Animal Farm

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Animal Farm
AnimalFarm 1stEd 930.jpg
First edition cover
Original Title: Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
Written by: George Orwell
Central Theme: No matter how well-intentioned, any society will eventually become ruled by its most corrupt and power-hungry members.
Synopsis: Allegorically, how the Russian Revolution would go if its participants were animals at a typical England country farm.
Genre(s): Beast Fable, Satire
First published: August 17, 1945
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"All animals are equal...but some animals are more equal than others."


A clever Beast Fable satirizing the evolution of Russian communism by George Orwell, as well as a book with two adaptations you should never, ever show your children. They may start revolting.

Orwell tells, allegorically, how the Russian Revolution would go if its participants were animals, and if you reduced Russia to the area of a typical England country farm. When you get what the point of the book is—being a satire of Communism written during World War II—it's not hard to guess where the plot is going.

The inspiration for this book came about when Orwell saw a boy leading a cart horse, whipping it all the while. Orwell thought that if animals realized just how strong they are, they can defeat the human race and end up running the world.

In 1955, the British animation studio Halas & Batchelor produced an Animated Adaptation, which was widely heralded as a milestone of British animation,[1] though it came under heavy criticism for its Lighter and Softer approach to Orwell's fable, including a Happy Ending in which the farm animals rise up against their new overlords. (It appears that the United States Central Intelligence Agency had a hand in providing funding for the film, though it seems uncertain whether the film's writers and directors were aware of the fact.)

It also inspired Pink Floyd's Concept Album Animals, though it criticizes capitalism instead of communism. Snowball's Chance also rips on both capitalism and Animal Farm itself, portraying Snowball returning and becoming a George W. Bush Expy.

A live action version, starring Patrick Stewart as the voice of Napoleon and Kelsey Grammer as Snowball, was produced in 1999. A stage adaptation, drawing heavily from another Orwell classic, Homage to Catalonia, was first produced in 2008.

Do not confuse with Animal House.

