Animal Motifs / Literature

  • Felix Leiter is described as having feline slanted eyes in Casino Royale.
  • In The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Colonel Moran often compares Professor Moriarty to a snake, cold-blooded, deadly, with cobra eyes, an adder's smile, and a neck-wobbling habit that reminds him of a snake.
  • The Bible is full of animal analogies. Lions, doves, sheep and cattle are especially prominent: Jesus himself was regularly compared to lambs, lions and, in later Christianity, unicorns.
  • The Iliad is heavy with animal similes when describing characters' emotions and actions.
  • Many of the noble houses in A Song of Ice and Fire have animals on their coats of arms, and are commonly referred to by these animals as well as showing an awareness of how they are 'supposed' to act to fit the animal characteristics; the series has a lot of fun with the possible symbolism. For example, the grim, grey, noble, and cold-dwelling Starks have a direwolf on their arms, while the blonde, vain, and aggressive Lannisters have a lion. Littlefinger deliberately chooses the small, bright, and harmless cunning thief, the mockingbird, for his arms to appear nonthreatening. Crows seem to act as the motif for the series as a whole, symbolizing war, ill omen, and death. Members of the Night's Watch are also (somewhat mockingly) referred to as Crows.
    • To top it off many characters are referred to by animal nicknames based off their traits. Sansa Stark is nicknamed "little bird" for her ability to repeat "pretty words". Also, Sandor is often called dog or The Hound (because the Clegane coat of arms has three dogs).
    • To expand on the use of the bird motif used for Sansa, her chapters are usually rife with symbolism relating to birds, the sky and flying, not to mention the fact that she is currently living with Petyr Baelish, the other avian associated character.
      • And they're located in a mountaintop castle, which is nicknamed the Eyrie.
    • The Starks, Targaryens, and Dothraki have a closer relationship with their animal sigils (direwolf, dragon, and horse, respectively) than most (no, not like that). The Stark children all get direwolf companions early in the first book. The Targaryens rode dragons to war, and the Dothraki consider horses essential to their nomadic lifestyle.
    • The sigil of House Martell actually is not an animal, but Oberyn and his daughters have a snake motif, especially connected to their fighting style: fast, sneaky and poisonous.
    • The infamous "Rains of Castamere" song leans heavily on the fact that both House Lannister and House Reyne had lionsnote  for their coats of arms.
    • Subverted by the Florents, who have a fox for their sigil and look like foxes with their large ears, but are not particularly cunning, being vain and unpleasant.
    • The Freys don't have it as their sigil but are frequently compared to weasels, looking like them and acting sneaky and unpleasant.
  • The Neanderthals depicted in Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear have individual animal "totems"; the heroine, Ayla, has a cave lion, a controversially strong totem for a woman.
  • In His Dark Materials your daemon's form (an animal) represents yourself and is part of your soul. Since children have not yet truly defined who they are in life, their daemons can shape shift until they mature.
  • Deltora Quest: "Barda The Bear" is what Barda was called as guard during days of peace in Del, for being the toughest out of all the guards, though Barda doesn't appreciate that moniker when Jinx calls him by it.
    • Jasmine associated many animals but mainly with birds since her connection with her pet black bird Kree and distaste for walls and stone, preferring freedom of the air. Lief is tied with Dragons and their majesty as the Deltora royal family are connected to Dragons and literal dragon come back in the third series.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Given the initial source material, there's quite a lot of this present throughout the series. Some of it is quite overt, especially when the primary cast of characters is concerned, though there are a few subtler instances of it as well.
    • For instance, Duke Nobel's coat of arms depicts a white lion, his father's name is Leo, and he aspires to be the king. On the other hand, in spite of her being raven-haired, living in a figurative gilded cage, and hailing from a city with a raven as its symbol, it can still be easy to miss that the Countess Persephone is oft likened to a bird.
  • Several times in the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce.
    • Song of the Lioness stars a female knight called Alanna, who gains the appellation "The Lioness" because of her courage and tenacity.
    • Her daughter, Aly, is a clever girl who likes to joke around. She learns how to talk to crows early in the plot, befriends the crow gods, and eventually falls in love with a crow shapeshifted into a man.
