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The Emperor's Embrace

The Emperor's Embrace

Reflections on Animal Families and Fatherhood

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's "marvelous" (Jane Goodall) New York Times bestseller, When Elephants Weep, made us re-evaluate the emotional lives of animals. And in his follow-up New York Times bestseller, Dogs Never Lie About Love, Masson reflected with "intelligence and originality" (Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review) on the emotional world of dogs. Now, in The Emperor's Embrace, Masson offers a remarkable look at one of the most fulfilling roles in the animal world: fatherhood.
With fascinating insight, impeccable research, and captivating writing, controversial psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson, a new father himself, introduces us to the world's best dads. He takes us to such places as Antarctica, as he explores how emperor penguin fathers incubate the eggs of their young by carrying them around on their feet for two months, nestled beneath a special brood pouch. And he tells us how, once the babies hatch, the fathers snuggle the babies on their feet until the mother returns from her time at sea, feeding them a special milk-like substance until her arrival. Masson, a superb storyteller, showcases the extraordinary behavior of outstanding fathers, heroes among animals, including:
  • the wolf -- and why wolves make good fathers and dogs don't
  • the beaver, who encourages his young to cling to his tail as he navigates through ponds
  • the sea horse, the only male animal that gives birth to its young
  • the marmoset, the South American monkey who carries his babies for the first two years of their lives wherever he goes.

Masson also examines nature's worst fathers: lions, langurs, bears -- and humans. He shows that when a father does care for his young, as with the beaver, we immediately look for a biological and not an emotional explanation. But Masson demonstrates that for these animals, as with humans, fatherhood is a profound, all-encompassing experience.
Groundbreaking, compelling, inspirational, Masson's unique look at one of nature's most venerable institutions takes us to animal habitats around the world, yet always returns to the heart. For animal lovers, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters everywhere, The Emperor's Embrace is a book that will forever change our perceptions of parenthood and family love.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743417808 | 
  • February 2001
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Chapter One: The Emperor's Embrace

Could it be that there is a politics of knowledge when it comes to animal behavior? We hear about infanticidal lions but rarely of heroic penguin fathers. Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator, once said: "It is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep." This remarkable statement manages to combine macho bravura with sheer ignorance (the male lion spends most of the day asleep). In any event, why should the life of a sheep be seen as any less inherently valuable than the life of a lion? To whom is the life of a vegetarian species less interesting than the life of a... see more

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