I'm looking for the earliest example for a story with an animal or object that gains the ability to talk.

Animal/object needs to have a name of their own, and the gaining of the ability to speak is part of the story (so not lion king or animal farm where all the animals are anthropomorphized).

A good example would be Billina from the wizard of Oz, but I'm looking for earlier fables or stories, the earliest if you'd like.

  • 2
    Pretty sure you'll be looking at prehistoric mythology for the earliest example.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:43
  • 1
    Alas recordings of such era scarce be these.
    – Uri
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:49
  • Does the serpent in the Book of Genesis count? As far as I know, the ability to talk is special to that creature and not possessed by all animals at that point?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:50
  • No, because the gaining of it isn't part of the story afaik. Also it doesn't have a name.
    – Uri
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:52
  • 1
    Enkidu is not a good fit because it wasn't an object/animal before... so things like that are not a good fit (I guess this goes for golem style creatures too).
    – Uri
    Jul 24, 2019 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


The serpent in Genesis 3 has the ability to talk, but it isn't clear where that ability comes from.

In Numbers 22, Balaam the diviner is summoned by the King of Moab to give advice about what to do about the Israelites traveling through Moab. God sends an angel to oppose Balaam and his donkey from riding away. Each time the donkey goes astray from the path and Balaam beats it to get the donkey back to the path. After the third movement, this happens:

Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28)

They go on to have a conversation.

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.

33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

It is likely that there were mythical references to animals or things who talked before the Book of Numbers was composed, but this is the earliest instance I can find showing the moment of gaining the ability to talk in an otherwise human-populated narrative.

  • 1
    animal/object must have a name of its own... :(
    – Uri
    Jul 24, 2019 at 20:05

Garuda is a mythical bird or bird-like creature also known as the king of birds in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. Garuda is mentioned in the Mahabharata, an Indian epic that may have reached its final form in the 4th century BC, even thoug its origins appear to be older ("between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE" according to Wikipedia).

The Ancient History Encyclopedia summarizes the following episode involving Garuda (italics from the original):

In perhaps the most famous episode from Hindu mythology involving Garuda, the giant bird attempted to steal from the gods the sacred amrta or 'water of life'. Indra soon found out and, unconvinced by Garuda's motive that he needed the amrta as a ransom to free his mother from the clutches of Kadru, fought the giant bird in an epic battle. Mighty Indra lost his famous thunderbolt in the clash but eventually managed to retrieve the amrta.

The passage implies that Garuda can speak ("Garuda's motive ...").

In Norse mythology, Odin has two ravens called Huginn and Muninn who fly over the world and bring information to Odin. However, the earliest texts that mention these ravens date from the 13th century, so they are much more recent than the Mahabharata. Wikipedia also points out,

In the Heimskringla book Ynglinga saga, a euhemerized account of the life of Odin is provided. Chapter 7 describes that Odin had two ravens, and upon these ravens he bestowed the gift of speech. These ravens flew all over the land and brought him information, causing Odin to become "very wise in his lore."

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