“On the Farm all animals were equal…in the Castle some are more equal than others.”
Inspired by the classic novel Animal Farm by George Orwell, Animal Castle takes all humans out of the story and changes up enough details to keep this new narrative fresh. Originally written in French by author Xavier Dorison, this story has a European sensibility to it.
Long ago there was a castle that was abandoned by humans, so a republic was established by the left-behind animals. But years have gone by, and the story begins under the dictatorship of a bull leader, President Silvio and his dog militia who have subjugated all the other animals. Beaten down by work and threats of violence they obey, until the arrival of a traveling rat who will teach them the secrets of civil disobedience. Widowed mother cat Miss B witnesses the political killing of a friend and realizes she can stand back no longer. She tries to rally the oppressed animals but the government reacts with deadly force against those trying to organize. Is putting her and her two kittens lives in danger worth the sacrifice? This fable begs the question if there is a way to victory without violence.
The artist Felix Delep did a lovely job of humanizing the animals- showcasing the bull leader, the dog militia, and a mother cat with her adorable kittens to great effect. A muted earth-tone palette set the scene, as the animals at the castle are under siege and have little color left in their everyday lives which are filled with drudgery. Many small panels per page pushed the action forward, showcasing both whimsy and then chilling violence. Reminiscent of Stray Dogs (which I also loved) the anthropomorphic artwork is juxtaposed against a very serious narrative, and I advocated for this title to make the Top 10 list in my Graphic Novels for Adults committee. It might not have made the final shortlist, but it is on the long list.
This story is thought-provoking in our current political climate, not only here in the US, but also overseas with an obvious parallel to Putin’s attempt to conquer Ukraine. I look forward to the next volume to see what our revolutionary cat and her heroic cohorts will do to overcome their cruel oppressers.