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Literature: Animal Farm
Don't be fooled by the "fairy story." This is no fairy tale.

"All animals are equal... but some animals are more equal than others."

A clever Beast Fable satirizing the evolving Russian communism by George Orwell, as well as a book with two adaptations you should never, ever show your children. They may start revolting. If they weren't revolting enough already.

Orwell tells, allegorically, how the Russian Revolution would go if its participants were animals, and if you reduced Russia to the area of a typical English country farm. When you get what the point of the book is — being a satire of Communism written during World War II — it's not hard to guess where the plot is going. It was strictly outlawed by Josef Stalin as it technically depicted Stalin and other Soviet leaders as evil pigs (Karl Marx as Old Major, Stalin as Napoleon, Leon Trotsky as Snowball, and Vyacheslav Molotov as Squealer).

The inspiration for this book came about when Orwell saw a boy leading a cart horse, whipping it all the while. Orwell thought that if animals realized just how strong they are, they can defeat the human race and end up running the world.

In 1954, the British animation studio Halas & Batchelor produced an Animated Adaptation, which was widely heralded as a milestone of British animation note , though it came under heavy criticism for its Lighter and Softer approach to Orwell's fable, including a (somewhat) Happy Ending in which the farm animals rise up against their new overlords. (It appears that the United States' CIA had a hand in providing funding for the film, though it seems uncertain whether the film's writers and directors were aware of the fact.)

It also inspired Pink Floyd's Concept Album Animals, though it criticizes capitalism instead of communism. Snowball's Chance also rips on both capitalism and Animal Farm itself, portraying Snowball returning and becoming a George W. Bush Expy.

A live action version, starring Patrick Stewart as the voice of Napoleon and Kelsey Grammer as Snowball, was produced in 1999. A stage adaptation, drawing heavily from another Orwell classic, Homage to Catalonia, was first produced in 2008.

Do not confuse with Animal House, which is a bit more light-hearted.

All spoilers below are unmarked. Reader beware.

