The Furry History Project, Part-2: The Pre-20th Century


A Chronology Of Furry Entertainment

This chronology is a perpetual work in progress. There is only one person working on this job, which to be done properly should have a whole team to do research and editing. Its starting base was its authors own experience with the subject and personal discoveries. Over time it has been expanded and revised from information and suggestions sent in by readers. And there are lots of such suggestions waiting to be entered as soon as I can find the time.

Please do help make the chronology as complete as it possibly can be by writing to inform me of anything you think should be here that has not yet been entered. Also, there are some titles that are included without comment, because I either don't know much about them, or I've not had time to write anything about them. If you'd like to add a comment about a title, you can send that in as well, and I will do my best to edit it into the document.

Please address all communication to perri_rhoades@yahoo.com. I'll be happy to hear from you.

Copyright disclaimer: All images and examples used here have been found loosely floating around the net or are low resolution scans from items in my private collection. They are included here not so much as entertainment, but to support the educational aspect of the document. Therefore I assume it's all covered under fair use. However, if you are the owner of something used here and would like it removed, or you'd like it to be accompanied by a link, write to me and I will make it so.


Pre-History

Where did Furry begin? Who was the first artist or storyteller to mix human and animal attributes? Probably some unnamed caveman drawing on a wall.

The concept and mystique of Furry seem to be as old as man. Humans have always looked on animals with fascination and imagined them to be more than they are, granting them human characteristics that have resulted in the popular sayings that lead us to compare ourselves to animals everyday without even thinking about it. "Sly old fox." "Memory of an elephant." "Eat like a pig." "Sexy vixen." "Lion-Hearted." "Eager Beaver." Just try going a whole day without uttering one anthropomorphism.

The oldest thing of comparison to Furry Fandom would probably be religion. Particularly of note in Egypt where animal headed artistic representations of gods were worshiped. And eventually onto Native American Shamanistic religions which idolized animals as spirit guides, bestowing on them an intelligence and spirit beyond that of non-fictional animals.

Later, Anthropomorphic Animals became a tool of philosophy. The most prominent example of which is Aesop's Fables. (620 BC) See also The Panchatantra and this article that more indepthly explores the pre-historic origins of Furry.


The 1700's

The popularity of Anthropomorphic Animals as allegorical teachers of philosophy and religious ideas led to their even greater popularity as a staple of folk culture around the world, resulting in the innumerable Furry folk tales that litter the history of the Gregorian calendar.

One of the more prominent anthropomorphic characters to arise from folk tales is Reynard The Fox. First appearing as early as 1148, Reynard's influence ripples down through the ages and is said to figure both in Disney's Robin Hood and the more recent Fantastic Mr. Fox movie.

In 1696, Charles Perrault published Tales Of Mother Goose, introducing such Furry staples as Puss In Boots, and setting the stage for Fairy Tales to become a popular literary genre.

Around 1700, Madame d'Aulnoy wrote some books of stories entitled "Tales Of Fairies," coining the term "Fairy Tales."

A long history of literary debate followed in which scholars argued about which attributes constituted a Fairy Tale. It was observed that the majority of folk tales being pulled under this term did not include fairies. The most common thing they seemed to contain was Talking Animals.

But, as I said earlier, there is a school of thought in some Furry circles that fairies themselves contain a Furry element. Plus you have also morphing animals being a common staple of Fairy Tales, as well as all these other anthropomorphic creatures (fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, gnomes) that would easily sit in the Anthro Fandom ring around The Furry Umbrella.

So it seems, as far back as 1700, people started to recognize that anthropomorphics do something unique to a story that sets it apart from other forms of literature. Something so unique it required a classification. But somehow it just never clicked in the minds of that time that anthropomorphics were a driving force behind the literary phenomenon they were trying to define.

This opened the door for the development of the modern Fantasy genre. But even at the point in history where Fantasy was recognized as a genre, the scholars once again had their way and Fairy Tales were split off as something different, taking the majority of anthropomorphic elements with them. They seem to be saying that the Talking Animal is indigenous to the Fairy Tale, and any other type of story that uses one is borrowing a Fairy Tale element.

