Do you love stories of talking animals, singing portraits and chatty kettles? If yes, then you are a fan of anthropomorphism.

A literary device, anthropomorphism (pronounced anthro-polt-more-fizz um) is used by authors to attribute human traits to animals or inanimate objects. This is done to make non-human characters more relatable and entertaining to readers and viewers. You may have seen this in stories and films that depict animals who can talk behave and feel emotions just like us. Children’s classics such as “Dr. Dolittle”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, and “Chronicles of Namia: The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe all feature anthropomorphic characters.

While animals are commonly shown as anthropomorphised creatures, this technique is also used to bring inanimate objects to life by assigning them human-like qualities. Disney-Pixar films often use anthropomorphism – bringing clownfish and toy space-rangers to life as the beloved Nemo in Finding Nemo” and Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story”.

The term ‘anthropomorphism’ was coined by the Greek Philosopher Xenophanes after observing the physical similarities between people and their Gods.

Anthropomorphism vs. Personification

It is easy to confuse anthropomorphism with another similar literary device called personification. But the two are starkly different. Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing, an animal or an abstract notion is ascribed human qualities. For instance, the sentence, “Nature unleashed its fury through thunderstorms,” is an example of personification, because nature can’t be “furious” as it cannot feel human emotions. However, saying that nature can feel anger and fury emphasises the harshness of the storm. On the other hand in anthropomorphism, the non-human objects literally behave like human beings.


  • “The Beauty and the Beast”: The fairytale as well as its Disney adaptation is packed with anthropomorphic furniture such as clocks and wardrobes that sing, dance and talk.
  • Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”: Humans and anthropomorphic characters such as walking rabbits, smiling cats and even talking playing cards exist together in this fantastical story.
  • J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter series: The magical world of Harry Potter is full of anthropomorphic characters. For instance, the talking and sometimes singing portraits hung inside the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The centaurs of the Forbidden Forest, who are half human, half-horse and skilled at Divination, are other examples of anthropomorphism.
  •  “The Secret Life of Pets” film franchise: Wonder what your pets – cats, dogs, or even rabbits – are up to when you leave the house? ‘The Secret Life of Pets” films show pets as socialising, watching telenovelas, raiding the fridge and even rocking out to heavy metal music when humans are not around.
  • Richard Adams’ Watership Down: In his debut novel. “Watership Down” (1972), Adams featured rabbits that could talk in their own distinctive language (Lapine).
  • “Doctor Dolittle”: Hugh Lofting’s series of children’s books portray a doctor who can talk to animals in their own languages. The books were adapted into highly successful films, starring Eddie Murphy as the main character.


  • Giving hurricanes human names is also a form of anthropomorphism. It is done because a human name is simpler and easier to comprehend than a scientific name, and makes us more receptive to information.
  • In religion and mythology, anthropomorphism is the perception of a divine being in human form, or the recognition of human qualities in these beings. Greek deities such as Zeus and Apollo are often depicted in human form exhibiting human qualities such as beauty, greed, hatred, jealousy, and uncontrollable anger.

Picture Credit : Google