Whimsical and witty, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” first appeared on Bob Dylan’s album Slow Train Coming in 1979. Illustrator Jim Arnosky has now crafted a stunning picture book adaptation of Dylan’s song that’s a treat for both children and adults, with breathtaking images of more than 170 animals plus a CD of Dylan’s original recording.
The revered musical legend rarely allows his songs to be illustrated, and Arnosky has done the song proud with a parade of spectacular creatures ready to receive their names-until the surprise ending, when children get to name an animal themselves!
Arnosky offers a Peaceable Kingdom approach–minus humans–to the song from Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Running. The self-consciously majestic acrylic and pencil tableaus feature “different animals and plants from around the world on each and every page” (according to the introduction). While Dylan references only six animals in his song, Arnosky notes on the penultimate page that the book includes more than 170 creatures (readers are invited to identify them all, or check out the illustrator’s Web site for clues). However, the spreads and portraits feel detached from the gently funky mood of Dylan’s performance on the accompanying CD, as well as the laidback, down-home humor of the lyrics: “He saw an animal up on a hill/ Chewing up so much grass until she was filled./ He saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how/ Ah, think I’ll call it a COW.” Arnosky deserves props for not reaching for the most common examples of the animals from the song’s verse (using a bristly wild pig and mountain sheep), but even animal fanatics may find these compositions overwhelming. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)
PreS-Gr 2—Through vivid paintings of a primeval planet teeming with wildlife, Arnosky translates Dylan’s 1979 song about the naming of Earth’s animals into a gorgeous picture book. Full lyrics and a CD of the original song are included. In Dylan’s narrative, Man takes note of the characteristics of various animals, including a bear, cow, bull, pig, and sheep, and determines a name for each creature. “He saw an animal that liked to growl,/Big furry paws and he liked to howl,/Great big furry back and furry hair./’Ah, think I’ll call it a bear.'” Children will have to supply the name for the final animal as he slithers away. Rather than the expected spotted cow and rosy pink pig, Arnosky features the burly undomesticated beasts that would have roamed during the earlier days of humankind. But the paintings are not without their dose of whimsy. Crocodiles and dolphins swim side by side and penguins line up beside a tiger, rhino, toucan, and other wildlife from various habitats. The effect is entirely in keeping with the imagined world of Dylan’s lyrics. A list of 170 species appears in the back of the book, with hints on locating each creature on Arnosky’s website. Beautifully printed with embossed cover and a surprise image beneath the dust jacket, this book will jump off library shelves and make a great keepsake for personal libraries as well. With its broad appeal to spiritual, scientific, and just plain animal-loving audiences, this book is a winner.—Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
For this book-and-CD set, prolific artist and naturalist Arnosky has illustrated Dylan’s catchy song about man naming animals–bear, cow, bull, pig, sheep and snake–with pencil-and-acrylic paintings of more than 170 animals in a series of peaceable kingdom images. Each double-page spread includes a number of identifiable animals in an imagined natural setting. An alphabetical list of most animals pictured is provided at the end. There are curious choices: three specific types of monkeys, for instance, but only a generic snake. The cow, bull, pig and sheep of the song have been shown in ancestral forms, an appropriate and evocative choice, though probably unfamiliar to young readers. They may also be frustrated by the lack of a key to the unnumbered pages in the book. Adults who share this with children may want to print out the keys from Arnosky’s website, which should be complete by publication. The different illustrations on the dust cover and printed boards require libraries to make a choice. A beautiful concept with gorgeous artwork but flawed design. (Picture book and CD. 3-10)
“Man Gave Names to All the Animals” is a song written by Bob Dylan that appeared on Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Coming and was also released as a single in some European countries. It was also released as a promo single in US. The single became a chart hit in France and Belgium. However, the song also has detractors who consider it the worst song Dylan ever wrote. A 2013 reader’s poll conducted by Rolling Stone Magazine ranked “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” the 4th worst Bob Dylan song, although the hit single from Slow Train Coming, “Gotta Serve Somebody” placed second.
“Man Gave Names to All the Animals” has been covered by multiple artists, including Townes Van Zandt, who covered the song on his 1993 album Roadsongs. The lyrics were turned into a children’s book published byHarcourt in 1999, with illustrations by Scott Menchin. The Wiggles covered this song on their “Furry Tales” CD in 2013.
The music to “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” is reggae-inspired. The lyrics were inspired by the biblical Book of Genesis, verses 2:19-20 in which Adam named the animals and birds. The lyrics have an appeal to children, rhyming the name of the animal with one of its characteristics. So after describing an animal’s “muddy trail” and “curly tail,” Dylan sings that “he wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big” and so that animal was named a pig. Similarly, the cow got its name because Adam “saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how” and the bear got its name because it has a “great big furry back and furry hair.”
In the last verse, the lyrics take a more sinister turn. In that verse the man
- Saw an animal as smooth as glass
- Slithering his way through the grass
- Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake
The verse ends there, with the music hanging and the lyrics avoiding naming the snake. In concert, Dylan sometimes elaborated on the meaning of the snake to him at the time. For example, in a concert inPittsburgh in May 1980 Dylan confirmed that the animal in the final verse is the same snake that appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Dylan’s description that day, Lucifer had put his spirit into that snake, and Jesus later died not only for forgiveness of sins but also to destroy the devil’s work. Despite the obvious biblical source for the song, Dylan avoids any explicit mention of Adam and Eve, which to author Oliver Trager seems to pin the blame for the fall of man solely on the snake. Music critic Michael Gray finds it interesting that Dylan avoids blaming Eve for man’s fall, appreciating that he stops “the song short on a beautifully hungover note at the arrival on the scene of the serpent.
According to backup singer Regina Havis Brown, originally Dylan wasn’t sure if he wanted to include “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” on Slow Train Coming. But when Dylan heard Brown’s three-year-old son laughing at the identification of the animals, he said that “I’m going to put that on the record.”
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago
He saw an animal that liked to growl
Big furry paws and he liked to howl
Great big furry back and furry hair
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bear”
He saw an animal up on a hill
Chewing up so much grass until she was filled
He saw milk coming out but he didn’t know how
“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”
He saw an animal that liked to snort
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short
It looked like there wasn’t nothing that he couldn’t pull
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bull”
He saw an animal leaving a muddy trail
Real dirty face and a curly tail
He wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big
“Ah, think I’ll call it a pig”
Next animal that he did meet
Had wool on his back and hooves on his feet
Eating grass on a mountainside so steep
“Ah, think I’ll call it a sheep”
He saw an animal as smooth as glass
Slithering his way through the grass
Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake