Symbolic values of the dog in Afrikaans literature


  • Gerda Taljaard-Gilson University of South Africa, Pretoria



Afrikaans literature, ambivalent portrayal of dogs, animal studies, symbolic value of the dog


The dog is a universal, archetypical symbol of fidelity and loyalty. However, in literature—and especially in South African literature—the dog (as well as the hyena and the wolf) often symbolises the diabolical. In some instances the dog is also symbolic of the dark side of human nature, of dehumanisation and even of death. The canine symbol in Afrikaans literature has both European and African origins. When canines appear in their natural (literal) form in Afrikaans poems and narratives, they are for the most part portrayed in a positive (compassionate) way. As soon as they appear in a figurative (allegorical) capacity though, as a symbol or metaphor, they mostly represent something ominous. The ambivalent nature of dogs—they are both caring and brutal—is reflected in Afrikaans literature. In this article the contradictory (symbolic) depiction of canines will be explored in various Afrikaans poems and novels. This article thus falls within the framework of animal studies, the interdisciplinary field which analyses how nonhuman animals are portrayed and viewed within literature.


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Author Biography

Gerda Taljaard-Gilson, University of South Africa, Pretoria

Dr. Gerda Taljaard-Gilson is an independent lecturer at Unisa’s Department of
Afrikaans and Theory of literature.


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How to Cite

Taljaard-Gilson, G. (2018). Symbolic values of the dog in Afrikaans literature. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 55(3).



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