Penguins don’t have much experience with humans, so it’s not surprising that we don’t have much experience with them. The Antarctic, was after all, except for penguins, seals and a few other sea birds, a bitterly cold, utterly inhospitable environment for human habitation. But underneath the ice shelf of the Antarctic is an incredibly rich sea environment teaming with life and extraordinary bio-diversity and a magnet for whales and other marine creatures who are drawn to the rich feeding grounds for krill and other food sources. For this reason, penguins aren’t well established in folklore or in the international lexicon of symbols. Other than a few isolated outposts on the extreme end of South Americas and New Zealand, you have to go to all the way to the Antarctic to find penguins. Whatever the penguin means to you, well, that’s what it means to you. The penguin is a symbol more open than most to a very personal interpretation.
For some, the penguin may represent a ‘nun’. Or it means ‘keeping your cool’. It’s a bird in a tuxedo, a ‘stuffed-shirt’, a waiter, the Maitre ‘D. It appears to have impeccable good manners to go along with its dapper good looks. Who doesn’t look dashing and debonair in a dinner jacket? The penguin is the James Bond of the bird world. The penguin has been co-opted by Hollywood, recruiting the bird as the hero of animated and highly anthropomorphic films in which the Emperor Penguin has featured in the the starring role.