In today’s post, we’ll pick apart some of our favorite anthropomorphism examples.
Yeah, we’ll talk about Animal Farm.
Charlotte’s Web is on the list too.
We’ve also got some super-fun videos (one of them even has a gecko making strawberry jam), and some anthropomorphism writing tips you won’t find anywhere else.
So, if you’re looking for some easy-reading on what anthropomorphism is and how it works, or you just want some examples to fire-up your creativity, you’re exactly where you need to be.
Let’s have some fun.
What is Anthropomorphism?
Anthropomorphism is a powerful literary tool in which non-humans literally possess physical, emotional, or intellectual human traits.
It’s commonly used with animals or inanimate objects, but you can anthropomorphize any non-human entity.
- National identities: Uncle Sam representing the U.S.A.
- Abstract ideas: The Grim Reaper as “Death”
- Deities: The Norse God, Thor, as a muscley-manned, hammer-wielding warrior
Giving human characteristics to non-human things is so pervasive in modern life that you might not even notice it.
But writers who use it sure do.
Why Do Writers Use Anthropomorphism?
Anthropomorphism turns ordinary stories into passionate adventures. Distasteful concepts become award-winning books. Casual blog readers become enamored.
In short: it works.
Think about it, anthropomorphism is a multi-billion dollar strategy. And this strategy is used to captivate audiences. (Just ask Disney!)
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Anthropomorphism Rekindles Your Humanity
Remember in Toy Story when Andy is going to box Woody up and send him to the attic?
You start caring about the fate of an anthropomorphic toy.
Because Woody has done nothing but show Andy unconditional love. But Andy can’t stay a kid forever and – BANG! – it hits you:
What about the times I’ve boxed someone up and sent them away to the attic? And what if the people who’ve boxed me up were in a dilemma I didn’t understand?
2. Anthropomorphism Transforms Livens up Stale Tales
Imagine taking a grating, abrasive topic and turning it into an award-winning novella.
(Ah, only every writer’s dream!)
George Orwell did exactly that in Animal Farm by exploring politics with talking barnyard animals. He uses the same old stale indictment of political systems but presents it in a refreshing and exciting way.
Well done, Orwell.
3. Anthropomorphism Opens Your Eyes
Remember being a child and watching Bambi for the first time? Remember when his mom died?
Thoughts and feelings of what it might be like to lose a parent flooded in, and you realized mom and dad wouldn’t be around forever. Suddenly, your newfound understanding of life made you realize that existence is a fragile and finite thing.
And you grew up a little that day…You may have cried yourself to sleep after, but that’s a story for another time.
9 Examples of Anthropomorphism
From literature to poetry to pop culture, examples of anthropomorphism are prolific.
Let’s cover a handful of the most helpful and you’ll be up to speed ASAP.
Examples of Anthropomorphism in Literature
1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis’s magical world of Narnia is chock-full of creatures with human qualities.
Aslan, the hero of the story, is a double anthropomorphic representation as both a lion and God.
Mr. and Mrs. Beaver describe him to the Pevensie children this way:
“I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion’… ’Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver…’Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Check them out here. That is unless talking beavers freak you out. In which case, move along. Otherwise…
2. Animal Farm
No discussion about anthropomorphism examples is complete without this classic by George Orwell.
He uses routine farm animals to reflect the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and then on into the Stalin era — heavy stuff.
The animals band together, using human emotion and intellect, and oust the farmer from his own farm. The poor guy never stood a chance.
“There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word — Man.”
Check out this super-short (but also super-informative) video that dissects Animal Farm, detailing what every character — human and animal — represents:
3. Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte is a spider in this classic childrens’ tale by E.B. White.
Throughout the story she carries on with human-like intellect and emotion – even, at times, outsmarting the farmer.
“If I can fool a bug…I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs,” she schemes.
Examples of Anthropomorphism in Poetry
4. Winnie the Pooh
This lovable, rotund bear started out as a children’s poem in 1924, and poetry has since been an integral part of Winnie’s magic.
Here’s a brief example from Us Two:
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.”
5. Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss was a master at anthropomorphic rhyming.
The tension between the Cat in the Hat and that poor goldfish was thick enough to cut with a knife.
“He should not be here,” said the fish in the pot. “He should not be here when your mother is not.”
Check out Mike Myers’ absolutely terrifying — though commendably wonderful — portrayal of The Cat in the Hat here:
6. Humpty Dumpty
This nonhuman thing has been around so long you probably didn’t pause to realize he’s an anthropomorphic egg.
Talk about a weird, cryptic poem. Here’s a reminder:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Examples of Anthropomorphism in Pop Culture
7. Wait But Why
Don’t worry: Anthropomorphism is for bloggers too!
