Banned Books Week 2021: Animal Farm

Scene from the animated Animal Farm.

For Banned Books Week 2021, we’re kicking off a new tradition at the Libraries by focusing on a single title that has been frequently challenged throughout history. The American Libraries Association Office for Intellectual Freedom keeps a chronological record of censorship attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, and for this year’s festivities we explore a work of both political and literary importance, George Orwell’s controversial classic "Animal Farm."

An allegorical fairy tale on the dangers of authoritarianism and how “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Orwell uses the setting of an animal uprising against their human masters on an English farm as an indirect representation of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the totalitarian Stalinist era to follow. The work explores and comments on the dangers of authoritarian control and the cult of personality inherent within it, and reminds us that even the noblest of causes can be subverted by power and greed.

Upon publication and throughout the years, Orwell’s novella has been accused by detractors as Communist propaganda and a seditious call to overthrow organized states. Various attempts to remove the book from libraries have occurred and the title continues to appear on numerous lists of “problem books.” So strong was its perceived threat to national security, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covertly purchased the film rights from the Orwell estate and financed an animated version of the film; altering multiple plot points and changing the ending in an effort to “combat the culture of communism.”

1954 animated version of George Orwell’s "Animal Farm." Directed by John Halas & Joy Batchelor. Commissioned and financed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Listed below you’ll find access to Orwell’s novella and several related resources in our library collection. All print materials are available for check-out and electronic resources may be viewed online. Learn more about Banned Books Week at the link provided and support the freedom to read and express ideas, even those that some consider to be unorthodox or unpopular.

Andy Prisbylla, Student Engagement Coordinator, University Libraries


Animal Farm
Orwell, George (1945)

Animal Farm“George Orwell's famous satire of the Soviet Union, in which "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." A satire on totalitarianism in which farm animals overthrow their human owner and set up their own government” - Publisher Description.

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Animal Farm: A Fable in Two Acts
Bond, Nelson (1964)

Animal Farm: A Fable in Two Acts“In the staged dramatic reading version of this timely allegory you will meet beasts whose prototypes have dominated news headlines for many fearful years. Opening on a note of joyous triumph for the creatures who have emancipated themselves from the cruel mastery of a human owner, the reading mounts inexorably to a climax of disillusionment in which the other animals discover themselves now subject to the rule of even more ruthless autocrats: the greedy, cunning pigs. Intermingling humor and drama, Animal Farm wrings the emotions of its listeners, leaving audiences shaken with the tale of a tragedy that happened in a mythical barnyard far away but could happen in our own backyard.” - Publisher Description

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Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
Orwell, George. Steadman, Ralph (1995)

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story“This edition is being published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its original U.S. publication. It features 100 full-color and halftone illustrations by world-renowned artist Ralph Steadman.” - Publisher Description.

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Animal Farm (DVD)
Batchelor, Joy. Halas, John (1954)

Animal Farm DVD“Special features: new digital restoration; audio commentary by film historian Brian Sibley; "Down on 'Animal farm'" featurette presented by Tony Robinson; scenes as told through original storyboards; liner notes by author and professor Karl Cohen.” - Publisher Description.

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Animal Farm: Pastoralism and Politics: A Student's Companion to the Novel
Smyer, Richard I. (1988)

Animal Farm: Pastoralism and Politics: A Student's Companion to the Novel“Analyzes Orwell's famous satire, describes its background and themes, and looks at its cultural reception.” Publisher’s Description

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Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm
Leab, Daniel J. (2007)

Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm“Since its release in 1954, scholars have been aware of the Central Intelligence Agency's involvement in the making of the controversial animated motion picture adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm. In Orwell Subverted, Daniel Leab gives an authoritative and well-documented account of the CIA's powerful influence on the film.Recently, a number of works have been written-notably, those by Frances Stoner Saunders and Tony Shaw-that make reference to the underlying governmental control surrounding Animal Farm. Yet there is still much speculation and confusion as to the depth of the CIA's interference. Leab continues where these authors left off, exploring the CIA's dominant hand through extensive research and by giving fascinating details of the agency's overt and subtle influences on the making of the film.” - Publisher Description

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