Is it because the animal possesses a quality that the main character lacks? Is it because the animal can help the character achieve their main goal?
Sadly, it is a mostly a literary plot device. The animal companion keeps the journey going by guiding (or possibly hindering) the character toward the internal realisation or crucial item that they seek. They up the stakes if they become lost or captured. But mostly, the animal gives the main character someone to talk to. Verbalising the character’s inner monologue makes the journey and its discoveries more relatable to the audience.
Philip Pullman pulled this off spectacularly with His Dark Materials trilogy. In his parallel world, people’s spirit animals are called daemons, and are a separate but deeply connected entity. An externalised part of their soul. The type of daemon a person has gives insight into their personality. A butler’s daemon is a dog. A thief’s daemon is a monkey. And a sailor’s daemon is a dolphin meaning he can never stay long on land.
What is your spirit animal?
Apparently, I’m a turtle.
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