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. 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.
Don Quixote did not accept reality and he loved to challenge everyday life. He became an influential character, hence the word ‘quixotic’, used to describe things that are idealistic, unrealistic and impractical.
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.
‘I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill’ – William Shakespeare.