Follow TV Tropes


Animal Religion

Go To
Uhh, that's a cloud.

"In the Hour before time began, Meerclar Allmother came out of the darkness to the cold earth. She was black, and as furry as all the world come together to be fur."

As far as science can tell, the only modern species that has a concept of religion are humans. In fiction, however, a common way to anthropomorphise Nearly Normal Animal to Partially Civilized Animal characters or — depending on what the work in question is about — flesh out their culture is to have them have their own gods and faiths. Like a Fantasy Pantheon, whether or not animal-worshiped deities or faiths are encountered, or are real, depends on the work.

Not to be confused with animals which believe in a human religion (some examples of this may go to Fantastic Religious Weirdness) or humans worshiping animals (see Giant Animal Worship for unusually large animals treated as gods).

Compare to Robot Religion, for when it's intelligent machines that have their own unique religions.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In Beasts of Burden, dogs have their own mythology. The Great Dog appears to be a god figure, or at least has dominion over the afterlife, and the Black Dog is The Grim Reaper, a figure to be feared before your time is up, but welcomed when it comes.
  • The Blackblood Alliance: In the prologue, Swiftkill tells her dying mother that she prayed like she showed her to and asks if God is with her now. "God" then shows up, but it's a hellish hyena that eats her mother offscreen (and threatens to kill her as well unless she watches him do it.) It's not clear whether the hyena really is something supernatural or if it's just a normal hyena that only appears demonic because we're seeing it through Swiftkill's perspective and is calling itself "god" to further break her.
  • XTNCT: While he's hallucinating in a winter climate, Rex receives a vision from a dinosaur messiah to tell him that his quest to wipe out humanity is a holy mission.

    Fan Works 
  • My Little Pony:
    • In The Black Stallion, ponies live in a tribal society with at least some religious beliefs. The Grim Reaper is an all-black stallion appointed by the Rainbow (with the Rainbow likely being revered by ponies). Due to the fact most ponies are brightly coloured, black (and especially all-black) ponies are treated as outcasts and are seen as demonic.
    • In Chasing the Rainbow, ponies worship the rainbow. Surprisingly, even water ponies worship it. Rainbow ponies are considered blessed and chosen by the rainbow itself.
  • Their Bond: It's mentioned that wolfos (a wolf-like enemy from The Legend of Zelda) believe in the Great Wolf.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Warriors Redux expands upon the original Warriors version of this. When proper warriors die, they go to the hivemind that is StarClan. In contrast, warriors who break the Code just cease to exist. When Firepaw asks Spottedleaf if kittypets and other non-Clan cats can go to StarClan, she dismissively notes that of course they don't. It's never mentioned where non-Clan cats go when they die. This is because the four Clans created the idea of StarClan and the story is intentionally vague on whether StarClan is real or whether it's just mythology. Similarly, the Clans now have a mythology full of Just So Stories.
    • Tell me about your Ancestors:
      • RiverClan cats believe that StarClan lives in the Sky-river. They place their deceased kin in rivers to let them flow to StarClan.
      • WindClan believes StarClan cats run in moors as wind. They leave their dead out in open moorland, akin to sky burials.
      • ShadowClan believes in the canonical StarClan that exists in the stars.
      • ThunderClan believes that spirits become trees once they die. They bury their dead near trees.
  • A.A. Pessimal noted the Biblical story of Balaam's Ass, in which a donkey temporarily develops full sentience and speaks with the voice and authority of G-d. note . Pessimal noted that donkeys are used, and often abused, as beasts of burden and very often live in a vale of tears and toil. He speculated about a donkey religion springing from Balaam's Ass, with donkeys and possibly mules the world over honouring the One True Donkey Sent By God To Save Us.