    • In the Provost's Dog books, the proto-police force adopt the disparaging nickname "Dogs," call their watchouses "Kennels," and their trainees "Puppies," as they find the connotations of a loyal hunter/tracker to be highly appropriate. Beka is also nicknamed after a breed of hunting dog for her actions in each book as a Title Drop.
  • The main characters in The Impairment each are associated with an animal of which reflects their personalities.
    • Lead and POV character Kyle Griffin is associated with, what else, Griffins. His motif is the only one among the rest that isn't actually a real animal, but rather a mythical beast. This is a reflection of his desire to escape from the cruel real world and find solace in the "fantasy world" of his drunken stupor. It may also reflect his desire to be free of suspicion (the bird/flying aspect of the creature) and his aggressive nature towards his suspicion (the lion aspect).
    • The sole believer on campus to Kyle's claims, Mark Rivera, has a wolf motif, which reflects his aggressive attitude towards anyone that's hostile to anyone to whom he's fiercely protective and loyal. It's a part of a gag with his deceased girlfriend Naomi Portman's motif of the Moon, and also reflection of his sad and lonesome outlook on life.
    • Nathan Reeves Bret Cameron, takes the falcon as his both for the fact by personality he’s an excellent tracker and a careful and silent overseer of his surroundings and that he uses camera-bots disguised as taxidermy falcons to spy on Kyle.
    • Allie Parker’s seems to be cats which fit to her curious attitude, the mysterious nature of her personality and of course in truth to her agile and dangerous skills and techniques and her territorial, independent and dangerous tendencies.
    • Being that he’s a bipedal version and greatly resembles one, Meleeo is identified with Chameleons. This greatly reflects how he blends in to his surroundings and adapted and fooled both the readers and the characters of his true personality and colors. Oh and of course his tongue.
    • Kiefer Waldgrave identifies himself with the caterpillar, cocoon, and Moth family. He clearly started out a pathetic, weak and idealistic young man, but slowly gave in to his newfound ideals and confined himself to the cocoon of his new ideals till he hoped to become something much greater.
    • The men of the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity are identified by Mark as “dogs”, possibly by how depending on their owner and surroundings it ultimately shapes their personalities, of which these boys are aggressive and brutal.
    • Emma Sumiko is identified with koi fish, possibly due to her Asian heritage and her milky, elegant and beautiful appearance.
  • Harry Potter has patronuses, protective spells that take animal form, and animagi, wizards and witches who can turn into animals. (Wizards usually has the same patronus and animagi form.) Harry himself has a stag patronus like his father, an animagus, did, and his mother had a doe patronus. Stags are majestic and brave but also prideful.
    • Severus Snape is often compared to a bat. His patronus is a doe, which represents his love for Lily Evans. Notably, his patronus is a copy of Lily's instead of a complement like James's.
    • On Pottermore it was revealed that Remus Lupin has a wolf patronus, which he is ashamed of because he dislikes the reference to his lycanthropy. Yet, wolves are intelligent and loyal to their packs. Nymphadora Tonks's patronus changes from a jack rabbit to a wolf after the events of the fifth book, out of love for Remus.
    • Dolores Umbridge fills her office with cat-themed knickknacks and has a cat patronus, thus representing Cats Are Mean and in opposition to Minerva McGonagall's cat patronus/animagus form (representing Cats Are Magic).
    • Other characters whose patronuses are known and notable include Ron Weasley (a jack russell terrier, loyal and tenacious); Hermione (an otter, playful, intelligent, JKR's favorite animal); and Ginny Weasley (a horse, wild and fierce) all revealed in Order of the Phoenix.
    • Albus Dumbledore's Patronus is a phoenix, and he is otherwise associated with phoenixes because of his pet, Fawkes, and his secret organization the Order of the Phoenix. His brother, Aberforth, has a goat Patronus. This keeping with how he he once used "inappropriate charms on a goat" and his place of business The Hog's Head smells of goats.
    • Sirius can turn into a big, black dog because he's clever, loyal, and lacks impulse control. Peter is a rat, which could be interpreted positively as being dexterous and clever or negatively as being sneaky and treacherous.
