10 Facts About George Orwell's Animal Farm

George Orwell's oft-banned book turns 75 this year.
George Orwell's oft-banned book turns 75 this year.
Shraddha Agrawal, Unsplash // Public Domain

On August 17, 1945, legendary British author George Orwell—who also penned 1984—published Animal Farm, a satirical allegory of Soviet Russia featuring animals who revolt against the farmer Mr. Jones and wind up in a pig-led Communist dictatorship. Orwell called Animal Farm “the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” It went on to find a spot on many school reading lists and cracked top-100 novel lists by Modern Library and TIME. Here are a few things you might not have known about Animal Farm.

1. Animal Farm was rejected by the biggest names in publishing.

Faber and Faber editor T.S. Eliot, whose poetry inspired the musical Cats, rejected Animal Farm. Eliot disdained its mockery of Stalin’s USSR, Britain’s then-World War II ally. Jonathan Cape, Ernest Hemingway’s British publisher, rejected it after consulting with the wartime Ministry of Information. One publisher told Orwell that “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” Ultimately, Animal Farm became a hit for Secker & Warburg.

2. Animal Farm touched writers like C.S. Lewis and Margaret Atwood.

C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote that “The great sentence, ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,’ bites deeper than the whole of 1984.” Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), who first read Animal Farm when she was 9, wrote in a column for the Toronto Star in 1993 that “I was traumatized early in life by the death of that poor horse in Orwell’s Animal Farm, which I thought was going to be ... like Peter Rabbit.”

3. The farm in Animal Farm is modeled on a real-life setting.

For periods in the 1930s and ‘40s, Orwell and his first wife, Eileen (who died in 1945), lived at a cottage at No. 2 Kits Lane in the village of Wallington, where Orwell ran a store and wrote. In 1999, historian Brian Edwards pinpointed nearby Bury Farm as Orwell’s likeliest inspiration for Animal Farm: Its barns, pond, hill, and orchard strongly resemble the book.

4. The CIA used Animal Farm as a propaganda tool.

From 1952 to 1957, the CIA’s “Aedinosaur” operation launched balloons from West Germany that dropped copies of Animal Farm into Iron Curtain countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia. The CIA also bankrolled the 1954 Animal Farm cartoon movie. Future Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt arranged to buy the rights from Orwell’s widow, Sonia.

5. The Soviet Union banned Animal Farm until the Cold War was almost over.

In 1988, as Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policy liberalized the USSR, a Latvian journal called Rodnik published Animal Farm in four installments. The Russian government newspaper Izvestia printed an excerpt later that year, saying: “It is good that the prose of this great English writer reaches our readers, albeit late.”

6. Many other governments have banned Animal Farm.

Beyond the Soviet Union, Animal Farm has also been banned at various times in countries like Cuba (where the book was set on fire by the government), North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and countries in Africa. In Malawi, government minister Albert Muwalo was charged with treason and hanged in 1977; one alleged piece of evidence was his ownership of Animal Farm, a banned book. And in 1991, Kenya’s government banned a Swahili-language play based on Animal Farm that attacked corruption.

7. Animal Farm has spawned some unauthorized sequels.

Snowball’s Chance by John Reed (2002) provocatively imagines Napoleon’s rival Snowball returning to Animal Farm and establishing a capitalist system, while Jon Zagrodsky’s 2007 book The Rats Are in the Cheese envisions a hedgehog leading the charge for tax reform.

8. Animal Farm has inspired Coldplay, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd.

Coldplay’s 2020 “Trouble in Town” music video shows a homeless person in a deer mask reading Animal Farm. “Piggies,” which George Harrison wrote for the Beatles’s 1968 White Album, is partially inspired by Orwell’s novel. Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals, whose cover features a flying pig, is also based loosely on the book.

9. Patrick Stewart and Julia Louis-Dreyfus did voices for a 1999 Animal Farm film.

In this Hallmark TV movie, Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) voiced Napoleon, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) did Mollie the mare. Other stars included Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as Snowball and Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings) as Squealer. The movie got mixed reviews.

10. New Animal Farm movies and plays are coming out.

If you’re disappointed Elton John’s proposed Animal Farm musical never materialized, there are alternatives. The 2019 film Mr. Jones incorporates Orwell’s writing of Animal Farm into its tale of a Welsh journalist investigating Stalin’s Ukrainian famine. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) is set to adapt Animal Farm for Netflix, possibly in 2021. And an Animal Farm play by Robert Icke, who brought 1984 to Broadway, is slated for 2022.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor


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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author. Here are 11 popular phrases that are frequently misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “Write drunk, edit sober.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “For what it's worth: It's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be."

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss."

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “You'll understand why storms are named after people."

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A sentimental person thinks things will last. A romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't."

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “It's a funny thing about coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what's changed is you."

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “Great books write themselves; only bad books have to be written."

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul."

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “And in the end, we were all just humans, drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness."

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

This story has been updated for 2020.