Badassed and bushy-tailed

We are told, generally, that members of the family Sciuridae are meek, harmless, and no threat to anyone. The old Norse beg to differ:

In Norse mythology, Ratatosk (“Sharptooth”) is a squirrel, running up and down with messages in the giant tree Yggdrasil, and spreading gossip. In particular, Ratatosk ferried insults between the eagle at the top of Yggdrasil, and the dragon Nidhogg beneath its roots.

Not a task assigned to the meek and/or harmless, though not what you’d call a high-status job either. And apparently it’s in character:

Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell theorize [in Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006] that “the role of Ratatosk probably derived from the habit of European tree squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) to give a scolding alarm call in response to danger. It takes little imagination for you to think that the squirrel is saying nasty things about you.”

Well, nuts to you, pal.

(Prompted by this tweet from Jon G.)


  1. GradualDazzle »

    1 September 2011 · 7:16 pm

    The only good skwerl is a fricasseed skwerl.

  2. Tatyana »

    1 September 2011 · 8:52 pm

    this is uncanny.
    I just finished Agatha Christie’ paperback “The Hollow”, where one of the clues appears to be a doodle scratched on a table in a pool house. The doodle was made by one of the guests of a country house (naturally), a sculptress, and presented a tree. The Ygdrasil tree.

  3. CGHill »

    1 September 2011 · 8:59 pm

    If you want to check synchronicity, I actually wrote that at 9:00 (Central) last night and left it on its side for half a day to mature.

  4. Tatyana »

    2 September 2011 · 5:42 am

    I finished the book on Wed

  5. fillyjonk »

    2 September 2011 · 7:16 am

    “Meek and harmless”? Have they ever seen CAMPUS squirrels? Which have got so habituated to humans that they practically walk up to someone who’s eating their lunch outside and go, “Hey…you gonna finish those fries or what?”

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