    • Each of the Four Houses also has a symbolic animal: Gryffindor has a lion, the King of the Jungle; Hufflepuff has a badger, a docile animal that can take down much larger creatures if threatened.note ; Ravenclaw has an eagle, intelligent and independent; Slytherin has a snake, which is sneaky, clever, and loyal to a close few (and, In-Universe, because its founder could talk to them). Slytherin's descendant Voldemort inherited his snake motif.
    • Rubius Hagrid and Newt Scamander can be assisoated with dragons and other fierce creatures due to extreme and touching care of magical monsters which most people would fear.
  • The Animorphs all have signature animals they often turn into, particularly in battle. For example, Marco, the Sad Clown with a creatively ruthless streak, typically transforms into a gorilla, which is big and bulky but still both dangerous and capable of delicate manipulations with opposable thumbs; The Hero, Jake, is a tiger; Blood Knight Rachel is a grizzly bear; Tobias is a hawk (self-sufficient and needs lots of space); Team Mom Cassie is a wolf.
    • And David is a rat. For all his rage, he is still just a rat in a bottle. David also sometimes uses a lion, which represents his savage fighting style, as even Jake in his tiger morph couldn't defeat him.
    • Ax also often goes into battle unmorphed, since Andalites are plenty dangerous in their natural state (extremely sharp tail blades, remember?)
    • When Tom acquires the morphing power late in the series, the only morph he is ever seen using is a cobra. This is incredibly fitting, given his role in the final story arc.
    • Finally, Visser Three has a grab bag assortment of alien morphs, but the only one he uses more than once is the 'Eight', the bizarre eight-headed, eight-armed, eight-legged, fire-breathing abomination he uses in the climax of the first book. Besides setting up the Visser as an alien threat of monstrous proportions, this particular morph owes a lot to the Beast of Revelations.
  • The Grapes of Wrath has in its third chapter a tortoise trying to cross a road and getting run over by a truck. In the fourth chapter, we meet Jim Casey, who's described as having a "long head" and a "beaked" nose.
  • Jorge Luis Borges writes a tiger somewhere into many of his stories.
  • Incredibly important in 'Het verrotte leven van Floortje Bloem', a Dutch book which title translates to 'The screwed-up life of Floortje Bloem'. It's about a young hooker hooked on heroin who gets a fur rabbit from a pedophile. This fur rabbit is used to portray her innocence and it deterorates further and further from that point.
  • Songs of Innocence and of Experience employs the recurring imagery of different animals to represent innocence, e.g. "The Lamb", and experience, e.g. "The Tyger". In "THE FLY", the narrator compares himself directly to a fly with reference to human mortality and vulnerability.
  • An in-universe example: In the Dragaera series, each of the 17 Great Houses is named after an animal. However, since a lot of those animals aren't from Earth, the similarities between the personality traits of the House and the traits of the animal are much better understood by the characters than by us.
  • In Stardust, a character remarked when Tristran is transformed into a dormouse by a witch, that she isn't sure whether the spell simply transformed Tristran into a dormouse or it had chosen the form that Tristran is most like.
  • Each chapter of The Darksword Trilogy starts with a small, symbolic illustration. Joram is represented as a frog wearing a crown, referencing his Royal Blood; Simkin is represented as a crow wearing a jester's cap, referencing his Trickster Archetype nature and status as The Fool.
  • The Hunger Games has President Snow identifying with a snake, especially his eyes. Katniss has been compared to a mockingjay. (The motifs actually plays a lot into the story & symbolism Snow is described as having features that make him look like a snake and importantly, later on, we learn that he gained his position from poisoning his enemies. And Katniss' role as the Mockingjay is revealing about the nature in which she's been manipulated in the novels, the mockingjays were signs of rebellion but could not produce their own words. Katniss is constantly a puppet for the 'players' of the books, like President Snow, Plutarch and Coin. She also is reduced to a poor mental state where she begins singing to herself in the end of the last novel.