Tim Urban, in his massively popular blog Wait But Why, showed how effective this can be at raking in the readers. He introduced a pesky monkey to teach us all about procrastination.
Do you have plans to get some work done today?
Instant Gratification Monkey has other plans (the video starts right at the good part, but we encourage you to watch the whole thing):
8. Geiko’s Gecko
Most of us are acquainted with Martin, the gecko from Geico.
He does it all.
He saves people money on auto insurance. (Clearly, the marketing is effective.)
In addition to Martin, you can see other non-human characters all over from Tony the Tiger to the M&M crew to Snuggle the Bear.
Check out this clip of Martin, the gecko, making jam. Yes, you read that right: Making. Jam. Enjoy!
9. Disney’s Encanto
Casa Madrigal, or Casita, is the sassy anthropomorphic house from the animated movie Encanto. Her human personality comes through tremendously despite not having a physical human form.
She communicates by rhythmically moving tiles and drawers when happy, and she’ll flash the household lights sporadically if upset.
She’s basically a member of the family, and is certainly a communicative character integral to the plot.
(And look at that… We didn’t even talk about Bruno…)
What’s the Difference Between Anthropomorphism and Personification?
Personification is the figurative version of anthropomorphism.
It uses imagery or metaphor to give non-humans, animals or objects human characteristics.
The band Of Monsters and Men, used personification in their hit song Little Talks:
The stairs creak as I sleep
It’s keeping me awake
It’s the house telling you to close your eyes
The house isn’t really speaking those words, it’s metaphorical.
Or your aunt might say, “My cat loves showing off when company is around.” Now that might be one spunky cat, but it doesn’t ponder to itself, “The Andersons are coming over at six and I can’t botch my performance like last time.”
What’s the Difference Between Anthropomorphism and Zoomorphism?
Zoomorphism is anthropomorphism reversed.
This literary device occurs when a human is said to be possessing or demonstrating animal-like qualities.
This can be used literally, as with superheroes.
- Spider-man is zoomorphic because he can cling to walls like a spider.
Or it can be used figuratively.
- The Roman gladiator stalked his prey in the coliseum.
5 Tips on How to Use Anthropomorphism in Your Writing
Just like a variety of great writing tips that’ll actually make you a better writer exist, anthropomorphism can be used in many different ways.
But here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Retell an Epic Classic
Classics have been vetted over generations, so you know they’re good.
Why not retell one?
This leaves you free to focus on transforming the characters into non-human things.
The Muppet Christmas Carol, an anthropomorphic retelling of Charles Dickens’s famous tale, is a great example. Can you hear any classic characters calling out to be turned into non-human things?
Will you listen?
2. Match Animals with Personalities
Don’t owls look grouchy? Dolphins playful? Hyenas like they’re going to commit grand larceny?
Disney’s 1973 animated adaptation of Robin Hood matches wild animals with personalities they seem to have in real life.
- Robin is a sly fox
- The evil Sheriff of Nottingham is a dastardly wolf
- Prince John is a cowardly, adolescent lion (contrasted with King Richard as a majestic lion with a full mane)
Give it a shot. (Don’t let Disney get all the good ones.)
3. Let Your Younger Imagination Fly
This one is easy to take for granted because, in hindsight, stories about toys coming alive were obviously going to be HUGE.
What would your inner child love to see come to life?
It could be lucrative!
4. Tackle a Difficult Topic
Political topics can be nauseating in the best of times, but George Orwell anthropomorphized the perils of poor government in Animal Farm and we love him for it.
That’s anthropomorphism’s power.
Do you have a challenging topic you’re passionate about? What if you could add a little sugar to the medicine?
One part controversial topic. One part is anthropomorphism. Mix and — Mhhh! — the readers will come pouring in.
5. Get Kinda Weird
Being a little odd helps when writing anthropomorphically.
We’re talkin’ weird, people, like when a little girl somehow falls through a rabbit hole and finds herself in a land where she meets a mad hatter, a psychedelic cat, and a playing card who loves chopping off heads.
This, of course, is what happened in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the novel by Lewis Carroll that has held peoples’ interest for over 150 years.
The whole idea of anthropomorphism is peculiar.
That’s part of the magic.
Release Your Own Anthropomorphism Examples Into the Wild
Many writers lack the courage and know-how to harness the advantages of anthropomorphism.
And it makes sense.
It’s a bit silly, a bit unusual.
Well, come to find giving a nonhuman some human traits is all it is. Sure, personification and zoomorphism add their little twists and turns, but they’re also clear cut once you know what to look for.
So, put fingertips to keyboard and use this powerful writer’s tool!
Add this secret ingredient to your writing recipe and you’ll look back to see more enchantment, more persuasion, and more creativity in your work.
Your readers won’t know what hit them!