Tropes used in Animal Farm include:
  • Adaptation Expansion: The new endings of both film versions. Plus the focus shift to Jessie in the live action version, in place of Clover,who is absent.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: The pigs end up adopting human ways to the point where in the end, the other animals find it impossible to tell the pigs from the humans.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Napoleon has nine of these
  • Animal Talk
  • Animated Adaptation: The 1954 film
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: One of the original Seven Commandments forbade animals to kill animals, conveniently discarded when Napoleon became convinced there were potential or actual Pro-Snowball traitors in his midst.
  • Badass Bookworm: Snowball.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: In-universe—Boxer's motto "Napoleon is always right" is actually derived from "If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right."
  • Beast Fable
  • Berserk Button: Don't send Benjamin's best friend Boxer to the knacker's. You'll regret it later on. Exclusive to the animated adaptation.
    • Happens again in the live action version, but instead of rebelling, a sizable number of the animals use this as justification for leaving the farm.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Jones and Napoleon
  • Blatant Lies: Everything Squealer says.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Exclusive to the animated adaptation. It's actually kind of... disturbing.
  • Book Ends: In the animated film, the beginning and end both involve a revolution to overthrow a tyrant.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Deconstructed with Benjamin.[context?]
  • Broken Base: In-universe example with the pet raven, Moses. On one hand, some animals don't like him because he doesn't help with the workload and the pigs also dislike him as they think Sugarcandy Mountain is non-existent nonsense (representing the aggressive state atheism policy of Stalin and Soviet Russia under his rule). It's also implied Moses is the only animal on the farm Jones doesn't mistreat meaning the other animals envy Moses for being spared the abuse they suffer. Other animals hold him in high regard precisely because they believe in Sugarcandy Mountain.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Squealer and Napoleon, when waking up the next morning after ending up completely plastered while rewriting the amendment that forbade alcohol to forbade drinking to excess (ironically) in the 1990s film, end up with an intense hangover with Napoleon and Squealer remarking that they're dying, showing the reason why animals shouldn't drink alcohol, and thus leading to the paranoia of Napoleon later on.[2]
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: The words "without cause" are written in blood and serve as an amendment to the commandment that animals should not kill each other
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Intentional, obviously.
  • Chekhov's Army: The dogs.
  • The Commandments: The Principles of Animalism.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover for the 1999 film makes it look like a cute, Disneyesque movie for kids. Yeah, no.
  • Crowd Chant: "Four legs good, two legs baaaaaad!"
    • And at the end of the book, it's "four legs good, two legs better!"
  • Cyanide Pill: One gander confesses to working for snowball and eats some deadly nightshade berries, which are deadly to ganders, to kill himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Benjamin the donkey. When asked by the other animals whether or not he feels life has improved after the revolution, he says "Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey."
  • Disneyfication: Both the animated adaptation and the live action adaptation changed the ending to be more uplifting. Ironically, the live action version was made after the Soviet Union collapsed, making it one of the more justified uses.
  • Downer Ending: This book is a satirization of the Russian Revolution. Obviously, things do not go well.
    • The Bad Guy Wins: Played straight in the book and live-action film. Averted in the animated film.
    • Doomed by Canon
    • Ironically, it's Soviet Russia's actual historical downfall that allowed the film's more upbeat ending, probably the only way to get away with it.
  • Dumb Is Good: Oh, they wish.
  • Dying Like Animals: Each particular type of animal is supposed to represent a particular "class" or group of people and their behavior in reaction to the revolution and the aftermath. The pigs, for instance, are the upper Party "aristocracy" (and no points for guessing who the sheep are supposed to be...).
  • Face Heel Turn: Napoleon, as well as most of the other pigs, though it could be argued that Napoleon was never a good guy to begin with. He begins raising his army of dogs only a chapter after the revolution, possibly indicating that he was planning to betray the revolution all along.
  • Fat Bastard: Squealer, who grows impossibly fat near the end of the novel.
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: The Trope Namer.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Most of the pigs stage one of the best known examples of the trope in western literature. It's the core theme of the novel.
  • Fun with Acronyms: One of Orwell's suggested titles for its French translation was Union des républiques socialistes animales, which roughly acronyms as URSA—Latin for "bear", the symbol of Russia.
  • Glad I Thought of It: Napoleon appropriates Snowball's windmill idea after the latter's exile.
  • Gullible Lemmings: Most animals, but specially sheep.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Most of the pigs.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Fundamental to the book's premise. Not that the animals are much better. Though the book acknowledges there are humans who treat animals well.
    • In contrast with the humans, the animals are generally portrayed positively in the book. After the revolution, the animals all work together 'according to their capacity' and no animal steals 'so much as a mouthful'. Napoleon and the pigs who go along with him (after he exiles Snowball and does away with any form of democracy on the farm) are an exception, since they represent the emerging ruling class of Russia (which Orwell despised). Other exception are Mollie who represents the middle class, and Moses who represents the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Subverted, but they kept the punching-out part.
  • Hypocrite: The pigs, especially Napoleon who hoards sugar for himself, not even sharing it with the other pigs because it will make them fat.
  • It Gets Worse: It's even implied that Napoleon is going to start feuding with Mr. Pilkington because they are both cheating at cards.
  • Kangaroo Court: One after another, many animals "admit" to helping Snowball sabotage the farm and get immediately killed, in reference to Stalin's purges and show trials of the late 1930s.
  • Karma Houdini: One of the most egregious examples ever, though not as true in the animated movie.
  • Large Ham: Snowball and Squealer - fitting, because they're both pigs, and also based on Leon Trotsky and Molotov respectively, both of whom were grandiose.
  • Meaningful Name: Snowball (as in the snowball effect), Napoleon (as in the dictator), and Moses (as in the one talking about Sugarcandy Mountain, a "promised land" and an afterlife).
  • Meet the New Boss: Snowball and later Napoleon (due to Snowball's death, as it was when Old Major died). More specifically, he seems to imply that fascism leads to tyranny (Mr. Frederick/Nazi Germany), liberal democratic capitalism leads to waste (Mr. Pilkington/Britain and the West), and none of the politicians on all sides cared about anyone but themselves.
