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Hi Andrew, I explored this for my phd thesis on late 20th century American animal poetry, by way of context for the symbolic representation of animals and the use of animals as metaphor, the earliest instance sof which can be found in totemism and pre-historic cave art. Lévi-Strauss states that "animals are good to think [with]" in *Le Totemisme Aujourd'hui *(1962), translated in English as *Totemism *(1964). In this work, Lévi-Strauss discusses the various anthropological theories used to explain the widespread phenomenon of totemism. His conclusion is that specific animals are chosen as totems for particular clans not because they form an important part of that clan's diet (because they are "good to eat" or "bonnes à manger") but because of their metaphorical potential (they are "good to think [with]" or "bonnes à penser"). I've pasted my discussion of animals and totemism below from my dissertation "Writing 'that animal darkness': Galway Kinnell, Gary Snyder, James Merrill". (Trinity College Dublin, 2010): In *Totemism* and *The Savage Mind*, Lévi-Strauss analyses totemism in the theories of leading traditional anthropologists, and breaks through the ‘problem’ of the concept by convincingly arguing that the unifying, underlying practice is the employment of natural elements such as animals and plants as *symbols* of human groups of kinship, thereby focusing not on possible resemblances between the humans and the animals involved, but on the “differences, which resemble each other.” (*Totemism*, p. 77) Lévi-Strauss distinctly relates totemism to exogamy, or the formation of groups of kinship possessing stable rules of marriage. Animals and animal symbols, then, are used to denote groups of (primitive) people, not because the people believe they are truly descended from them, or because they have some perceived external, objective resemblance to them, but because on the one hand, animals differ from each other, and on the other hand, men also differ from each other. In Lévi-Strauss’ words: “The resemblance presupposed by so-called totemic representations is *between these two systems of differences*.”(ibid) Animals are not selected for this symbolic relationship merely because they are essential for the ‘savage’s’ subsistence. In fact, quite often species are selected that are not part of the specific clan or tribe’s diet. They are selected not because they are ‘good to eat,’ but because they are ‘good to think’: animals, or indeed the whole natural world, prove to contain excellent structures and frameworks for conceptual and associative thought. Animals are different from each other in species, types of animal, physical appearance, observed behaviour, mode of life, and so on, and as such, they seem to resemble different humans, who also differ from each other in that they belong to different groups of kinship, or are distributed differently among different segments of society. Lévi-Strauss summarizes: “The animal world is thus thought of in terms of the social world.”(ibid, p. 81) It is important to remember that the apparent suitability of animals for symbols or metaphors in totemism does not depend on an objective resemblance between the vehicle and the tenor of such a metaphor. It is rather the great variety of internal relationships and characteristics within the animal world that provides its associative potential and that is employed to symbolise the variety of internal relationships within the human social context. Claude Lévi-Strauss, *Totemism*, translated by Rodney Needham. (London: Merlin Press, 1964) Hope this helps! Johanna Hoorenman -- Johanna Hoorenman Trinity College Dublin College Green Dublin 2, Ireland +353 18962956