- Stereotypes of animals
When anthropomorphising a (non-human) animal there are stereotypical traits which commonly tend to be associated with particular species. Often these are simply exaggerations of real aspects or behaviours of the creature in question, while other times the stereotype is taken from
mythologyand the true origins are forgotten. Some are popularised or solidified by a single particularly notable appearance in media, for example Disney's 1942 film " Bambi" which portrayed the titular deeras an innocent, fragile animal. [Eaton, Marcia. " [http://www.cofc.edu/hettinger/Aesthetics_Fall_04/EatonFact&Fiction.htm Fact and Fiction in Aes App of Nature] ". Accessed 17 September 2006.] In any case, once they have entered the culture as widely-recognized Stereotypes of animals, they tend to be used both in conversation and media as a kind of shorthand for expressing particular qualities.
While some authors make use of these animal stereotypes "as is", others undermine reader expectations by reversing them, developing the animal character in the exact opposite direction (e.g. a pig or a cowardly lion).
Many modern stereotypes of animals have a long tradition dating back to
Aesop's Fables, which drew upon sources that included Ancient Egyptian animal tales. Aesop's stereotypes were so deeply ingrained by the time of Apollonius of Tyanathat they were accepted as representative of various animals' "true" natures:
It is important to note that many animal stereotypes reflect anthropomorphic notions which are unfair to impose upon actual animals in nature. Thus, while a
sharkis instinctively feeding in the way its nature intends, in folklore it tends to be classified as "cruel", a word which implies a conscious and immoral choice to cause unnecessary pain. Yet conscienceand moralityare metaphysical attributes which are imposed by humans and do not, in fact, exist as such within the shark's world. Likewise, some stereotypes are based on mistaken or grossly oversimplified impressions, e.g. spotted hyenas are stereotypically portrayed as cowardly scavengers, but in reality they are efficient pack hunters with a complex social structure who care for their young.
Despite these considerations, the use of such animal stereotypes is generally much less problematic than it is for human stereotypes (to which some of the same issues apply), for obvious reasons.
Common Western animal stereotypes
*The bloodthirsty or
*The dim-witted dog
*The vicious guard dog
*The cruel or evil
**Through the latter half of the 20th century, the wolf was increasingly portrayed in the opposite manner, as an especially dignified and capable wild form of dog and symbol of
Nature. (eg. the Kevin Costnerfilm, " Dances with Wolves")
solitaryor renegade wolf
**From the phrase "
evil/ cruel Tyrannosaurus
*The stubborn ass
**From the character of
Nick Bottomin Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
*The horny or
cruelor intelligent fox
**Reynard the Fox, a character in stories from
medieval Europe, is depicted as a trickster.
Roald Dahl's book Fantastic Mr. Foxshows the fox as an intelligent saviour.
Furry fandom, foxes are seen as extremely promiscuous, or " yiffy".
*The and or easily frightened
*The cock/rooster who has
delusions of grandeuror is vain.
**The "Chanticleer and the Fox" tale from the
*The cool cat
**portrayed as sly and playing
jazznotably in Disney's " The Aristocats".
**Many syndicated comics feature lazy cats, perhaps most notably Jim Davis'
*The evil/villianous cat
**Many cartoons portray cats as mischievous, crafty and antagonistic.
**The Garfield character
Nermalis an ironic representation of this stereotype.
*The proud, brave, or noble
**From the assumed position at the "top" of the
food chain, the lion is often referred to as the "King of Beasts" or "King of the Jungle", (however Lions do not live in jungles) and is frequently portrayed as the literal ruler of the other animals in a given territory (eg. Disney's 1994movie, " The Lion King").
**The expression "Monkey see, Monkey do"
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
** The cartoon character
Bullwinkle J. Mooseis portrayed as slow-witted.
**Ostriches are often portrayed as being nervous and are widely thought to bury their heads in the sand at the first sign of danger. In reality this is not true; the ostrich is more likely to respond by fleeing, or, failing in that, delivering powerful kicks, easily capable of killing a man or a lion. [
Straight Dope. 26 May 1999." [http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mostrich.html Do ostriches really bury their heads in the sand?] ". Accessed 15 September 2006.]
Greek mythology, Athenais the goddess of wisdom and is regularly associated with the owl. [Stebbins, Elinor. 1998. " [http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/imageswomen/papers/stebbinsathena/athena2.html Pallas Athena, Goddess of Wisdom] ". Accessed 17 September 2006.]