Tropes in Animal Farm:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The new endings of both film versions. Plus the focus shift to Jessie in the live action version, in place of Clover, who is absent.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The pigs tend to be Selfish Evil, especially Napoleon, who believe themselves to be the leaders of the farm. Possibly averted with Old Major, who dies before he gets a chance to wield any power. Snowball is not an aversion - being nicer than Napoleon still leaves plenty of room for being evil.
    • It is stated that some pigs do protest against the regime... and promptly get offed.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: The pigs end up adopting human ways to the point where in the end, the other animals find it impossible to tell the pigs from the humans.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: In-Universe, the rival human farmers were expecting the whole thing of the farm run by animals to collapse in no time.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Napoleon has nine of these.
  • Animal Talk
  • Animated Adaptation
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: One of the original Seven Commandments forbade animals to kill animals, conveniently discarded when Napoleon convinced the other animals that there were potential or actual Pro-Snowball traitors in his midst, and began holding show trials.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-universe — Boxer's motto "Napoleon is always right" is actually derived from "If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right."
  • Beast Fable
  • Berserk Button: Don't send Benjamin's best friend Boxer to the knacker's. You'll regret it later on. Exclusive to the animated adaptation.
    • Happens again in the live action version, but instead of rebelling, a sizable number of the animals use this as justification for leaving the farm.
  • Big Bad: Napoleon.
  • Blatant Lies: Everything Squealer says, but he words it so that disagreeing with him sounds pro-human or pro-Snowball.
  • Blind Obedience: Towards the end of the novel, most of the animals default to this regarding the pigs' leadership.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Exclusive to the animated adaptation. It's actually kind of...disturbing.
  • Book Ends: In the animated film, the beginning and end both involve a revolution to overthrow a tyrant.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Benjamin (Deconstructed Trope).
  • Bus Crash: The ultimate fate of Jones. At some point of the book, it is mentioned that he left the area, and lost the interest in his lost farm. And later, they took the time to mention that years later he died.
  • Cain and Abel: Snowball is Abel, Napoleon is Cain.
  • The Caligula: Napoleon, especially in the 1999 film where we actually see his empire ultimately just collapse from his despotic incompetence.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Squealer and Napoleon, when waking up the next morning after ending up completely plastered while rewriting the amendment that forbade alcohol to forbid drinking in excess (ironically) in the 1990s film, end up with an intense hangover with Napoleon and Squealer remarking that they're dying, showing the reason why animals shouldn't drink alcohol, and thus leading to the paranoia of Napoleon later on.note 
    • In the animated movie, Napoleon's dogs take to the drink themselves, and in the end they are too drunk to come to his defense when Benjamin and the other animals have enough.
  • Catch Phrase: Boxer has two of them. They are "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right".
  • Chekhov's Army: The dogs.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Benjamin is the only non-pig on the farm who can read just like a human. Guess who finds out that Boxer's being sent to the knacker's instead of the vet.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Intentional, obviously.
  • The Commandments: The Principles of Animalism.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover for the 1999 film makes it look like a cute, Disneyesque movie for kids. Yeah, no.
  • Crowd Chant: "Four legs good, two legs baaaaaad!"
    • And at the end of the book, it's "four legs good, two legs better!"
    • Crowd Song: Beasts of England is one; it's change to Animal Farm and later Comrade Napoleon reflects the change of anthem in the Soviet from The Internationale to the Hymn of the Soviet Union, which itself reflected the change from socialist internationalism to Stalin's "socialism in one country".
  • Cyanide Pill: One gander confesses to working for Snowball and eats some nightshade berries, which are deadly to ganders, to kill himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Benjamin the donkey. When asked by the other animals whether or not he feels life has improved after the revolution, he says "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey."
  • Death by Adaptation: In the book, Jones simply left the area and lost interest in his lost farm, dying in a home for alcoholics. In the movie, it is implied that he died in the explosion that destroyed the windmill. Napoleon and the other pigs have a Bolivian Army Ending, against a second animal revolution.
  • Dirty Coward: Napoleon and Squealer never take part in any of the actual battles, openly voice their fear of getting killed, and ultimately hide while the other animals do all the fighting.
    • Averted when Mr Frederick dynamites the windmill; Orwell rewrote the scene to have Napoleon standing tall after Stalin remained in Moscow when the Sixth Panzer Army was less than 5 miles away.
  • Disneyfication: Both the animated adaptation and the live action adaptation changed the ending to be more uplifting. The live action version was made after the Soviet Union collapsed, making it one of the more justified uses.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In the climax of the 1954 film. In the 1999 film, the animals just escape and leave the pigs to their fate.
  • Downer Ending: This book is a satirization of the Russian Revolution. Obviously, things do not go well.
    • The Bad Guy Wins: But not in the animated film.
    • Doomed by Canon
    • It's Soviet Russia's actual historical downfall that allowed the film's more upbeat ending, probably the only way to get away with it.
