When Animals Speak: Animal Names and Character Traits in Literature


Today we embark on a delightful journey into the intriguing world of literary characters with names inspired by animals. The spark for this exploration came from a post by my colleague Daniela Matronola, who shared a photo of a fascinating bird named Uriah, possibly the inspiration behind Dickens' character, Uriah Heep. This inspired me to go deeper into the role of animal names in literature and the fascinating connections they create between characters and their namesakes.

Uriah - A Character Worthy of a Bird's Name:

As our journey begins, we encounter Uriah, a character from Charles Dickens' masterpiece, "David Copperfield." Uriah Heep is a cunning and sly individual, driven by ambition and self-serving motives. It is fascinating to consider that Dickens may have drawn inspiration from an actual bird called Uriah for this character.

The bird's complete name is Uriah Aalge Albionis, and that is interesting because that classification directly refers to the geographical area the bird is typical of Britain in its ancient name Albion. This intriguing detail, as shared by my dearest colleague Daniela Matronola in her post, adds another layer of connection between the character and the avian namesake.

Much like the bird Uriah Aalge Albionis, which is associated with Britain, Uriah Heep embodies certain characteristics that reflect the country's history. This parallel between the character and the bird's classification enriches the symbolism and depth of Uriah's portrayal in "David Copperfield."

So, not only does the name Uriah capture the essence of the bird, but the additional insight into the bird's classification emphasizes the significance of this connection between literature and the natural world.

Unleashing the Wild Spirit: Wolf Larsen:

Next on our journey is Wolf Larsen from Jack London's "The Sea-Wolf." Wolf's name evokes images of a fierce and untamed creature ruling over the wilderness. Similarly, the character Wolf Larsen embodies the raw and primal instincts often associated with wolves.

Wolf Larsen's untamed spirit and dominance, much like the wolf, captivate with independence, strength, and charisma. The connection between character and wolf immerses readers in an untamed world.

Mowgli and the Animalistic Essence:

Mowgli, from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," is a boy raised by wolves. His name comes from the Hindi word for "frog,". Frogs are often associated with a sense of wonder, transformation, and adaptability. So Mogli perfectly captures the playful and magical nature of his childhood.

Mowgli's profound connection to the animal kingdom emphasizes the synergy between his name and the animal-like qualities he possesses. Like a frog, Mowgli adapts and perseveres in his surroundings. His encounters with the wolf pack and other jungle creatures create a beautiful bond between his name and his journey of self-discovery.

Robin Hood - A Feathered Hero:

Lastly, let us venture into the enchanting world of Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw from English folklore. The name Robin Hood might evoke thoughts of a small, red-breasted bird, but the character's heroic deeds transcend his avian namesake.

Interestingly, Robin Hood's name serves as a reminder of his agility and cunning, qualities shared by the feathered creature. Much like a robin, he skillfully maneuvers through Sherwood Forest, outwitting his foes with ease. The choice of an avian namesake adds a touch of brightness to his story, making him a charming and endearing character.

Piggy - The Unexpected Brilliance:

Finally we come across Piggy from William Golding's novel, "Lord of the Flies." Despite his name being associated with a farm animal, Piggy proves to be a character of unexpected brilliance and depth.

Piggy's name may evoke images of a chubby and docile creature, but his character is far from that stereotype. Piggy is intelligent, logical, and possesses a keen sense of observation. His name serves as a contrast to his intellectual capabilities.

Piggy experiences being underestimated by the other boys on the island. However, his insightful observations and rational thinking become crucial for survival in the chaotic and primal world they find themselves in. Piggy's name challenges preconceived notions and reminds us that true brilliance can emerge from unexpected sources.

Through Piggy, Golding adds a layer of irony and complexity to his character, inviting readers to question their own prejudices.

As we conclude our journey, we have explored the fascinating connections between animal-inspired names and the characters they represent. From Uriah's calculated nature to Wolf Larsen's wild spirit, Mowgli's adaptability, and Robin Hood's agility, these names lend a touch of enchantment and irony to the literary world.

So the next time you encounter a literary character with an animal-inspired name, pause and consider the intricate connections and layers of meaning that these names bring to the story. Let us celebrate the creativity of authors who draw upon the animal kingdom to add depth, irony, and a touch of wonder to their characters.

LnT suggests

LnT diving into the captivating world of character analysis with our latest article in the "How To" section: "How to ... Analyze and Describe a Character." Uncover the secrets of dissecting literary personas and gain a deeper understanding of their motivations, traits, and significance within the story.