Being inspired has a positive effect on people because it pushes them to become better. But while most see their partner or family as inspiration, there are others who find an unlikely muse — one who touches their hearts and changes their lives forever.

Set sail to meet a whale

You’re probably familiar with Moby-Dick, the classical novel written by Herman Melville that you were required to read in school or that you considered picking up for a book report. The novel is about Ahab, the captain of the ship Pequod, who went on a quest to get revenge on Moby Dick, a white whale who bit off Ahab’s leg.

Fiction authors usually base their stories from what they see or experience in real life. In this case, Melville went on a voyage in 1841 and got inspired to write a novel about sailing and voyages, according to a New Bedford Whaling Museum online article. A vast collection of resources later, the story of Mocha-Dick caught Melville’s attention, eventually inspiring one of the famous characters in literature: Moby Dick.

Mocha-Dick is a real albino sperm whale who destroyed over 20 whaling ships and survived numerous encounters until he was tragically killed after helping another whale and her calf from whalers, as reported by Daven Hiskey in his 2011 article at Today I Found Out. A hero and a fighter, it’s no wonder this brave, strong whale inspired Melville!

The cat who meowed Twain’s woes away

People often say that cats are a bundle of evil fluff, but Mark Twain might say otherwise, given how much he became fascinated by cats — specifically his fluffy companion Bambino.

Bambino meowed Twain’s woes away when his wife passed, as reported in a 2016 online article at Johnny Times.

Black cats may be regarded as bad luck, but Bambino became a good luck charm when he saved Twain from immense grief and helped him cope during struggles. Twain loved Bambino so much that when Bambino went missing, Twain paid for an advertisement in the New York American and offered a $5 reward for the cat’s safe return. Luckily, Bambino was only at a neighbor’s yard and was promptly returned, reported Charlotte Ahlin in her 2016 Bustle article.

Get a grip

Did you know that Charles Dickens — a famous Victorian author — is an animal lover? He had different companion animals in his life who inspired his work, one of them being Grip, a raven who learned to mimic speech.

Fascinated by the bird’s intelligence, Dickens recorded the bird’s vocabulary and eventually included him in the novel Barnaby Rudge, as mentioned in Charlotte Ahlin’s 2016 article in Bustle. The raven surely tugged at everyone’s hearts, even that of Edgar Allan Poe, who eventually wrote about ravens, too.

Spinning a web of stories

Who can forget about Charlotte’s Web, a well-known children’s book about the friendship of Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider? This story has inspired so many people to go vegan, or to at least realize that animals have feelings, too!

Living in a farmhouse most of his life, E.B. White was surrounded by different kinds of animals. Seeing how intelligent these beings were and bothered by what  happened to them once they were taken to the slaughterhouse, White felt the need to write a story about farm animals, as shared by Abraham Piper in his article at Twenty Two Words.

White decided to write a novel about rescuing a livestock pig but was not sure who to pick as the “knight in shining armor.” He eventually found inspiration in a small but eye-catching gray spider in his house, according to a 2011 at Writer’s Digest. The spider proved herself an artist after she meticulously wove an intricate web.

The spider may be small, but she — along with other farm animals — played a huge role in White’s life and became an even bigger part of everyone’s childhood: She was an inspiration for one of the main characters in the best-selling book.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January 2019 issue.