Animal archetypes have been used in history and cultures to give nicknames based on the animal’s personality to portray a specified attribute to the nickname’s recipient. Lions are the archetypal king of the animals, portraying courage and blood thirst. Richard the Lionhearted exemplifies this point. He received his name from his courageous acts on the battlefield. Being called Lionhearted, showed all of Richard’s enemies that he was not afraid to meet them in battle. This too showed his subjects who their king was when he ruled England from 1189 to 1199. From the moment one heard his name, Richard’s story was being told through the archetypal characteristics of the lion. A modern application of animal nicknames would include professional sports teams who take on the name of menacing or ferocious animals as their mascot; for example the Chicago Bears or the Florida Panthers. Such names are taken to intimidate the team’s opponent. However, not all animal nicknames have positive connotations. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow describes the African natives as “A lot of people, mostly black and naked,” who, “moved about like ants” (Condrad 18). This negative animal description implies that the natives are nothing but insignificant insects that, without protest, will follow the demands of whoever takes charge. Animals can have archetypal stigmas attached to them, which can be used to describe a person’s, or a group of person’s, assumed stereotype either good or bad.


In many religions animals are used as symbols or physical representations of gods. Hindus, for example, view cows as sacred because the animal represents the Hindu gods’ sacrifices to their people, and the people’s sacrifices to their gods. As it says in the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic, Bhishma, one of the main characters, is quoted saying, "Cows represent sacrifice. Without them, there can be no sacrifice…Cows are guileless in their behaviour and from them flow sacrifices…and milk and curds and butter. Hence cows are sacred..." which explains the reverence the Hindus feel for cows.
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This connection between the sacred cow and the Hindu people tells of the worship and devotion they feel for their gods. They can express this devotion by vowing to never kill or eat the animal which “gives so much yet asks nothing in return," said Subhamoy Das in an article he wrote on holy cows in Hindu Religion. This same feeling can be found in the Ibo culture where the natives have been noted worshipping both animals as gods and inanimate objects to connect to their gods. A passage in Things Fall Apart examplifies this point by talking about the sacred python: "The royal python was the most revered animal in Mbanta and all the surrounding clans. It was addressed as 'Our Father,' and was allowed to go wherever it chose, even into people’s beds. The sacred python... the god of water (Achebe 96)." Unlike the holy cows of Hinduism, the sacred python was never used as a sacrifice to a god(s) but rather, the sacred python was seen as the god itself. The Ibo people did not understand the idea of an invisible god but rather felt the comfort of physically obtaining and expriencing life with tangible gods. Animals pop up in many different religions as ways for the followers to show devotion towards their gods or in some cases the animals are seen as the actual god itself. In this way, people use animals in religion.

There are many stories that teach a moral lesson, but the type of story that people seem to relate to the most are fables, or moral stories where animals are the main characters. Fables, while entertaining, always contain an underlying message which is a good way to teach children ethics. Fable Example The fable of the Lion in Love has the main lesson of "love can tame the wildest," however there is an underlying message that is don't let love blind you. The easily relatable character of the lion tells the reader of the human fuax-pas of being taken over by emotions. Fables don't only teach lessons, they are also used by early cultures to explain how things happened or why things were. An example of this from Things Fall Apart is the story Ekwefi tells her daughter, Enzima, why the tortoise does not have a smooth shell. Fables can also be a concise phrase that can convey a larger, however usually more hidden, meaning. In Things Fall Apart Eneke the bird is used multiple times as a source of reason, one of which went as such: “Eneke the bird was asked why he was always on the wing and he replied: ‘Men have learned to shoot without missing their mark and I have learned to fly without perching on a twig (125)." Fables, short or long, in many different cultures have been used to creatively teach lessons or explain occurances in nature.

In our society and many others throughout history, animals have served as a source through which stories are told. They have been used as explanations, relatable characters, religious connections, and archetypal characteristics. Without animals in literature, humans would have a more difficult time expressing themselves.


Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. United Kingdom: William Heinemann, 1958. Print.

Aesop. “Aesop’s Fables”. Aesop’s Fables.org, 2004. Web. 4 Dec. 2010. http://www.aesops-fables.org.uk/index.htm
Chicago Bears vs Cleveland Browns Mascot Battle [Video]. 2009. 4 Dec. 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFJR26xueEI&playnext=1&list=PL263F5DD208E9EE41&index=44
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. United Kingdom: Blackwood’s Magazine, 1902. Print.
Das, Subhamoy. “Holy Cows: Hinduism’s Blessed Bovines”. About.com. The New York Times Company, 2010. Web. 4 Dec. 2010. http://hinduism.about.com/od/vegetarianism/a/holycows.htm
Sacred Cows of India [Video]. 2009. 4 Dec. 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSCKJ04gD48&feature=related