My question: To what extent does animals’ speechlessness contribute to their status as our “elders?” I appreciate LeGuin’s point that animals do communicate, and yet I believe that it is humans’ words, in part, that distance us from the wilderness we long for and the “greater belonging” LeGuin describes. I see language as one of the key differences between animal stories and the fairytales they replaced, since authors generally depict fairies as living apart from humans and as employing language to help them reason, plan for the future, etc. In contrast, animals live among us and only “speak” at the author’s behest.
Thinking about this brought me back to a question I considered last week: Who is the ideal “hybrid human,” how do we conceive of such a creature, and what role metacognition play in their creation? (I’m thinking of Kenneth Burke’s trout and his description of metacognition as what separates us from other animals.)