    • The ending seems to imply that the pigs and humans are essentially the same, meaning metaphorically the Stalinism is essentially just another form of conservative capitalism, keeping down the working classes (or the other animals). Which explains why they had to change it for the movie, of course.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Mr. Frederick. He even blatantly resembles Hitler in the 1999 film; ironically, he's even more sympathetic there than he was in the novel.
    • Snowball may also feel similar to Hitler, but subverts this due to being based on Trotsky.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Napoleon was based on Joseph Stalin, Snowball on Leon Trotsky, while Old Major is based on both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
  • Not So Different: More or less the moral; the final line of the book sees the animals look from their pig rulers to the humans they are meeting with and being no longer able to tell the difference.
  • Orwellian Retcon: The real truth of the revolution keeps getting this treatment until no one really remembers the original facts exceptthose smart enough to keep their mouth shut.
  • Pie-Eyed: Some of the characters have them appearing and disappearing between shots.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Snowball comes up with the idea to build a windmill. Napoleon steals it. What's worse, he makes things seem as though Snowball was the one who stole the idea, and before having Snowball exiled, he expresses displeasure in the concept, at one point he even goes so far as to urinate on the plans.
  • The Promised Land: Sugarcandy Mountain. Played on the cynical side that it doesn't exist, and it's only meant keep the animals in line.
  • The Purge
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Battle of the Windmill is this but Napoleon covers up the losses.
  • Really Gets Around: Implied that Napoleon fathered many of the new porkers in the farm. The other pigs were "porkers" (pigs castrated so their bodies with be meatier and they'll be killed for food).
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The animals do this to Mr. Jones when it comes to the whip not working anymore.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Snowball and Napoleon, respectively, with Snowball's role as the red later taken up by Squealer
  • Released to Elsewhere: The fate of Boxer, whom Napoleon betrays and sells to the knacker.
  • Retirony: Boxer was injured when he was due for retirement. He then ends up "sent to the vet" (in actuality, he's being sent to the knackers.)
  • Shout-Out: "I will work harder," Boxer's motto, was found in the mouth of Jurgis Rudkus from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
    • In the animated film, the dogs look like the dogs from Bambi.
  • Sinister Minister: Moses, Farmer Jones' pet raven, who fled the farm when Jones was overthrown and returned years later to tell the animals about Sugarcandy Mountain. His position is kind of analogous to that of religion; his claims are officially denied by the pigs but they keep him around to keep the animals in line.
    • Keep in mind that this is a downplayed version of how the Soviet Union usually dealt with religion. In the real life Soviet Union, while the case can be argued that the Soviet Union used the Russian Orthodox Church to keep their people in line even though they never actually believed it, the truth is that that was only if the religious people were actually lucky. Most of the time, the Soviets were attempting to eliminate religion outright and replace it with atheism (Soviet Russia is the first nation in human history to have that goal), and even had the KGB try to investigate locations of churches, sometimes even tricking people to help them locate a church so they could arrest the occupants for practicing religion; the penalty was either execution or being placed in a work camp.
    • Moses' reinvigorated status under the pigs' rule might have been inspired by the fact that after Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Communication: The animals can talk to each other, but only the pigs seem able to talk to humans, and then again only after they take over the farm.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is it Mollie or Molly? The book itself uses the first, while some other references (including us) use the second.
  • Straw Hypocrite: The pigs. Made especially ironic in the 1999 version, as when Squealer changes one of the laws from 'Animals shall not drink' to 'Animals shall not drink to excess', he's still in violation of the law, as he's completely wasted at the time he's adding the extra words.
    • This was implied in the novel as well, since the animals hear a loud crash and run out in time to see Squealer stumbling around near the barn with a ladder and pot of white paint, but they're too dumb to realize what he was doing.
  • Talking Animal: By the end, the pigs. (Walking, too.)
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The pigs start out like this. As the story progresses, some pigs are lost, while others are corrupted by their power unless they were really Straw Hypocrites all along. By the end of the story, the remaining pigs have become what they once rebelled against.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Napoleon plays it deadly straight.
  • Unusual Animal Alliance: At least at first.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one seems to think it's weird that animals are running a farm by themselves, something that would most likely draw large crowds in real life. People even think the animals will just starve to death by themselves.
  • Verbal Tic: "Four legs good, two legs bad!", and later "Four legs good, two legs better!"
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Napoleon in Chapter 8 of the novel (it was hard to come across an animal without hearing how Napoleon's way of running things has improved his/her life). Not so much in the film adaptations, though...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the cat? In the book, she just stops appearing after the first few chapters, and later isn't mentioned in the list of animals who've died, whilst only Snowball and Molly are ever acknowledged to have left the farm. It's mentioned that she didn't show up to the meeting where Napoleon killed a bunch of the animals, so she probably ran away into the wild. Cat owners will tell you, cats are smart.
    • The animated adaptation doesn't even keep her around for the original revolution, though we at least see why: she is killed by the dogs when the chickens try to rebel against Napoleon's egg demands. From how the scene plays out, she is killed senselessly and pointlessly, either being mistaken in the dark for a chicken or killed just for fun. YMMV on its allegorical content.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Animals talking (and some even becoming literate) and running a farm are required for the book's allegory to work.
  • Working Class People Are Morons: Boxer, meant to represent the working class.
  • World of Symbolism: The animals and their story represent Russia's communist revolution.
  • Xenofiction
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Cited by Old Major as one of the worst of Man's evils against animals, that "the very instant that our usefulness is at an end, we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty." Napoleon eventually crosses the Moral Event Horizon when he ends up doing just this, namely by sending Boxer to the knacker's when he is injured and no longer able to work.
  • Your Cheating Heart: In the 1990s adaptation of Animal Farm, Mr. Pilkington's wife apparently cheats on her husband with Farmer Jones.
  1. It was the first British animated feature to achieve worldwide release.
  2. This is Truth in Television, as pigs really can't hold their liquor or any alcohol for that matter, as this video demonstrates.