    Films — Animation 
  • Balto II: Wolf Quest: There's a lot of focus on wolf spiritualty, which is essentially a very distilled interpretation of what Native American beliefs entail (guiding spirits, crystals and vaguely Pacific Northwest cave art).
  • The Good Dinosaur: The film's antagonists are a flock of pterosaurs who profess to a strange pseudo-religion that deifies the weather, their credo being "the storm provides". What the storm provides to them is food — namely cute little critters (some of whom are sentient) that get injured during the storms. Their devotion to this weird Cargo Cult only makes them more disturbing.
  • Happy Feet: The deity of Emperor Land is the Great Guin, who is said to be responsible for bestowing the songs in the penguins' souls, and blesses them with fish in their bellies. Noah and the Elders are presented as authority figures, who profess the workings of the Great Guin and say that only he has the power to give and take away their fish; they also believe that Mumble is a bad influence among them, because his passion for dancing and lack of singing abilities "[a]in't penguin," and that it's his dancing that's angering the Great Guin and depriving them of their fish. When Mumble discovers "aliens" (humans) are actually responsible for the lack of fish, Noah and the Elders dismiss his claims as crazy talk. Memphis is also convinced that Mumble's happy feet and lack of singing skills are punishment from the Great Guin for idolizing Norma Jean rather than singing praise to him during the time of great darkness and dropping Mumble's egg.
  • The Lion King:
    • Downplayed in the films themselves: the lions never mention any kind of God, but do seem to have a concept of the afterlife. At minimum, the previous kings watch over everyone from the stars after they die.
    • "The Great Spirit" is referenced in licensed comics. He is the Prideland lions' God and is depicted as an elderly lion with white eyes.
    • In the comic Why Stories Are Told About Anansi, an ancient god known as the "Sky God" is discussed. He was a god towards all animals, not just lions. He fell out of favor after a spider named Anansi (who is taken from actual African Mythology) eclipsed his fame.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Jungle Book (2016): The elephants seem to be treated like gods, for Bagheera says that all animals bow before the elephants as they march by. He even tells Mowgli a short legend about how the elephants created the jungle with their tusks, trunks, and sheer strength.