    • Bittersweet Ending: Both film versions qualify.
  • The Dragon: Squealer.
  • Dumb Is Good: Oh, they wish.
  • Dumb Muscle: Boxer, while incredibly strong, isn't exactly the brightest bulb in the box.
  • Eats Babies: The hens when Napoleon steals their eggs.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Squealer is a porker, and serves as the mouthpiece for the rest of the pigs.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. Frederick criticizes Pilkington for opening up trade with Napoleon while the other animals on the farm are starving in the 1999 film.
    • The crow that had watched Snowball's death at the hands of the dogs, is horrified enough to turn his head away the dogs kill the other animals.
  • Excrement Statement: When Snowball proposes building a windmill, he starts drawing up plans on the floor of the incubator shed over the course of several weeks. At one point, Napoleon comes into the shed, looks over the plans, then urinates on them. Of course, later Napoleon goes ahead with building the windmill and says it was his idea all along.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Napoleon, as well as most of the other pigs.
    • It could be argued that Napoleon was never a good guy to begin with. He begins raising his army of dogs only a chapter after the revolution. This could indicate that he was planning to betray the revolution all along.
  • Fat Bastard: Squealer, who grows impossibly fat near the end of the novel.
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Trope Namer
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Most of the pigs stage one of the best known examples of the trope in western literature. It's the core theme of the novel.
  • Fun with Acronyms: One of Orwell's suggested titles for its French translation was Union des républiques socialistes animales, which roughly acronyms as URSA — Latin for "bear", the symbol of Russia (not no mention referencing Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques, acronymed as URSS, which is the French equivalent to USSR).
  • Glad I Thought of It: Napoleon appropriates Snowball's windmill idea after the latter's exile.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The film opens in Jones' bedroom, with the bed shaking and a female voice going "Ohhh...Mr. J...".
  • Gullible Lemmings: Most animals, but specially sheep.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: At the end of the story, is there really any difference for the animals between the rule of the pigs and the rule of the humans? Whips, bare minimal rations, work from sun to sun so others take the fruits of it, death when not useful anymore, masters walking in two legs and in a comfortable house while they suffer the cold outside... they rebelled against all those things, and all those things eventually returned with the pigs.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Not exactly per se, but Old Major and Snowball were far, Far, FAR better than their historical counterpartswho were Not So Different from Josef Stalin.
    • Maybe at first glance, but if you read more carefully, you'll notice that Snowball has some severe character flaws: he almost immediately accepts the superiority of pigs over other animals and is shown to not care about others' opinions with the windmill project (alludes to the Bolsheviks subjugating the worker's councils). He draws up plans for said windmill, but his plans need parts the farm does not have (this is an allusion to the Real Life problems facing the Bolsheviks: they had many grand ideas but lacked the means to make them reality). Finally, he severely underestimates Napoleon. All of these flaws, especially the last one, closely mirror that of the historical Trotsky and, on a more general level, the Bolshevik "Old Guard" as a whole.
    • Similarly, there is debate as to whether Old Major is Marx or Lenin; given he has no active role in the rebellion, instead being the man who lays down Animalism, he is more likely to be a Marx-pig; Lenin himself has no real analogue.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Fundamental to the book's premise. Not that the animals are much better.
    • In contrast with the humans, the animals are generally portrayed positively in the book. After the revolution, the animals all work together 'according to their capacity' and no animal steals 'so much as a mouthful'. Napoleon and the pigs who go along with him (after he exiles Snowball and does away with any form of democracy on the farm) are an exception, since they represent the emerging ruling class of Russia (which Orwell despised). Another exception is Mollie who represents the middle class.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Subverted, but they kept the punching-out part.
  • Hypocrite: The pigs, but especially Napoleon who hoards sugar for himself, not even sharing it with the other pigs, because it will make them fat.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Jessie averts this in the film when she refuses to eat her comrade Major's meat being offered by Jones.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Old Major and Snowball.
    • Or not. See Historical Hero Upgrade above. Also bear in mind that both of them disappear early on in the story, and don't really have time to make mistakes.
  • Internal Retcon: The real truth of the revolution keeps getting this treatment until no one really remembers the original facts except those smart enough to keep their mouth shut.
  • Ironic Name: Guess who Napoleon is named after.
  • Kangaroo Court: One after another, many animals "admit" to helping Snowball sabotage the farm and get immediately killed. (This being a reference to Stalin's purges and show trials of the late 1930s).
    • In the live-action film, there were actual trials.
  • Karma Houdini: One of the most egregious examples ever.
    • Not so much in the animated movie.
  • Karmic Death: Napoleon, Squealer and all the other pigs on the farm got killed by all the other animals at the end of the animated film.
  • Large Ham: Snowball and Squealer (fitting, because they're both pigs).
    • This makes sense, because they were based on Trotsky and Molotov, respectively, both of whom were grandiose.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Exploited by the pigs. "You don't want Jones to come back, do you?"
