Anthropomorphic elements, which are most prevalently implemented in children’s books, can be spotted in works of literature that belong even to the ancient period. This tool implies ascribing human attributes, emotions, and traits to nonliving objects, natural phenomena, animals, and other non-human entities. This device can be applied to gods, forces of nature, everyday objects, etc., which gives numerous creative opportunities to authors.
The term derives from the combination of two Greek words: “anthropos,” meaning “human,” and “morphe,” which translates as “form.” It first came into English somewhere around 1802-1806 and was originally used to define the attribution of mental and physical human traits to deities. However, starting from the middle of the 19th century, the term’s meaning had been broadened and started to imply the application of human characteristics to other objects, phenomena, and animals.
Being a rather versatile tool, anthropomorphic elements oftentimes are confused with personification. While having similar meanings, these two devices can be differentiated thanks to their subtle dissimilarities. While personification can be implemented to project human traits onto something that doesn’t necessarily act or look in a human way. At the same time, anthropomorphic description involves an animal or an object actually displaying human features, whether it’s talking, walking on two feet, wearing clothes, or simply looking like a human.
Anthropomorphic descriptions oftentimes involve other linguistic tools, which serve as supplementary devices. For instance, analogies or metaphoric elements can be employed in order to achieve the anthropomorphism. Thus, when talking about an organization, we can employ metaphors and analogies to impart human feature onto it, saying that it has a brain (its leader or the CEO), eyes (the people who work in a research network), and muscles (the laborers).
Authors implement anthropomorphic descriptions and analogies for a number of reasons. This tool is very effective when the writer wishes to present a social or political satire. By imparting human traits to animals, the author is able to deliver his or her message and ridicule certain political personas or social standards, flaws, and prejudices.
Anthropomorphic elements help the reader comprehend certain concepts and their description better, especially when those are abstractive. For instance, when the powers of nature are imparted with anthropomorphic details, the reader can create a more vivid image in their mind and have a deeper understanding of the scene. Moreover, this allows the author to present brighter and more artistic descriptions and illustrations of the narration.
Being a rather old tool, anthropomorphic comparisons are oftentimes used to deliver a certain message and teach a lesson. They served this role even in the ancient period and allowed the author to speak the truth through animals and gods, thus making a more powerful statement and having a stronger impact on the reader.
The reason why anthropomorphic descriptions are so prevalent in children’s books is that this linguistic tool allows the author to make the stories more accessible to children. This is a great way not only to entertain young readers but also to share certain moral lessons and wisdom with them. Children seem to comprehend anthropomorphic objects and elements more easily.
Examples of anthropomorphic elements and comparisons can be found in numerous pieces of literature. For instance, M. Twain in one of his works called “A Dog’s Tale” employs anthropomorphism to tell a story from the perspective of a dog. Here, the main hero describes its life and also shows human traits and feelings like shame, happiness, fear, hopelessness, anguish, and so on. Thus, the anthropomorphic tool allows the author to create a more vivid image of the narrative, establish a deeper bond with the reader, and make the reader feel more empathic.
R. Kipling, in one of his famous children’s stories called “The Jungle Book,” introduces a large number of examples of anthropomorphic descriptions. All animals in the story are anthropomorphic, meaning they are able to speak and possess the emotions and even the moral, just like humans. Here, the anthropomorphic descriptions serve to entertain young readers and to present certain lessons to them in a form that is simple, amusing, and easy to comprehend.
The use of anthropomorphic descriptions isn’t limited to children’s books. In the “Animal Farm,” which is a strong and powerful social satire, the author (G. Orwell) implements anthropomorphism in order to deliver his message more effectively. Every animal on the farm possesses human traits, is able to speak, and can feel human emotions. What makes this example interesting is the fact that the anthropomorphic animals aren’t the only heroes of the story, as humans are present there too. While animals consider humans to be their enemies, they become more and more anthropomorphized during their revolution. This creates a contradiction and allows the author to portray the society in a rather contrasting way, which makes the narrative easier for the reader to comprehend.