Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The dog, the serpent, the paradoxes

A book-talk in Princeton mentioned here on Feb. 15 turned out to be a remarkably stimulating experience -- first the talk and then, more lastingly, the book. Erika Ritter spoke about The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath: Some Paradoxes of Human-Animal Relationships (2009, Key Porter Books Limited) before signing copies.

From an article about it in the March 9 Princeton Packet:

"Lacing together everything in the book is its title story. First told in the prologue, this tale becomes a recurring motif, and every time it’s repeated and amplified, it becomes more recognizable, more sad.

On leaving the house with his wife, the master delegates to his faithful dog the task of guarding their only child, asleep in a cradle. A servant entering the room later finds the cradle overturned, no sign of the baby and the dog spattered with blood.

When the parents return to this scene, the master immediately slays the “treacherous animal.” Once the cradle is righted, the infant is found, safely still sleeping, under it. Then the body of a venomous snake, tooth-marked and bloodied, is found in a corner, where the dog apparently flung it after killing it.

Ritter first read the story as a child. Since then, its false assumption and summary justice, with the dog having no opportunity to tell his side, have “haunted her.” Over time, its “bitter reversals” came to “embody . . . the contradictions she sees at the heart of humanity’s relationship with all animals.” "

(P.S. on 4-1-10) Here's a link to a Canadian blogger's interview w/ Ritter -- some great background info:

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