protagonist who’s always up for adventure. Sometimes I wish I could wake up in Tove Jansson’s strange, beguiling world and spend a few days hanging out with Moominpapa, the Hemulen, Snorkmaiden, and even the creepy little Hattifatteners. It would be time well spent; of that I have no doubt.
The Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss)
He was a mean one, for sure, at least until the very end of the book (and who’s to say that his change of heart wasn’t just a temporary setback?). Still, some small part of me always thought the Grinch seemed like he was probably a barrel of fun to hang out with; the kind of friend who would tell you to ditch work for the day to drive around aimlessly with him and do donuts in the parking lot of the Whoville cinema. And I’ll bet he’d just love ordering takeout and watching bad movies with me while we made fun of those sappy Whos. Call me, Grinch!
IT (A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle)
I used to read and re-read the scary faceoff toward the end of this novel between heroine Meg Wallace and resident Giant Evil Brain, IT, until I practically had it memorized. There was something so compellingly creepy about a giant, unemotional yet evil brain that really captured my imagination. L’Engle knew just how to create the kinds of worlds and creatures that stick in your brain and never shake loose.
The Wild Things (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)
I still get chills when I hear the phrase, “Let the wild rumpus start!” Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book was perfectly illustrated and instantly created the kind of believable magical world that any child would love to visit (and eventually become king of). Wild Things are the kinds of creatures that dreams—and also nightmares—are made of: a little scary, but also funny and sweet, and you just want to reach out and bury your hands in their shaggy fur.
Who are your favorite fictional creatures?