This summer I completed two fantasy series, The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Chima’s series is YA and Martin’s is adult. After reading these two series, and having been an avid fantasy (YA and otherwise) reader for many a year, I have really begun to notice the tropes and the novelties of the genre (my favorite genre, and the genre I write fiction in myself). One of the major similarities I’ve really begun to notice and think about is the use of animals to denote character personality traits.
In the Harry Potter series, the four Hogwarts Houses each have an animal to symbolize the key traits of that House (Slytherin, the serpent, accepts students for their “cunning”). As an added bonus, wizards and witches of the Harry Potter world can cast the patronus charm. If it is a corporeal patronus, it will manifest as an animal that has personality traits or great significance tied to the character (for instance, the meaning in Severus Snape’s doe patronus).
These animal symbols often aren’t just symbols for the characters to wear on a patch or signs for them to display (such as the House sigils in A Song of Ice and Fire). These assigned animals often manifest themselves in the story and play a great part in the characters’ lives: for example, Raisa (of the Gray Wolf Throne) can see the prophetic gray wolves who are her ancestors, sworn to protect her by giving her warnings.
Another example would be the significance of Shae constantly calling Tyrion “My lion” (of the Lannister’s sigil), Daenarys’ ability to hatch three (real, non-sigil) dragons from stone, and the serpent Nagini which Voldemort uses as a final horcrux.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. While I’m sure there is already criticism on this, I think comparing the use of animal personalities in these three series specifically would make for a fascinating paper topic one day. Obviously, these are just loose thoughts and I still have a long way to go before making any major assertions. What animal do you think represents your own personality the most? Post these and any thoughts you might have on this subject–I’d love to hear what you guys think!
(Ps. Just FYI, I was actually asked the question “What animal represents your working personality” in an interview when I was trying to get a job at a clothing store in a mall in high school. My humor was lost on the interviewer when I answered “An animal that can fold sweaters quickly!” I didn’t get the job, but no love lost there…I soon was hired at a bookstore, much more my speed)