This post by Robert Kroese at tor.com caught my eye: Sheep in science fiction and fantasy.
It’s a funny post:
I hadn’t even noticed the pattern until my editor brought it to my attention. “Rob,” she said, peering at me over a stack of my books on her desk, “why do you keep writing about sheep?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” I replied, taking a seat across from her. “I write very highbrow literary-type science fiction novels.”
She grabbed a copy of Mercury Rests from the top of the pile. “Page 243. You have a reference to an ‘exsanguinating sheep’.”
“Well,” I said, “what other animal are you going to sacrifice on top of a volcano?” I asked.
“And here in Mercury Rises,” she said. “Page 128. You have an exchange where an angel attempts to convince the biblical character Noah to trade his sheep for bricks.”
“That’s for the Settlers of Catan crowd,” I said. “I can’t help the fact that sheep are a key element of the game.”
And so on. Sheep everywhere. Or almost everywhere. Kroese does rather stretch a point with some of the books he includes, but since he’s not taking himself seriously, that’s fine. It’s a fun post.
But what it made me think of was a slightly broader category: Sheep in murder mysteries. Specifically, sheep in Leonie Swann’s entertaining and unique murder mystery Three Bags Full, which as you may know features sheep as the main characters and protagonists. Come to think of it, that’s fantastic enough right there to qualify this story for the fantasy genre as well as mystery.
On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennill, the members of the flock gather around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared for the sheep, reading them a plethora of books every night. The daily exposure to literature has mde them far savvier about the workings of the human mind than your average sheep. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennill (and possibly the world), set out to find George’s killer…
Delightful, eh? Of course the sheep are pretty sure the butcher did it. I mean, of course the butcher, right? A butcher would be capable of anything, obviously.
It’s a charming story. The sheep are such . . . sheep. Here is a scene where they are thinking about Melmoth, a mysterious ram who left the flock for a while and has now returned, bearing unusual wisdom:
The sheep noticed that Melmoth was not just one more sheep in their flock. They couldn’t explain to themselves exactly why. Melmoth was a disruptive influence. When Melmoth grazed with them the flock could hardly manage to stay in formation. Instead they scattered as if a wolf had broken in among them. They scattered at grazing pace, of course, which meant very slowly, almost imperceptibly. It began to feel eerie.
Melmoth tells quite creepy ghost stories as well as teaching the sheep to “herd themselves” – resist being herded by dogs or men. He’s quite a sheep, is Melmoth. But all the characters are well drawn and delightful. This is definitely my favorite book featuring sheep — and probably the single novel where sheep are most thoroughly front-and-center.
Remember the Freddy the Pig books? Did you ever have a chance to read those when you were a kid? I bet there were sheep in them, but I fear I don’t remember any specific characters other than Freddy, Jinx the cat, an owl, a couple of cows . . . now that I think of them, I can remember specific scenes that still make me smile.
Anybody got another story that involves sheep?