The problem with trying to divide Fantasy into sub-genres and provide rules for authors that would result in easy book shelving is that few Fantasy authors ever pay attention to these rules. And thus the elements which the scholars decided comprised the separate idioms of Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and even Science Fiction, were rarely if ever successfully kept separate.

And so, as Fantasy gradually came into its own throughout the ensuing 3 centuries, Furries found paths to migrate from the Fairy Tale realm, and would eventually be found taking up residence in just about every genre of fiction.


The 1800's

In 1802, William Roscoe penned The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast. The first of a trilogy of anthropomorphic poems.

In 1812, The Brothers Grimm published their first collection of German folk tales. This significantly increased world wide interest in Fairy Tales and resulted in several other published collections over the next few decades.

In 1836, Hans Christian Anderson published "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid." These are the earliest animal related fairytales attributable to their actual author.

In 1871, Edward Lear penned The Owl And The Pussycat, a Furry poem.  Its unfinished sequel seems almost to anticipate the dawn of Furry Fandom.

"Our mother was the Pussy-cat, our father was the Owl, And so we're partly little beasts and partly little fowl, The brothers of our family have feathers and they hoot, While all the sisters dress in fur and have long tails to boot."

In 1865, Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" marked the first significant appearance of Anthropomorphic Animals in something longer than a Fairy Tale or poem. The illustration of his white rabbit remains to this day the most frequently referenced image for articles about Anthropomorphism.

In 1875, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky began work on the ballet Swan Lake, based on a fairy Tale about a morphing swan.  This illustrates something of the pre-Disney formula, Fairy Tales proving to be an excellent source for ballets and operas, though few were made exclusively for children, and many reflect the original brutality of Fairy Tales.

In 1877, Anna Sewell penned Black Beauty. A story told from the perspective of a horse.

In 1881, Joel Chandler began the controversial Uncle Remus series, bassed on Furry Fables collected from African American folk culture.

In 1890, Beatrix Potter penned the earliest version of The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, opening a series of illustrated animal stories in which the art would become just as revered as the stories themselves.  This would inspire the first significant wave of anthropomorphic artists during the Arts & Crafts era, which would not only bring about an inestimable number of Furry children's books, but also a now highly collectible wave of Furry folk art.

Peter Rabbit was the first Furry character to be licensed for toy sales, making Beatrix Potter the originator of the Furry franchise.

In 1890, Palmer Cox began a series of books entitled "Funny Animals."  So little has been written on this subject that it is impossible to tell if this series by Palmer Cox represents the coining of the term "Funny Animals," or if it is a product of what might have been considered a sub-genre of children's literature at the time. But, if you take the series to be a measure of The Furry Interest at the time, it suggests a splintering off from the overall Fable/Fairy Tale genre, forming a new genre that focuses exclusively on anthropomorphics.

Also of note is that these books consist mainly of Fables which can be rather serious, not funny at all. And the Fables are all in verse, which seems to be a trend in other early books that use the term Funny Animals.

I have a strong suspicion that Paul McCartney at one point must have read Palmer Cox. Think of "The White Album" and "Magical Mystery Tour" as you read this quote, "There was an old giant named Bugaboo Bill, resided in England, on top of a hill."


Sample poem:



In 1894, Rudyard Kipling penned The Jungle Book, a series of significantly advanced talking animal stories that set the stage for the lengthy allegorical animal fables of the 20th century.

In 1895, James Swinnerton began one of the earliest comic strips, "The Little Tigers," said to have amused readers from 6 to 60. This was the beginning of a symbiotic relationship between comics and Funny Animals—the first Anthro-pomorphic Animals to appear in The Funnies.

In 1896, H. G. Wells wrote The Island Of Dr. Moreau, the first science fiction novel to deal with the idea of animals acquiring human intelligence through the ill-fated scientific experimentation of man.

In 1897, Bram Stoker published Dracula. Though not extensively dwelling on obvious Furry elements, the novel is responsible for the rising popularity of vampires, which are not only humans with animal attributes, but are able to morph into animals.


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