In recent blogs, I’ve been suggesting what I hope are some interesting ideas for broadening your writing skills, like trying different genres. This week, I’d like to talk about ANTHROPOMORPHISM. Such a long word for what Walt Disney in particular excelled at!
ANTHROPOMORPHISM is a literary device which attributes human characteristics to animals (or objects), such as speaking, wearing clothes, expressing emotions, driving cars, falling in love etc.
The word cloud here shows some familiar examples of anthropomorphism, particularly through cartoons.
Why should we use ANTHROPOMORPHISM?
- To appeal to children in a more creative, imaginative way.
- To teach ethics and morals eg Aesop’s fables.
- To write about politics in a satirical way eg Animal Farm.
Walt Disney was the pioneer of the American animation industry, setting up Disney Brothers Studio in the early 1920s. His first popular success was Mickey Mouse in 1928. Disney went on to win 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. Not only did he bring us such wonderful animal characters as shown here, but also the animated puppet Pinocchio.
Before Disney, it was the Greek storyteller Aesop, who was born in 620BCE, who popularised the idea of animals talking and behaving like humans. His tales were originally for adults, as they had religious, social, political, moral and ethical themes. Many hundreds of years later, they became popular as children’s tales.
And in 1945, George Orwell used pigs Napoleon and Snowball in his satirical political commentary Animal Farm.
Two more literary terms:
REVERSE ANTHROPOMORPHISM is attributing animal traits to humans:
eg He was eagle-eyed: he spotted every mistake in her essay.
He made sheep’s eyes at the beautiful girl across the room.
PERSONIFICATION is applying human traits to nonhuman or abstract things:
eg Justice is blind.
The sun is smiling today.
I’m so tired my bed is calling to me.
If you feel like writing a children’s story with animals, my advice would be to choose an animal or bird that you love and just hope that no-one else has got there before you! Give them an imaginative name and create a character profile for them. Yes, even animal characters should have a character profile. They should have strengths and weaknesses, just like your people characters. What about a giraffe who’s afraid of heights? Or a mouse with an enormous roar? Or a hedgehog with feather-soft spines?
Your animal character can interact with fellow animals or/and with humans. It’s up to you.
If you need a bit of inspiration, here are links to some animal and bird webcams. Thanks to my friend Sue who recommended the Woodland Trust’s osprey nest webcam at Loch Arkaig in Scotland which is the photo at the top. There are a male and a female, and their three youngsters. Wonderful! A word of warning, it can become highly addictive, even watching an empty nest!
Osprey nest click here
Elephants click here
Flamingos (and others) click here
Have a look at this week’s prompts if you’d like to try an exercise in Anthropomorphism. It could be the start of a whole new genre for you. Click here for Prompts.
Have a good week.