  • Animal Farm: Moses the raven, who symbolizes the Russian Orthodox Church, tells the other animals about an afterlife called Sugarcandy Mountain.
  • Bambi: The animals believe humans to be some sort of god. Bambi eventually learns from the Great Prince that humans are mortal, and concludes that there must be a power higher than either.
  • Bravelands: Almost all animals worship the Great Spirit. Only a few species, such as lions, do not believe in the Great Spirit. It is believed that one animal, known as either the "Great Mother" or "Great Father" depending on their gender, embodies the Great Spirit. This Great Parent is respected by almost all other animals due to their wisdom and their special ability to read bones. Little has been noted about what afterlife the animals believe in, but it is implied to be a paradise in the stars. Animals bury their dead, however it's not a complete burial as scavenging is an important part of their culture and spirituality.
  • The Cold Moons: Badgers have religious beliefs that take inspiration from real-world religions, including Judaism. Their God is named Logos, their heaven is called "Asgard", and their hell is "Sheol". Badgers must have a special prayer told by a close family member (or the closest equivalent) at funerals, or else they're Barred from the Afterlife and are sent to to "Gehenna" (which acts as a sort of eternal purgatory). Bragira is a character who greets slain heroes into Asgard and sends dishonorable badgers to Sheol. It's mentioned that Asgard is a place where all animals (including humans) live peacefully together.
  • Deptford Mice: The mice worship a nature spirit called the Green Mouse. The main ritual is the Great Spring Ceremony, which includes a coming-of-age ritual for mouselets. The rats worship Lord Jupiter who is actually a cat.
  • Discworld:
    • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: The rats have developed the idea that if a rat is a good rat, then when they die the Bone Rat will take them to the Big Rat Deep Under the Ground, whose tunnels are filled with food. It's not an idea they're all that sure about, though, since the ones who get philosophical about things are constantly questioning it and the more practical ones think it's not worth worrying about one way or the other.
    • In The Truth, a translator reveals that elderly, beloved dog Wuffles refers to his owner as "God". The translator (a dog himself) calls it old-fashioned.
    • In Feet of Clay, we're told that cattle have a religion which says that at the end of your life, you go through a magic door which leads to a place with really good eating, and horseradish.
  • Doglands: Dogs don't believe in heavens or gods, but they do have a belief in spirits. According to dog lore, free dogs who "run with the winds" when alive will become one with the winds after death.
  • In the poem "The Encounters of an Adventurous Snail" by Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca, two old frogs have a conversation with the eponymous snail about God, praying and paradise. It turns out that the image of the snail paradise differs drastically from the image of the frog paradise, as each species imagines paradise as a place that would be ideally suited for their needs.
  • Duncton Wood: The moles have a deep, complex religion that centers around intricate earth carvings and stone monoliths. Part of the series even involves the birth of what is basically Mole Jesus from a female mole afflicted with a disease that normally causes sterility. Both the first and second trilogies even have their own distinct Religion of Evil, to contrast the spirituality of the good moles.
  • Fighting Fantasy: In the world of Titan, all the animals have their own gods. Since the game is about humans and humanoids, these gods almost never come up unless a humanoid tribe with a connection to an animal also worships that animal's god (such as the Horse Nomads, who worship Hunnynhaa) but they exist.
  • Fire Bringer has Herne, the God of Deer (or Herla as they call themselves) and Star Buck, the mythological hero of Deer. Herne Himself even summons Rannoch to join Him as the hero is on his last legs at the end.
  • Guardians Of Gahoole: The owls seem to follow a being known as Glaux. Other species have similar beliefs, with one of the bears mentioning the great Ursa and Lupus for the wolves.
  • Hunter's Moon (1989):
    • Foxes worship the winds.
    • The fox afterlife is Perfect Here.
    • The world was built by gods such as A-O the fox and Sen-Sen the wolf.
    • Foxes pray before and after eating. They also pray before entering dens.
    • Humans are an Eldritch Abomination race born from the Primordial Chaos. Kind of like the Primordial Monsters from Adventure Time, but for foxes.
  • The Aeslin mice of InCryptid have this as their hat. The only known colonies all worship the (human) Price family, who feed them and keep them safe.note  Their Photographic Memory means they can turn any event, no matter how ordinary, into a holy occurrence to be commemorated forever. Religious schisms occur every few generations, as splinter colonies seek out new gods, but none of them have ever been seen again.
  • Louise Searl's novels Kona's Song and The Way of Kings (2021), about wolves and lions respectively, both feature religious elements. The wolves believe in a Great Spirit who created the first two wolves (known as the First Alphas), whilst the lions deify the sun and moon, whom they believe created their original ancestor (they use the Swahili words for all three).
  • The Katurran Odyssey: Religion and spirituality are rather thematically important as it's a fantasy novel depicting various primate cultures.
    • The religion of Bohibbah (inhabited by lemurs) is a monotheistic faith centered around the Fossah (which gets the Aslan treatment somehow, even though he's technically simply an actual, distant god himself rather than a Messianic Archetype; that's Katook's, the protagonist's, role). It follows a complex clerical hierarchy, that naturally is corrupt and perverting the spirit of the religion in the Fossah's absence.
    • Its not clear if the Patah worship anything at all, but they clearly see stars and the heavens as divine and as "true" magic, and given that they are based on Muslim and Zoroastrian cultures they're likely monotheist.
    • The Boskiis are shamans and allude to a creator deity (possibly the Fossah), but other than their rituals their theology is very vague.
    • The Dourahn in the book are strictly atheist or possibly ancestor worshipers; they once had a pantheon of gods (Fossah included), but have rejected them in favor of "self worship". In the script they are instead fanatical monotheists, revering Nadab.
  • Raptor Red: Played with. An ostrich-dino has a strange experience: she captures a small furball mammal, tosses it into the air to eat it, and it transforms into a frog by the time it reaches her mouth. (A frog happened to be in the furball's burrow for reasons that are too long to go into here.) It makes her pause to think, and while she eventually gives a mental shrug and moves on with her day, the narration notes that if she'd had an interest in transformation, she might have founded the first dinosaur religion then and there.
  • Raven Quest: The ravens worship a diety they call Skyah, the creator of the world. Flying and dancing in the sky are the ravens' way of worshipping Skyah. The wolves practice a form of ancestral worship.