Chuck Jones' Pepé Le Pewis one of the best-known animated skunks and propagates the idea that the animals emit their scent continuously.
**Sloth, one of the
seven deadly sins, meaning spiritual apathy.
**From the folk-saying "An elephant never forgets."
**Another popular misconception of elephants is that they fear
mice, possibly thanks to cartoon depictions. [ Elephant Encyclopedia." [http://www.upali.ch/mouse_en.html Mice and Elephants] ". Accessed 20 November 2006.]
**Mice are frequently portrayed in animation as shy and physically-frail, often bookish,
nerdy and/or glasses-wearing.
**From the typical colouring which resembles a tuxedo or
Black tiesuit--they are often portrayed as upper-class restaurant waiters, prime examples occurring in the Disney movies "Mary Poppins" and " Who Framed Roger Rabbit".
*The curious / playful
**From anyone who has ever watched one at an aquarium.
rabbit- Following naturally from the phrase "(to) breed like rabbits".
turtle/ tortoise(No distinctions are generally made between the two.)
*The hyperactive / fast-running
rabbit/ hare(Again, generally not distinguished from each other.)
**Both preceding stereotypes are probably most widely known due mainly to the
fableof " The Tortoise and the Hare".
cheetahis another animal noted for its speed
antand the lazy / carefree grasshopper
**Both of these stem mainly from another
fable" The Ant and the Grasshopper" in which the former works hard to prepare for the winter while the latter wastes the summer and fall having fun, only to have to beg food from the ant or starve. For this reason, grasshoppers are also sometimes characterized as social parasites (as in the Pixarmovie " A Bug's Life").
**Because of the termite's reputation of eating wood and wrecking homes and buildings.
*The comical / always-laughing
**From the uncanny resemblance its call bears to a human laugh.
**Example the Hyenas from
**Wasps are often portrayed as deliberate stingers of humans.
*The (or "bumbling")
**From its depiction in the
Book of Genesisas an incarnation of Satanthat deceives Adam and Eveinto the first sin.
**The Hebrew depiction of
Satanas a snake may have been influenced by the figure of Apepin many Ancient Egyptian religions, an evil serpent also associated with darkness, and enemy of the sun god Ra
greedy and/or filthy pig
**Both aspects are due to the natural pig lifestyle (when raised on a farm rather than a
feedlot)—"greedy" from the way they devour any food put in front of them, "filthy" from the fact that a pig-sty is generally a soup of mud and feceswhich the pigs don't seem to mind at all (this also gives rise to the saying "Happy as a pig in shit").
**The stereotype may also derive in part from
Judeo-Islamiccultures, whose concepts of kosher/ halalteach that pigs are "unclean" for various reasons.
**Pigs are also portrayed as straight men or sidekicks (for example porky pig (Looney tunes) and Orson (U.S.Acres))
**From the bandit-like black "mask" over its eyes. Also known for being notorious scavengers.
**From their extreme speed.
Common Eastern animal stereotypes
*The loyal / savage
**While domesticated dogs were welcomed, wild dogs were dangerous to both humans and their cattle.
**Most notable in
Thailandand India, elephants are symbols of royalty.
**As a mouse was a common pest, they were likened to thieves. However, in Japanese tradition, a mouse also guarantees a good harvest.
*The comical or
Japanese culture, the octopus is sometimes used in sexual situations. One famous example is a woodcutentitled The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife. A subset of Hentaimakes use of octopus-like creatures in Tentacle porn.
*The stupid / rich
*The lucky /
**Cats are said to bring luck to business ventures. Many Japanese video games feature anthropomorphic cats ("neko") in
mercantileroles (e.g. Squaresoft's Secret of Mana) as well.
Catgirls occupy a niche in Japanese otakuculture, most often as females dressed to some degree as a humanoid with cat elements like cat ears and a tail.
*The devoted / tricky
**The former is from a Buddhist story where a rabbit offered itself as a gift to Buddha by leaping into a fire. In
Kojiki, a white rabbit appears as a trickster. This is also due to the mythology of the rabbit in the moon.
**In a Korean folktale, a wise rabbit rescues a man from a greedy, ungrateful tiger.
** The folktales about man-devouring tigers appear frequently in Korea. At times tigers can be gullible or loyal.
*The wise and old
protecting wolfThe wolf protected Japanese farmers crops from raiders.
** In Korea, a magpie chirping near one's house indicates that long-anticipated guests are finally coming.
** In one Korean folktale, a magpie sacrifices herself to save the man who rescued her chicks from a serpent.
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