How are animals viewed in "The Ramanyana"?
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In The Ramayana, animals possess a great deal of importance in the epic retelling. On one hand, the animals represent the realm of the jungle, of lawlessness, of a world without order. Valmiki might construct this setting to indicate how important Rama is to all of humanity. He represents order, structure, and a demarcation between the lawlessness or savagery of the jungle. For example, before Rama approaches the monkey army of Sugriva, they are uncontrolled and demonstrate a propensity to act without order or a sense of justice. Yet, when Rama appropriates them, they become more civilized and committed to the ends of establishing justice and order. Another important role for the animals in the Ramayana is to display their loyalty to Lord Ram. There is no better display of this than Hanuman, the ardent monkey devotee of Lord Ram. Hanuman is the personification of devotion to his one and only true master, Rama. Jatayu, the vulture, sacrifices his life to save Sita, and with his dying breath tells Rama of what happened to his beloved wife. The monkey army, under Hanuman's efforts as a chief engineer of sorts, help to build the bridge from Rameshwaram to Lanka in order to allow Rama to fight Ravana and save Sita. In this process, even the small chipmunks or squirrels help Rama by rolling in sand and providing the mortar to allow the rocks in the bridge to Lanka to remain cohesive. Valmiki uses animals to display the loyalty and honor to Rama that we humans need to demonstrate to him.
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