    • Rue is described as having bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin and standing tilted up on her toes with her arms slightly extended to her sides, as if ready to take wing at the slightest sound. It's impossible not to think of a bird. Her swift and almost invisible movements through the treetops added to the bird-like description. Rue's pre-games interview costume is described as a sheer dress with shimmering gossamer wings. Of course she can also communicate to the birds through song.
    • Katniss nicknamed the girl from District 5 "Foxface" because of her fox-like appearance. She has red hair and is describe by Katniss as sly and elusive. Foxface demonstrated her cleverness by figuring out the path into the Careers' supply pyramid and reached the bulk of supplies, takes an unnoticeable amount of food, and then runs back to the safety of the woods.
  • In Death series: Roarke has been compared to a wolf in Ceremony in Death, Vengeance in Death, and Promises in Death. Promises in Death actually had Eve and several women discussing the men in their lives and comparing them to animals. Nadine got a turtle of a man. Trina got a snake of a man. Mira got an owl of a man. Peabody got a puppy of a man. Mavis got a bear of a man. Louise got a cheetah of a man. Nadine theorizes that Roarke is a panther, but Eve ends up saying "wolf," and Mira points out that when wolves mate, it's for life.
  • In the Belgariad, each of the gods has a totemic animal: Belar's is a bear, Torak's is a dragon, Chaldan's is a bull, Issa's is a snake, Nedra's is a lion, Mara's is a bat, and Aldur's is an owl. Each god, and his chosen race of people, take on the personality characteristics of their animal, and in some cases go beyond: Barak turns into a bear when a certain condition is met; Salmissra is transformed into a serpent as punishment for her particular meddling; Torak's successor transforms into a dragon on occasion in an effort to impede the party; and the female sorcerers under Aldur's tutelage prefer the form of the owl for themselves (the males prefer the wolf). The sorcerers also wear an amulet each bearing the image of their chosen form.
  • In the Indian novel The White Tiger: The white tiger.
  • Heraldic animals feature heavily in the Tales of the Branion Realm historical fantasy series set in an alternate Britain. There are two opposing Gods - Essus (a white dragon) and the Living Flame (a fire-wolf). Since the Vessel of the Living Flame doubles as the kingdom's sovereign, the fire-wolf doubles as the national symbol and the royal family's crest. Other creatures that feature prominently include the bear, symbol of one of the strongest noble families; a crimson gryphon, symbol of Gwyneth (an expy of Wales), and the wyvern, crest of the royal dukedom of Yorbourne (aka York). There's also the owl, symbol of choice and totem of a Seer. All these symbols appear commonly in visions and may battle in metaphysical combat.
  • In Terra Mirum Chronicles both the Nightmare Queen and Titania, mockingly in the first case and affectionately in the second, refer to Prince Oswin as a rabbit. He takes the place of the white rabbit in the original tale.
  • Avalon: Web of Magic play around with this trope; Emily and Kara are magically bonded to various animals, instead of one species in particular. Adriane plays it straight: she feels especially connected to mistwolves, and one is her protector and companion. Fittingly, Adriane is a introverted but staunchly loyal, difficult to befriend, and knowledgeable about nature. As her magical abilities grow, she becomes capable of summoning spirit wolves.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • The predatory White Court refer to humans as deer. This is used to establish the Court as unfeeling and contemptuous of their 'prey'.
    • The Mantle of the Winter Lady is represented by an incorporeal serpent, a symbol of the sex and danger it drives its hosts to spread. Not coincidentally, one of its future bearers has a snake tattoo.
  • Sherlock Holmes is often compared to a hunting hound when he's hot on the scent of a criminal. Moriarty, meanwhile, is likened to a spider at the centre of a web. His right-hand man, the grizzled tiger hunter Moran, is described as being very much like a tiger himself. Similarly, The Devil's Foot features a character named Leon Sterndale, a lion-hunter with a mane of blonde hair and a fierce, noble temperament. And then there's the "ferret-like" Inspector Lestrade...
  • The two protagonists of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness come from the Wolf and Raven clans respectively- two animals that frequently share prey. Given that the first book centers around a hunt, this is quite fitting.
