Animals and the Hero Archetype
By Scott M. Sandridge
Down through the ages certain qualities have always been associated with heroes: integrity and honor, perseverance, a willingness to defy tradition when necessary, and self-sacrifice for a cause or to save another person. Not all heroes share every quality, but they at least demonstrate a couple of the above.
It is also no accident that the images of animals have always been used as symbolic ways to express these qualities, for such virtues are embodied in the very core of most animals. Mules are stubborn, cats are independent and rebellious, dogs and wolves are loyal to a fault, and eagles have always been a symbol of freedom and honor.
Since the dawn of humanity, we have noticed and sought after the qualities we’ve seen inherent in the animals around us, so much so that many cultures even anthropomorphized the images of their gods with animal heads or by having them take the shape of certain animals in their myths. Much of Eastern martial arts originated from the observations of how animals moved, stalked, hunted, evaded, and fought. Indeed, without our desire to aspire to the noble qualities of the animals around us, human civilization probably would not have evolved in the way it did.
We humans have a symbiotic relationship with our animal companions, whether it be pets like cats and dogs, work animals like horses and oxen, or the animals we rely on for survival like hens and cows. How we treat such animals and whether or not we look the other way when such animals get mistreated says as much about us as how we treat each other. For the divine spark resides in all sentient beings regardless of the forms they take or their level of consciousness, and they will continue to be the instinctual heroes we aspire to be.