  • Redwall: Downplayed; despite the titular Redwall being an abbey and having an abbot/abbess, and various characters being referred to as Brother and Sister, there is no real religion to speak of (no one is referred to as a monk/nun, prayer is a generic grace at mealtimes). The only form of supernatural is the spirit of Martin the Warrior, who appears once a book to aid the protagonists, the Dark Forest, which some characters see when near death, and the ghosts of their ancestors. Even the first book, which featured a church of Saint Ninian, had no one to pray to (although the villain does have a nightmare of the Devil). There are often references to the afterlife though, such as "Dark Forest" (a neutral land of eternal slumber) and "Hellgates". Both good and bad guys are referred to as going to either when they die. Sunflash even briefly witnesses the Dark Forest in Outcast of Redwall, though he is barred from entering until his quest is complete. In The Taggerung Vulpuz is mentioned, who's said to be the lord of Hellgates and the foxes' supposed creator (his name is close to Latin "vulpus" for "fox"). He seems to be a deity, though there's no sign of foxes or anyone having an organized religion based on him.
  • Seekers:
    • Polar bears believe that the stars are pieces of sea ice. Each star contains the spirit of a polar bear. When a polar bear dies, their spirit sinks underneath the ice. In summer the spirits become freed from the ice and go up into the sky. When the sea ice begins to break apart violently due to global warming instead of melting peacefully as it normally does, Kallik wonders if bear spirits trapped in ice that shatters sink into the sea to swim with the fish instead.
    • Black bears believe spirits become trees.
    • Grizzly bears believe that spirits live in rivers, to eventually flow into the sea when no one remembers them anymore.
    • The bears display spiritual rituals. For example, they bury their dead. Black bears, brown bears, and white bears all travel to a Great Bear Lake for the Longest Day. It's a time of truce where black and brown bears call for the sun to return while white bears call for the sun to go away.
  • The Sight has Tor and Fenris, the gods of wolves (or Varg as they call themselves). Unlike other books, these gods are never actually encountered and the book drops hints that they may or may not be real. It's never actually confirmed if they are real or fake, so it's left to the reader to decide if the gods are real or not. Given though that it's set in the same world as Fire Bringer, it's certainly plausible that they COULD exist.
  • Silverwing: Most bats worship the goddess of the night, Nocturna. The Vampyrum spectrum (false vampire bats) worship the Mayan bat demon Cama Zotz, who very much exists and claims to be Nocturna's brother in the third book.
  • The Summer King Chronicles: The Partially Civilized Animal gryphons worship the sun god Tyr and the moon goddess Tor, whose importance to the Vanir kingdom was erased by their night-fearing Aesir conquerors.
  • Survivor Dogs:
    • Dogs personify nature as Nature Spirits. The sun is the Sun-Dog, earth is the Earth-Dog, dogs that exist in the heavens are the Sky-Dogs, etc. The Sky-Dogs act similarly to gods (with dogs even saying such things as "thank the Sky-Dogs"), while the Earth-Dog is the one revered when dogs die. There are also various mythical characters, such as Lightning, a legendary dog so fast that he can escape death, that create natural occurrences.
    • Dogs believe that when beings die their spirits, usually referred to as their "scents", go up into the air and becomes one with the other spirits.
    • Dogs have some religious rituals. For example, dogs turning before they sleep is called a "sleep-ritual" (but it's only a proper sleep-ritual if you turn exactly three times). At night they also howl to the Spirit Dogs.
  • Tailchaser's Song has an extensively developed mythology for its fictional culture of cats, including a Creation Myth. The cats believe that everything was created by a god named "Meerclar Allmother", who gave birth to the Two, Harar Goldeneye and Fela Skydancer. The world was originally populated with cats, children of the Two, including the three Firstborn. One of the Firstborn, Grizraz Hearteater, was driven by jealousy to create a Hell Hound to kill his siblings. His brother Viror Whitewind stopped it, but died in the process. The third brother, Tangaloor Firefoot, eventually trapped Grizraz underneath a tree. Later, after resurfacing, Grizaz was blinded by the sun, and dug a hole into the Earth, where it is said he still remains. Humans, or as the cats call them "m'an", are deformed descendants of cats. They are dangerous and unusual beings who commit demeaning acts towards cats.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • The four Clans of cats have a version of ancestor worship. There are two types of afterlifes for warriors. If cats follow the Warrior Code and live honorable lives, then they go to StarClan. StarClan is described as a starry forest where cats live together no matter the Clan they were from in life, have no responsibilities, and have endless amounts of prey to hunt. In StarClan, cats return to the age they were at their most happiest and use the name of the highest rank they were, or that they would have received if they lived (for example, Smallstar died as a kit but uses that name because he would have become a leader if he hadn't died). StarClan grants the Clan leaders their nine lives, and also give visions and direction to the Clans' medicine cats. Spirits stay in StarClan until they're completely forgotten. Afterwards they either stop existing, turn into stars, or are transported into a new StarClan. If a cat is killed in StarClan, then they cease to exist. Warriors who dishonor the Warrior Code instead go to the Place of No Stars (informally known as the "Dark Forest"). The Place of No Stars is an antithesis to StarClan. There are no prey to eat (however the cats can't feel hunger anyway) and cats live in complete silence and solitude. It is a perpetually cold and foggy forest with extremely tall trees that can't be seen over and no stars in the sky.
    • Cats from the Tribe of Rushing Water don't go to StarClan. They instead have their own afterlife — the Tribe of Endless Hunting. Unlike StarClan cats, they only give living cats messages through omens rather than dreams. Tribe of Endless Hunting cats also revert to the age where they were at their most happiest, but unlike StarClan cats they keep all the wounds and disabilities they had in life.
    • What happens to kittypets and loners is not specified, nor what occurs to cats that live far from the Clans.note  Jake, a kittypet, was allowed to visit StarClan from an unspecified elsewhere because he befriended (or more, according to the writers) Tallstar in his life. Ravenpaw initially refuses to join StarClan because his friend Barley can't come with him, but he's told that both he and Barley can be together in StarClan.
    • In general, cats display certain common rituals, such burying their dead and burying their prey's bones as a sign of respect.
  • Watership Down details the belief system of rabbits. Frith, the sun, made all the stars and the Earth, and all the animals thereon. Frith's second-in-command is Inle, the moon, tasked with collecting the dead and meting out punishments. The first rabbit angered Frith with his arrogance, and was punished by becoming prey to oodles of predators, which made him El-ahrairah, the Prince With A Thousand Enemies. In the lapine world, El-ahrairah functions like a combination Adam and Hercules, and those rabbits that excel at survival skills are welcomed in the afterlife to El-ahrairah's inner circle. Much of this is depicted in the 1978 Animated Adaptation by Nepenthe Studios.

