animal rights, animals in fiction, animals in warfare, author, Bloodstone, book series, Char, epic movies, Fae of Fire and Stone, fantasy, Genghis Khan, Kristina Wojtaszek, Mongol, shelter dog, war, World Weaver Press, writer
This morning I was watching Mongol, the 2007 epic of the life, and battles, of Genghis Khan. As usual, during the third or fourth battle scene, I found myself cringing more over the fate of the horses than soldier after soldier being slain in frantic repetition. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. There’s a certain monotony that disturbingly numbs the mind to the plight of so many nameless souls, and no variety in gruesome detail (thankfully pared down in this particular movie) is enough to really shock anymore, mainly because it’s been so overdone in film. I find myself totally disengaged, and often fast forwarding to the end of many battles– it’s been done and done and done, a thousand plunges of sword and spear and arrow into every square inch of human flesh. Is there any battle that’s truly unique? As a writer, I sometimes wonder if the only inspiration in a movie war scene is the engaging sonata played as a soundtrack. Without the music, I’m not sure I could make it through any of them.
Once again, in bored apathy over the waste of human life, I found myself instead pondering the fate of horse, camel, elephant; those creatures who have no inclination to wage war in the first place, yet are forced to play a role, facing mutilation and death as surely as any of the men they carry upon their backs. It confounds me to think that many of them were bred solely for this purpose, and so loyal to their masters that they would charge straight into chaos when commanded, even when the carnage and turmoil around them must have overwhelmed their senses. And I cringe, most of all, to think that these large quadrupeds don’t often die as easily or as quickly as we do. They trip and fall, bones snapped by their own weight. They rear in terror, unable to free themselves of the corpse that drags behind them or tangles beneath their feet. They limp and toss their heads and charge in maddened furry, gashes through thick muscle disabling them so that they bleed and suffer long before any vital organ begins to fail.
As I shifted uncomfortably during another battle scene, my newly adopted dog, dosing on the couch beside me, woke and stirred, giving me a few licks before repositioning herself and settling back by my side. It takes so little to earn a socialized animal’s affection and devotion, and it takes so very much to break their trusting spirits. My sweet girl was found tangled in barbed wire, gnawing on her tale, which had been broken and begun to die. She had not been spayed and had no identification or collar– no evidence at all that she was owned. The shelter took care of her immediate medical needs before we adopted her, and our vet confirmed that she must have had a litter of puppies before she was found (who knows where they are). We adopted her on June 10th, and in less than a month she has gone from literally quaking in fright and constantly hiding behind my husband’s armchair, to a tap-dancing, singing bundle of wiggling joy and a loving, lazy lap dog. I call her my little magnet because I can’t move a foot without her getting up, moving alongside me, and plopping down at my feet again. That she can trust, and so willingly love, after all she has been through, only confirms what I have often thought to be true–some animals are more than human.
Maybe that’s why there’s a blurred line between what is animal and what is human in my Fae of Fire and Stone series. I’m working on the final book, Bloodstone, in which there will likely be an epic battle (hence why I wanted to watch an epic, to get me in the mood to write such a scene). But you won’t find the details skimming over the beasts that bear the warring parties, for in my series, the warring parties are both beast and human. Horses who bear men are men themselves, and bird, and antelope, and bee… Every Fae being, animal or human in shape, has a sentient mind, and every mind a beast within. Considering the vast history of warfare, I can’t help but wonder how many billions of people have had little or no choice in their involvement. I don’t have to wonder about the animals; it’s pretty certain that none were involved by their own volition. And that, to me, is the most devastating aspect of war; the exploitation of innocent life. I suppose I have strived in this series to give voice back to animals– to offer them a taste of the same free will humans enjoy. Even if it’s only in the pages of fantasy.