View Full Version : Animal Symbolism in HP

23-09-2004, 09:35
There are a number of different instances in which animal symbolism is used heavily throughout HP. The most significant are in the Animagus and Patronus situations. Seemingly what kind of animal you turn into, or you call to your protection, is not without relevance.

Take Peter Pettigrew, for example. His Animagus form is a rat. Most people of western origins immediately associate this with something bad. The rat is perceived of as a disgusting, disease-bringing animal.

The dog, however, which is the Animagus form of Sirius Black, is thought of as the model for complete loyalty and friendliness. So immediately, the reader projects these qualities on Sirius Black.

And so on - this is obvious a way that JKR uses to create metaphors about her character. But is the background for this logic flawed, as the perception that rules these metaphors is announced to be the 'correct' one - through the magic that controls it? Is one perception of a rat more correct than another?

Oh, and can we think of more?

02-10-2004, 08:51
I'm particularly interested in Hermione's patronus. It is described as a shining silver otter.

Because she is so central to the characters and plot, I thought it would be a good idea to examine what that could mean. There are a few different interpretations of the otter's symbolism that I have found. They are as follows:

Celtic paganism: seen as an agent of the Otherworld (hmmmm, interesting)

Scottish/Irish coats of arms: denotes the bearer has industry and perseverance as well as an ability to return to moments of play (that seems close)

Celtic (not pagan): otter is seen as a protector that helps with gaining wisdom, finding inner treasures or valuable talents, faithfulness, and the ability to recover from any crisis (AHA! That's the one I think describes Hermione the best. It is interesting to see the part about finding inner treasures or valuable talents. The other parts seem to match her so well it makes me wonder if we will see her work with Neville more to show off his inner talents.)

06-10-2004, 11:42
Don't forget that each of the houses is also represented by an animal (or a living creature at least), the students are allowed to take pets to school (can you imagine that in a real boarding school - bedlam!), and even the animals within the wizarding world are wierd and wondrous (Blast Ended Skrewts - I rest my case) which can often be a combination of real life creatures and perhaps combining the attributes/symbolism of these creatures. For example Hippgriffs - the grace, speed and strength of a horse combined with the fierce, noble and graceful eagle provides a powerful symbol of courage and strength which is harnessed by Harry, but rejects the disrespectful way it was treated by Malfoy.

11-11-2004, 13:04
Also dont forget that JKR said that the animals-mostly the cats will have a significant spot in the future...Arabella Figg the Dursleys neighbor has many cats...is a squib....and she is the one that Harry is sent to stay with when the Dursleys leave....I think that she might be the one that is going to have magic later in life perhaps...just because of the location hmm...

11-11-2004, 13:10
Good one Jenelle, I agree with your point about the cats - particularly with the introduction of Crookshanks, who of course is not just a common or garden moggie, but has the magical element of being part Kneazle...

11-11-2004, 13:28
I'm excited to see what she has instore for the animals. If she didnt have anything cool then she wouldnt have wasted her time saying that the cats have an important role, I cant wait!

01-02-2005, 12:24
Owls also serve an important role. They are a symbol of knowledge which is central to being efficent in the wizarding world. They are also nocturnal animals, conducting their business in the dead of night, much like the wizards who sneak around unnoticed by Muggles.

01-02-2005, 22:29
They are a symbol of knowledge which is central to being efficent in the wizarding world.

I am now wondering if the fact that the Owls are most known for delivering mail, messages and the newspaper might have anything to do with them being the symbol of knowledge. JKR seems to have a vast knowledge of all symbolism, and I am wondering if this is kind of a play for her, the owls delivering information and knowledge because that's what they symbolise...

02-02-2005, 13:04
Actually that is a good point.
People are often referred to as being as wise and an owl - and we are always questioning how the owls find the recipient of the messages when the address isn't always known.
I think it could be seen as a good symbol behind the use of owls.

02-02-2005, 13:24
Think of the house symbols another way. I played with this idea for a story I wrote some time back so bear with.

Four houses --

House - Animal - characteristics - Elemental

Hufflepuff - Badger (digs in the earth) - resourceful, steadfast, friendly, earthy - Earth
Ravenclaw - Raven (flies in the air) - intelligent, slightly uppity, loyal -- Air
Gryffindor -- Lion - bravery, strength, friendship, affinity, fighters - Fire
Slytherin - Snake - subterfuge, purity, underhandedness, ambition - Water.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water...Chew on that.

03-02-2005, 12:09
Wow, another good point!
Tell me, how did you apply water to Slytherin?

Not sure if we are just concentrating on actual animals or are we able to look at the mythical?
Because anyone that trawls the site will see many references to the Phoenix and it's unique attributes that seem to fit in so well with the on-going plot of the books.
It represents death and rebirth - life from the ashes it once was - eternal rebirth from it's own source.
It is a fire symbol - it fits in with CTS observation as well.
I suppose it also represents hope - like a phoenix rising from the ashes it goes to symbolise that no matter how bad things are - there is hope still in the future.

03-02-2005, 13:37
[this is all facinating, i've never thought of any of this! this is so cool!