    Mythology and Religion 

    Video Games 
  • In Animal Jam, all of Jamaa worship their own gods, Zios and Mira.
  • In SoulBlazer, you can free a "devout" mouse who spends his time inside of a chapel within Dr. Leo's laboratory, and he recommends that you step up to a statue to purify yourself, which replenishes your HP.

  • Housepets!: The animals of the Babylon Gardens wood have a Christianity counterpart named Openerdom, derived from worship of a hidden temple deep in the forest, and the one rabbit who proved himself capable of unlocking it. Ironically, said temple belongs to a God who gains power from worship, but doesn't get any from said religion because it's not him they're worshiping. The rabbit they do worship really wishes they didn't.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1843, "God of Lambs", is an alien device that sheep worship as a god.
  • Serina: A sapient species of jay-like birds believe that the world was only barren desert until all life was born from an intense rainstorm. Some of them believe that the "Sky Sea", the planet that their home moon orbits, is the source of all rain.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Puss occasionally prays to "Felina". He has an icon of her, which resembles a cat version of the Virgin Mary or a female saint.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers:
    • "Zipper Come Home" has a group of insects worshiping a frog called Ribbit as their god. Ribbit is of course a big threat to the lives of these insects because he sees them as food, and it seems like the whole cult is all about them begging him to not eat them.
    • In "Kiwi's Big Adventure", a tribe of kiwi birds see the Ranger Plane as a god that will make them regain their ability to fly.
    • In "The Case of the Cola Cult", Gadget joins a cult with religious overtones (she has to give up all her tools to be able to join).
  • The Legend of Tarzan: The gorillas believe in a protective savior called Mangani, an albino gorilla guardian, while the elephants believe in the All-Seeing Elephant. The two differ in several respects; Mangani inhabits a physical form and resurrects dead animals, while the All-Seeing Elephant is a spirit and protects elephants from fatal accidents.
  • Madagascar: In The Penguins of Madagascar, the lemurs believe in "sky spirits". All Hail King Julien expands on the lemurs' Sky Gods with a whole pantheon of gods responsible for individual things, their chief god being named Frank, and all their other gods having similarly normal-sounding names like Kevin and Gladys. Similarly, aye-aye are said to worship a pantheon of bells that live deep underground.
  • My Little Pony generally avoids the issue of religion. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, however, has several occasions where characters use Princess Celestia's and Princess Luna's names in a semi-religious manner — "as Celestia is my witness", "Celestia knows where", etcetera.