The windmill is a universal symbol of life, hope, serenity and resilience. It is widely used in literature, music and films to represent fascinating, important, diverse and mystical matters. Its symbolism is so powerful that it has created many idioms, sayings and metaphors. Here are some examples:
‘Tilting at windmills’ is an idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies. It originates from the novel Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes in 17th century. Don Quixote had a vivid imagination and was seen as a crazy man. He did not accept reality and loved to challenge everyday life. In the book he fights with windmills, because he sees them as giants who will hurt him. His adventures are interpreted as a metaphor that individuals can be right while society is wrong.
The character and its reference to windmills is one of the most influential and well known in the history of literature. This reference is used by many, for example:
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) is a comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam. The novel inspired Terry Gilliam to write a script for a film. It inspired him because he saw themes that run through his own work, such as individual versus society and the concept of sanity.
Another example from literature of the use of windmill reference, is seen in Animal Farm by George Orwell. The windmill represents hope and progress. However, it is also used to symbolise the totalitarian triumph of the pigs. All the animals are involved in building it and they believe it will benefit them all. Whereas in fact the windmill is only there for the pigs.
Many song lyrics used windmill as a metaphor. For example, the band Gorillaz uses windmill as reference in their song Feel Good Inc. The song is about destructive activities that make us feel good such as meaningless sex. Windmill is used as metaphor to remember that most important is to love others. Love is what makes the world go round.
“Windmill, windmill for the land
Turn forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is ticking, falling down
Love forever, love is freely
Turned forever, you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?” – Gorillaz