Both a hyena and a flock of scavenging birds circle the safari camp as Harry gradually succumbs to his gangrene infection. As animals that eat carrion, these creatures are omens of Harry’s impending death. Accordingly, they appear throughout the story at moments when death, or Harry’s awareness of it, is especially close. At one point, Harry deflects a question by pointing to the birds and saying, “I’m dying now. Ask those bastards.” More birds arrive as Harry’s death creeps ever closer: “The birds no longer waited on the ground. They were all perched heavily in a tree. There were many more of them.” The animals’ growing numbers and urgency create a sense of momentum and dread. The hyena, too, is directly connected to Harry’s impending death at various points throughout the story. When he feels death approach for the first time, for example, he notes that “the odd thing was that the hyena slipped lightly along the edge of it.” The animal is a physical reflection of the fate awaiting Harry, and he begins to fixate on it as his mind grows weaker and more confused. Harry eventually tells Helen that death can take on any form, including “the wide snout of a hyena,” just as he feels death itself lay its head on his cot. It is also notably the hyena’s cry that awakens Helen in the night and alerts her to Harry’s eventual passing.
The Hyena and Birds Quotes in The Snows of Kilimanjaro
And just then it occurred to him that he was going to die. It came with a rush; not as a rush of water nor of wind; but of a sudden evil-smelling emptiness and the odd thing was that the hyena slipped lightly along the edge of it.