The nature of squirrels

by Gail Emerson September 29, 2016

A tail with two sides

Do you think of our bushy tailed friends as industrious or mischievous? I think I can both sides lurking in our DM Collection friend. He's in full nut-gathering mode, but wait - is that a twinkle in his eye?

Shop the DM Squirrel design or explore the whole Woodland Collection

Packing away nuts ready of the cold annual winter's famine - squirrels are certainly well-prepared and responsible. Yet in folklore across the world, squirrels are also seen as cheeky and mischievous. 

In Old Norse myth the squirrel Ratatoskr uses timeless tactics like 'did you hear what he said about your mother?' to provoke conflict between the creatures living in the great tree. Native American legends also show the squirrel as a mischievous prankster. These cultures also hold the belief that the squirrel was once a huge beast, bigger than great bears, but seeing how aggressive the giant squirrel was the Creator shrunk him down to his current size. This frustration could well be what leads him to his tricks.

Centuries later Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin is also an impertinent fellow. Whilst the other squirrels are meekly grateful to the Owl for allowing them to collect nuts from his trees, little Nutkin taunts him with irritating riddles. Eventually, the small squirrel goes too far and the Owl threatens to skin him alive. He is spared but from then on is much less keen on riddles. 

But there is the other side of a squirrel's nature. The squirrel industriously spends his time storing food for the winter, showing a foresight and commitment that is surely a great moral for any story. The squirrel is also used to show the benefits of kindness to others in fable.  In adaptations of the Ant and the Grasshopper, a band of squirrels save the reckless grasshopper in the depths of winter, after he has been refused help by the hardworking ant. The grasshopper then plays his fiddle for them and they all enjoy a winter's party.  

There is also a fable telling of a group of three red squirrels who find their cheeky grey cousin has stored most of the nuts before they can get them. He refuses to share with them and they suffer a precarious winter existence. Next year the tables are turned, as the three reds get to the nuts first. 

So which side of the squirrel's character appeals to you? Either one there's always a tail to tell. 

Shop the DM Squirrel design or explore the whole Woodland Collection

 




Gail Emerson
Gail Emerson

Author



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in News / Work in progress / Mythology

Emperor Pingu

by Harry Miller December 03, 2018

“Noot Noot!” That’s hello in "Pinguish" or "Penguinese”, and is the language spoken by the children’s TV sensation, ‘Pingu’ - possibly the most famous penguin in the world, having been broadcasted in no less than 150 countries.  

Read More

A Werecat in London

by Harry Miller November 05, 2018

It seems that wherever man has been, and a cat of some sort, you’ll find tales of people shapeshifting into felines.  In fact the only places on earth where it’s safe from the werecat are Australia and Antartica; two continents which don't have a native cat - I hear they have their hands full with werekangeroo’s and werepenguine’s as it is!

Read More

To Cross One's Path

by Harry Miller November 01, 2018

To see one of these animals on their own is good luck, and if it crosses your path then you can expect great gains in life, rubbing the animals fat on your bonce will cure baldness, and carrying the animals teeth around with you will treat a bad leg.   But to see one near your house, or even worse, to see many of these animals together, spells dooooom!, and if you’re bitten by one of these animals you’ll have no more than 7 years to live.

Read More