    • Every single villain also fits their clan animal to a T. Special mention goes to Tenris, who fits both personality-wise (cute but carnivorous) and taxonomically (pinnipeds and canids both fit under suborder Caniformia).
  • A Zen Koan describes a monk who was afraid of a spider that appeared during his meditation. His master told him to mark the spider with a chalk 'X' next time it appeared- and upon doing so, the monk realizes that he's marked himself.
  • Each novel in the Miriam Black series has a particular bird as a title, the mythology of which relates in some way to their stories.
    • Blackbirds: Psychopomps — beings that transport dead souls to the afterlife. Miriam believes for most of the novel that she's no more than a witness to death, and that she can't control fate.
    • Mockingbird: A bird with no unique song; instead "mocking" those of others. The serial killer Miriam has to hunt down is capable of imitating other voices.
    • The Cormorant: Symbolizes greed, gluttony or overindulgence. The main antagonist is Drunk with Power, and to save her mother's life, Miriam must find a way to defeat him.
  • The Poster Children has an abundance of these. The Underwoods, including Ellie, have a bird motif. Zip is referred to as a cheetah both in-universe and out, June has the tigress, Maks is compared to a monkey, and Ernest is actually based on a golden retriever. Ofelia also has sea lion physiology.
  • O'Reilly Media's computer programming books have old-fashioned lithographic illustrations of animals on their covers.
  • Multiple characters in the Sandokan novels have one or more animal motif:
  • Tris from Divergent is associated with crows and ravens.
  • The witches of the Pallid Masque from the Revanche Cycle are given animal names and bone masks to match by the coven's mistress. Said names are sometimes deceptive, as the bandits who waylay Hedy, the Mouse learn the hard way.
  • Journey to Chaos: Princess (later Queen) Kasile of Ataidar invokes the image of tigers whenever possible because one of them is her divine ancestor's familiar in addition to the fact that they are powerful and majestic creatures. They decorate her dresses, her castle, and they inspired her development of the Mana Claw technique.
  • In the Deverry novels, many characters are associated with animals. Dweomer workers can take the form of one bird decided by their personality (the garrulous and showmanlike Salamander is embarrassed by his magpie form, which is only revealed to the reader after characters who don't know he's a magic user have repeatedly called him "that chattering magpie"). Other characters often have an animal associated with their coat of arms, for instance that of Rhodry's family is a badger, representing the clan founder's steadfastness. In the flashbacks, Brangwen and Gerraent are the last scions of the Falcon Clan, and their later incarnations are often associated with falcons in some way.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, Nikita is often associated with mantis in-universe, to the point where it's her nickname and the Big Bad threatens her with a box of dead mantids, and Robin - or, rather, Robin's past life - is symbolized by a deer.
  • The Southern Reach Trilogy: Both the biologist and the lighthouse keeper are heavily associated with birds. The biologist is nicknamed Ghost Bird by her late husband, who himself ends up being transformed into an owl, and the lighthouse keeper is an avid bird watcher, writing down what kind of birds he's seen on any given day.
  • The Machineries of Empire loves its animal motifs.
    • Spaceships are called "moths", with various types being called "__moths".
    • Most factions are symbolized by an animal:
      • Shuos - ninefox
      • Kel - ashhawk ("suicide hawk")
      • Rahal - scrywolf ("execution wolf")
      • Vidona - the stingray
    • Shuos Jedao's signifier is the Immolation Fox, a variation on ninefox.
    • Kel Cheris' signifier is Ashhawk Sheathed Wings, symbolizing mentally-stable Kel.
    • Drones are shaped like stylized animals, with a particular animal depending on the owners' faction and the drone's purpose.
    • Cheris' home is called the City of Ravens Feasting.
  • In the poem Hyena, the authoress compares someone she knows (but clearly not fond of) to the titular aninal, the animal generally being seen as annoying and unpleasant (mostly the forner).
  • These come up a lot in Way of Choices. Xu Yourong has the blood (and powers) of the phoenix, Qiu Shan, the dragon and Nanke the peacock. While it's a lot less emphasized, a cicada keeps popping up around the protagonist, Chen Changshang.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/AnimalMotifs/Literature