  • Made of Iron: In the animated adaptation, notably animals snapping barbed wire like strings, and a bull snapping a chain attached to his nose-ring by yanking on it.
  • Meaningful Name: Snowball (as in the snowball effect), Napoleon (as in the dictator), and Moses (as in the one talking about Sugarcandy Mountain, a "promised land").
  • Meet the New Boss: The ending of the novel is the animals slow realization that they can no longer tell the difference between the pigs and the humans. Metaphorically, this is Orwell's declaration that Stalinism was essentially just another form of conservative capitalism, keeping down the working classes (or the other animals). Which explains why they had to change it for the movies, of course.
  • Mood Whiplash: What was supposed to be a tragic moment in the film, as old Major dies getting accidentally shot in the head by Farmer Jones right before his cause is fulfilled, becomes pure Narm when he falls off the roof of the barn, does a triple backflip, and crashes dead in a haystack.
    • So the animals are now happy and cheerful, then they enter the farmhouse and find Major's butchered carcass in the kitchen (along with his severed head in a meat rack.)
    • The 1954 movie's first half was cheerful and somewhat comical, which makes Napolean's regime all the more jarring.
  • My Local: Mr. Jones's is called The Red Lion.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Mr. Frederick. He blatantly resembles Hitler in the 1999 film. Ironically, he's more sympathetic there than he was in the novel.
  • Nice Guy: Boxer.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Napoleon was based on Josef Stalin, Snowball on Leon Trotsky, while Old Major is based on both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
    • The four young pigs represent the Bolsheviks executed at the Moscow Trials for crimes they almost certainly didn't commit.
    • Squealer is probably based on Molotov, Stalin's propaganda chief. Alternatively, he may simply represent the power of state propaganda in general.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The end of the animated film. The human farmer is gone, and the only animals smart enough to figure out how to run a farm are gone. Fine, no more dictators, but how will the farm be run now?
  • Not So Different: More or less the moral; the final line of the book sees the animals look from their pig rulers to the humans they are meeting with and being no longer able to tell the difference.
  • Oh Crap: In the 1954 film, when the animals rebel, the pigs seem to know very well what's coming to them, especially Napoleon.
    • Mr. Jones in the same film, when he sees the red eyes of the animals and realizes they're much more organized than he thought before.
  • Odd Friendship: Boxer is immensely strong, but rather stupid. Benjamin is highly intelligent, extremely cynical, and rather cranky. They are best friends, and indeed it's implied that Boxer is the only animal Benjamin considers a friend.
  • Plagiarism In Fiction: Snowball comes up with the idea to build a windmill. Napoleon steals it. What's worse, he makes things seem as though Snowball was the one who stole the idea, and before having Snowball exiled, he expresses displeasure in the concept, at one point he even goes so far as to urinate on the plans.
  • Playing Against Type: Who would have imagined that Jean Luc Picard would have played a pure evil, usurping, Stalin-expy dictator?
  • The Promised Land: Sugarcandy Mountain. Played on the cynical side that it doesn't exist, and it's told to only keep the animals in line.
  • The Purge: When Napoleon orders the four young pigs (who previously protested against his decisions) executed.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Battle of the Windmill is this but Napoleon covers up the losses.
  • Really Gets Around: Implied that Napoleon fathered many of the new porkers in the farm. The other pigs were castrates.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In the animated film, the first hint for Jones that the whip was not working anymore.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Snowball and Napoleon, respectively, with Snowball's role as the red later taken up by Squealer
  • Released to Elsewhere: The fate of Boxer, whom Napoleon betrays and sells to the knacker.
  • Repressive But Efficient: The titular farm is said to be the most efficient farm at exploiting, subduing and disciplining animals... by Mr. Pinkerton, whose sincerity is dubious.
  • Retirony: Boxer was injured when he was due for retirement. He then ends up "sent to the vet" (in actuality, he's being sent to the knackers)
  • Roman à Clef: Of a sort. Granted, the people are mostly replaced by animals.
  • The Scapegoat: After being driven from the farm, Snowball is routinely blamed for anything that goes wrong. Eventually, Napoleon declares that some of the animals are traitors working for him and even that Snowball personally sneaks back in at night to commit acts of sabotage. In the same way, as the Soviet government’s economic planning failed, Russia suffered under a surge of violence, fear, and starvation. Stalin used his former opponent Trotsky as a tool to placate the population. Trotsky became a common national enemy and a source of negative unity. He was a frightening specter used to conjure horrifying eventualities, in comparison with which the current misery paled.
  • School Study Media: This novella is often used in high school to teach the concept of allegory.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The pigs repeatedly rewrite the Seven Commandments to fit their actions, finally replacing them outright with "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mollie runs away and gets a new job as a carriage horse. Smarter than she looks, all right!
  • Shout-Out: "I will work harder," Boxer's motto, was found in the mouth of Jurgis Rudkus from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
    • In the Rick And Morty episode "Lawnmower Dog", a dog named Snuffles who has his intelligence raised takes on the name Snowball.
  • Sinister Minister: Moses, Farmer Jones' pet raven, who fled the farm when Jones was overthrown and returned years later to tell the animals about Sugarcandy Mountain. His position is kind of analogous to that of religion; his claims are officially denied by the pigs but they keep him around to keep the animals in line.
