Terrouge E-zine Archives
Mythologica Redwallia: Squirrels
In the Redwall world, the name of Martin is known to goodbeasts everywhere as a champion of justice. Vilu Daskar was known up and down the northwest coast for the murderous path he left behind him. Guess what? They're not the only animals with a following!
Mythologica Redwallia aims to let you in on how Redwall animals are seen in today's world - like where you can find that animal in literature and film - and the world of the past - including ancient beliefs from all over the world. Let's get started!
I'll be alternating every other column with a popular creature, then an obscure one - and in a few issues, I'll post some info on how to request your favorite Redwall animal! We begin with one such popular beast today. In celebration of the release of Triss - the Squirrel!
Squirrels are recognized for having personalities likened to that of daredevil athletes when they are seen leaping from branch to branch. They are light on their feet, curious, with sharp, birdlike movements; their bounding jumps become art as they fairly fly through the air. Squirrels are also incorrigibly mischievous (if you've ever read Patrick McDonnell's comic strip Mutts, you know this), constantly playing innocent pranks on friends and foes alike.
We all know that mythology and ancient spiritual beliefs, especially pertaining to animals, is not limited to Greek or Egyptian culture. The Norse (Scandinavian) squirrel Ratatösk is a prime example.
When Odin and his brothers defeated the great giant Ymir before life began, they used his remains to construct the earth. A giant ash tree called Yggdrasil supported their creation, and each of its three roots stretched to Niflheim, a land of ice and mist; Asgard, home of the gods; and Jotunheim, land of the giants, respectively.
A giant serpent called Nidoggr (and sometimes Nidhogg) lived near the root of Niflheim, and, loyal to the defeated giants, continually attempted to gnaw at the trunk and bring down the tree of Yggdrasil. A golden eagle perched atop Yggdrasil, loyal to the gods, warned Odin and company whenever giants came to attack. The squirrel Ratatösk (Old Norse for "swift teeth") scurries up and down the trunk of Yggdrasil, mischievously trading hateful words between the two. He is a renowned symbol of gossip and mischief.
According to Native American beliefs, all albino animals were not to be hunted. In particular, if an albino squirrel were killed, the hunter would lose his ability to hunt. The Cherokee believed that eating squirrel meat caused rheumatism (disorders involving stiffness or pain in the muscles or joints) and the deaths of nut-bearing crops.
Today, squirrels are far easier to find than their mythological counterparts. Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, the story of a disrespectful young squirrel who gets his just desserts in the end (that's a hint…) and the lesser-known Tale of Timmy Tip-Toes are both children's books starring the little rodents.
In the book version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Veruca Salt meets the end of her stay at the chocolate factory when she's deemed a "bad nut" by Wonka's squirrels.
Also, for those who were watching ROC: Survivor 2, you might have noticed Mittsu, and in Questors Bold here at Terrouge, Mortari. Another squirrel in such a contest was Red Venture's Kurba Kasseven! (Kurba was just recently voted out, but you can still read his great work at the RedVenture site!)
Here is where we discuss the general ROC stereotype of the reviewed animal, and how it is exploited - or abused.
Squirrels on the ROC are normally quick, both in mind and in body, and are often seen equipped with a bow and quiver of arrows. Squirrels, though, aren't often overly abused beyond the normal rigmarole of super-character traits - odd-colored fur, Bloodwrath, etc. - and are sometimes used with greater care and control than in the books, though they don't stray far from their set stereotype.
However, the most pertinent mistake specific to squirrels, I think, would be a lack of mental flaws. Usually squirrels have physical strengths that are balanced by a quick temper or an overly mischievous personality that can get them into trouble. Not all of them are prolific leaders or brainiacs (not to mention literate!).
If you'd like to know more, check out my bibliography below. If you find a discrepancy in the information above, tell me about it! If it's legit (and if it's a discrepancy, not just additional information I didn't find), I'll give you credit for it in the next issue.
I make sure to post next month's subject in advance (see below), so if you have any legends or famous characters you'd like me to include, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Next month: Bats! See you then!
Special thanks to Shorestar for her help in my research and the great title!
1999 World Book CD-ROM
Encyclopedia Mythica (http://www.pantheon.org): "Albino Spirit Animals" by Gerald Musinsky
Home of the Squirrel (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1734/)
The Scholarly Squirrel (http://www.geocities.com/squirrelworld/index.html)