The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of personification is as follows:
: a person who has a lot of a particular quality and who is the perfect example of someone who has that quality
: an imaginary person that represents a thing or idea
: the practice of representing a thing or idea as a person in art, literature, etc.
This post will focus on the third definition (personification as a literary device), and on my experience finding and using personification in literature. I find that I personify nature and many other non-human, living things everyday; and I have come to realize that I do it on purpose. I can’t say that I consciously knew that I was doing it on purpose when I was younger; I was just writing what came to me naturally. Now, as I look back on my previous writings, I seem to find my poems, stories and thoughts peppered with personification.
Finding personification of nature in literature is always a joy for me, and I find myself more connected to the stories when the author has chosen to bring nature to life on the page. I have found that many writers are comfortable personifying animals, and giving them voices to share their view of the world. Trees, the wind, and fire are often given human traits so they can add visual and emotional details to a scene, however, it is rare to find a novel or story where those elements of nature play a major role.
Rare, but not impossible to find.
J.R.R. Tolkien gave trees a powerful voice.
“Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost for ever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!”
–J.R.R Tolkien, The Two Towers
“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.”
— J.R.R Tolkien, The Two Towers
Chief Dan George, Native American chief of the (Salish) Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and his people knew about nature’s voice and tried to share that knowledge with the world.
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars.
— Chief Dan George
May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.
— Chief Dan George
I started to wonder why it is hard to find this type of personification in current, modern day writing. Is it because so many human beings have forgotten the origin of the human race? Does giving nature a voice make nature too real, and in turn cause us to feel too much guilt for how we are treating it? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but just in asking them I hope to make more people think about it.
We all came from nature, are surrounded by it, and have been living off of it for thousands of years. How have so many people over so many generations forgotten that? I am only 10, so I haven’t had time to forget much, so I remember where we all came from. I remember, because I have been immersed in nature nearly my entire life, having never lived in a big city.
The reason I personify nature is to share what I know; sharing the fact that we used to honor, respect, and depend on the animals, on the soil, and on the earth. Those facts have been forgotten, now that we all have given into electronics and factories; forgetting that even though these modern inventions make things easier, all we really need in life, is being destroyed -by us!
There used to be unwritten rules of nature, that all things followed, but we are bending those rules to near breaking point, taking nature to its very limits, just barely keeping it alive. In turn, barely keeping ourselves alive.
I personify nature to give animals and plants a voice. I give them their own personalities, so they can speak through me and say what they need to say to the world. I feel that I have not made up these characters or creatures, but instead, I feel as if I have brought them to life. I am not Tolkien, and I am not Chief George, I am me, a 10 year old girl from California. But, I can hear nature speak, and I have a voice to share their ideas and beliefs.
Here are two of my poems, that personify nature and the sun.
The sun will set
It’s eye will glow
All us below
Master of time and light
It does slide
It will rise
It will set
It will glow
And it will always
All us below
The Monarch of the Kingdom Falls
The leaf king sits on his throne,
He rules over the great magnolia tree,
He hangs on in the high winds,
His knights ride their horses on the wind,
These high winds are both the enemy and friend,
Some leaves need to be gone, some don’t,
The light-headed winds have no worries or troubles,
But unsuccessful at hanging on,
The monarch of the magnolia,
Withers and releases his kingdom,
Making way for a new king.
So many people have forgotten that we all came from nature, and we need to remind them to listen…to hear nature speak.
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