    • Keep in mind that this was very similar to how the Soviet Union usually dealt with religion. Actually, if anything, Animal Farm downplayed it. In the real life Soviet Union, while the case can be argued that the Soviet Union used the Russian Orthodox Church to keep their people in line even though they never actually believed it, the truth is that that was only if the religious people were actually lucky. Most of the time, the Soviets were attempting to eliminate religion outright, and even had the KGB try to investigate locations of churches, sometimes even tricking people to help them locate a church so they could arrest the occupants for practicing religion, and the penalty was either execution or being placed in a work camp.
    • Moses' reinvigorated status under the pigs' rule might have been inspired by the fact that after Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Josef Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Communication: The animals can talk to each other, but only the pigs seem able to talk to humans, and then again only after they take over the farm.
    • In the film, the humans hear the animals' voices over the radio; at first grunts and squeaks, then words, ending with an animals' Triumph Of The Will complete with actual "goose-steppers".
  • Smug Snake: Squealer, especially in the 1999 movie. He really loves to rub the pigs' superiority in the other animals' faces, even while he's actively deceiving them.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Is it Mollie or Molly? The book itself tends to use the first, while some other references (including us) use the second.
  • Straw Hypocrite: The pigs
    • When Squealer changes one of the laws from 'Animals shall not drink' to 'Animals shall not drink to excess', he's still in violation of the law, as he's completely drunk at the time he's adding the extra words. This was implied in the novel, since the animals hear a loud crash and run out in time to see Squealer stumbling around near the barn with a ladder and pot of white paint, but they're too dumb to realize what he was doing. In the films it was explicit.
    • A man took the aged and injured Boxer away. According to the pigs, he was a vet, not a knacker; he had a knacker's vehicle because he has not changed it yet. The book mentions that, somehow, after the man left the pigs got money to buy some bottles of whiskey. The animated film is explicit: they bought whiskey with the money they got from sending Boxer to the knacker.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Old Major in the animated film. "Squeeee! Oink oink oink, squee oink oi-GASP!" *dies*
  • Talking Animal: By the end, the pigs. Walking, too.
  • Talking to Himself: In the animated version, all the onscreen characters were voiced by Maurice Denham.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Benjamin the donkey in the both film adaptations.
    • Moreso in the animated film. He was willing to do extra work along with Boxer.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The pigs start out like this. As the story progresses, some pigs are lost, while others are corrupted by their power unless they were really Straw Hypocrites all along. By the end of the story, the remaining pigs have become what they once rebelled against.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Napoleon plays it deadly straight.
  • Undying Loyalty: A cynical interpretation with Boxer, who represents Stalin's most dedicated and hardworking supporters in the proletariat (people like the Stakhanovites).
  • Unperson: Mollie.
    "None of the animals ever mentioned Mollie again."
  • Unusual Animal Alliance: At least at first.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one seems to think it's weird that animals are running a farm by themselves, something that would most likely draw large crowds in real life. People even think the animals will just starve to death by themselves.
  • Verbal Tic: "Four legs good, two legs bad!" And later "Four legs good, two legs better!"
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Napoleon in Chapter 8 of the novel (it was hard to come across an animal without hearing how Napoleon's way of running things has improved his/her life). Not so much in the film adaptations, though...
  • Wham Line: "It was a pig walking on its hind legs."
    • Even more so: "All animals are equal... but some are more equal than others."
  • What Could Have Been: Animal Farm was originally going to be a direct exposé on the various atrocities committed by Stalin and his regime in the Soviet Union. However, the British press at the time would not publish it because the British Parliament at the time needed Stalin's support during World War II against Nazi Germany. His making it an allegory with talking animals was the only way he could get his message across in such a way that didn't interfere with the war effort.
  • What Happened to the Cat?: In the book she just stops appearing after the first few chapters, and later isn't mentioned in the list of animals who've died, whilst only Snowball and Mollie are ever acknowledged to have left the farm. The animated adaptation doesn't even keep her around for the original revolution.
    • It's mentioned that she didn't show up to the meeting where Napoleon killed a bunch of the animals, so she probably ran away into the wild. As any cat owner can tell you, cats are smart.
    • Also, what happened to Snowball in the novel and the live-action film adaptation. In the animated film, he's killed by the dogs, but in the other versions, it's open to interpretation because he never actually got killed by the dogs and managed to escape from the farm.
      • It's usually assumed he met a similar fate to his real life counterpart, Trotsky (i.e. assassinated).
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The final fate of Boxer.

What? Not enough tropes? If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right. I will work harder!
American PsychoLit FicAs I Lay Dying
Crusader RabbitThe Golden Age of AnimationThe Little Island
And He Built a Crooked HouseLiterature of the 1940sBedknob and Broomstick
All Quiet on the Western FrontSchool Study MediaAnna Karenina

alternative title(s): Animal Farm
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