Every culture that has arisen since the dawn of man has anthropomorphized animals to teach children about the world.
I have no idea if that’s true. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since we first started reading books to our kids, which was pretty much as soon as their eyes could focus on the page.
90% of the characters in their books are non-humans. I think it’s about the same for movies and TV shows, although we haven’t really gotten into that stuff yet.
The easy explanation for why the characters are bears and spiders and puppies is that these critters hold the kids’ attention better than boring old homo sapiens. The Naked Ape, it would seem, just doesn’t have the star power of the gorilla or caterpillar.
That’s why fables can be so effective. A cast of talking animals interacts in a way that’s instructive in terms of human behavior, but may or may not have anything to do with the traits of their species. Are foxes really more prone to cognitive dissonance than other animals? Maybe? But more importantly, Aesop knew that the image of a fox lunging at grapes that were just out of his reach and then pretending that he never wanted them in the first place is more striking and therefore more memorable than that of a generic human doing the same thing.