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

The hedgehog saves the world

by Daniel Mackie April 04, 2020

In a Bulgarian legend The sun and the moon were planning to get married and have a large family. All the animals were invited to the wedding. But just as the ceremony was about to start, the Sun noticed his great friend the hedgehog wasn't there. He couldn't imagine why he would miss the occasion. Concerned, the Sun went to look his friend. 

Read More

Hare painting in Progress

by Daniel Mackie April 01, 2020

I have a thing about hares!  lots of mythology about them and they are fast! Thsi oen is nearly finished. I wanted to get something of the weather into this one. Also you'll notice my continued love affair with water is still alive and well!

Read More

Easter Bunny From East Yorkshire

by Daniel Mackie March 30, 2020

How about this!  Katie Brown from East Yorkshire has made a wonderful drawing using one of my designs as inspiration. I love it! Keep up the good work Katie. I really like the composition and the little bugs flying around on the other

Read More