Stories of beavers who left Sahara, of crocodiles who still live there, and of large whales that left skeletons in the Sahara desert - are they all true tales some way or other?
A Story of Young Mozart
At the tender age of two Mozart was taken to visit a farm, where he heard a pig squeal.
"G-sharp!" he exclaimed. Someone ran to the piano. G-sharp was right. [Of]
It often helps to relax and allow for some incubation time for a great tale.
Salient stories and art can help young ones to get to grips with some sides of the art of living. Fit wit and mental health may be fostered or tended to by careful tales. The best fictional tales may help many considerate parents and their just as lovely children also . . .
This took place a long time ago. At first ardent, jolly beavers, whales and sea monsters were lacking. The lack of them made tears spring from Guta, and from the tears sprang frogs fond of river-beds. Then Guta [Norwegian: Godta] wept far more. The many tears turned into the first beaver couple, and they were placed in the great Sahara woodlands that spread over north Africa to feel safe. Guta was satisfied with crying a couple.
After that, things were never the same as before, and things took other turns than expected. For there grew a tree in the smiling garden of Sahara, a tree among other kinds of trees there. That tree was pleasing to the beavers and had bark that was a delight. Yes, good bark, as the little beavers loved it.
Guta saw coming danger and said, "You are free to eat the bark from any tree in the Sahara, but if you eat lots of trees, you will make the garden into a desert. And what will you do then?"
But it was too late to say it, for the beavers had taken bites of the pleasing tree and could not be stopped.
They ate too fast
In the old Sahara garden there was a crafty crocodile. He gave some bark from the cinnamon tree to a beaver she, and she in turn shared it with her male and - suddenly they became aware they were naked beneath their fur, and wanted to build huts to cover themselves still more.
Just when they had finished building a hut, the couple heard the steps of a bear walking in the cool of the wonderful trees in Sahara. He came upon the spot where the couple had felled many trees to build a dam with a beaver hut in it, and found the hut. It was strong and well built, so he could not walk in. The two small beavers got afraid and hid behind the hut walls. This had never happened before. They had never seen the bear before. He called to the beavers,
"This is the beginning of forming a desert!"
The she-beaver answered, "We are just a couple of tiny animals, afraid and well covered." The bear said, "Who told you that? And what is this you have done?"
The she said, "The great crocodile gave me some cinnamon bark. It started with that, I think."
"Because you have done this, and eaten cinnamon bark, the Sahara garden is doomed. You will eat the bark you love so much, until no majestic forests will be left in Sahara, but mostly sand, sand dunes, dust and rocks. The punishment will in time be to go up north."
In time there was little left of the Sahara garden. The beaver family thought it better to go up north than be scorched by the flaming sun over the growing desert.
The beavers in Sahara had learnt to bring down stout trees and make huts and dams of them. The bear said: "Swim north and your king will be a giant boar, for he can tell you more."
It took a long time before they started for the north, though.
The first male beaver had many young and lived 777 years. Then he died.
A bear decided, "I see coming troubles that could put an end to all beavers." To avert that, he taught them to build a great rafter with a hut on it. When they had build it, floodwaters came down. For more than fifty days it poured down. All the water made the rafter float on a large wave over the Sahara tract and further northwards.
The beavers that drifted towards the north in a storm, sent out a little cat that could swim. When he returned to the rafter in the evening, there in its mouth was a fish! Some days later they met a polar bear who welcomed them:
"Come out and settle in these tracts beneath the northern light!"
The alfa-beaver came out and soon stressed some lemmings and bit one of them to death and served him to the rest. But the polar bear thought,
"Today a lemming, but what will he attack and kill tomorrow? I must see to that beavers do not eat other animals, or they will never cease. They can eat shrubs and bark."
The white bear also decided to send the beavers a long way away, where there were more shrubs and trees, and said,
"You should go to Scandinavia. Nobody there may know what you did to Sahara, and there will be rain and water enough for building dams. But don't eat meat from animals. Stay close to water and things may go well. Dive and swim and bulwark the huts you make, for large birds and big animals will go for you also."
Before they left Sahara, beavers had one language and a common speech. Afterward, they learnt to warn others a long way off by slapping the surface of the water with the tail, producing a loud, startling noise.
"Maybe it is not going all wrong this time," mumbled a bear as he listened to the bangs.
In building dams and huts, beavers used poles, but also stones. One fine day they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a river fort, with a tower that reaches to the shells of the skies above. Then we may better see enemies as they come near us when we try to fell trees on the ground."
But a bear happened to pass by. He saw the fort and the tower that the beavers were building, and said, "If the beavers have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do may be impossible for them, or maybe the tower will fall down during a storm. I had better stop this undertaking."
He started to tear at the tower with his paws. Soon it fell down, and from then on beavers do not want to build high towers. Besides, they had seen how large birds of prey were circling above the tower, waiting for them.
The oldest beaver said, "It is tought and fit to stay close to nature. By building high, tense, and densely, some things may worsen in the long run."
In the lakes that beavers build to swim in, swans and geese come in flocks at times, and other birds too. The dams were all right, they found.
The descendants of the beavers who built the first beaver rafter with a hut on it, in time made a giant boar their king. He set himself up and said gruffly,
"Listen, be prepared for the unexpected in good time. That is why I polish and whet my tusks: to be prepared. Otherwise, there may not be time enough to do it well on the spot if I get attacked. So learn to be prepared for the worst when things look good; do it well in time. Make sure the worst can be dealt with before it becomes hard. And be on the alert at nearly any time, just in case - forestall rightly, that is. Otherwise you may find it harder to make an escape when someone wants to get you. [Cf Fo]
"My counsel is safe enough - but it may not always be good for beavers who dive to get safe and sound."
The beavers were alert to gentle warnings and did the best they could to stay out of trouble in a way that suited them well.
Where some people see problems, others keep an eye open to opportunities.
Said about the Sahara Desert: "Beautiful big beach, isn't it?" The distance to the sea may not be a problem if underground water is pumped into lakes, but what about crocodiles? As you may be well aware of already, there are crocodiles in the Sahara desert. You may also have learnt this:
"There's a complete lack of fear of the crocodiles among the local people . . . There are no stories of attacks, even in times of duress," says Tara Shine, now a Ph.D.
"It's a really unusual, unexpected, and quite special find," said James Perran Ross of a crocodile specialist group and a research scientist at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
"The Sahara desert is definitely a surprising location to find a crocodile," Adam Britton, a zoologist and crocodilian expert concurs.
Dr Shine explains, "When the water evaporates, the crocodiles . . . pass the summer in a kind of torpor. . . . They don't eat and they keep movement down to a minimum. They sometimes come out at night and lie on the rocks outside their burrows or caves."
"There are some reports of the crocodiles hiking from a lowland wetland over the sand dunes to a guelta [water-hole] . . . There's so much to look at," she says.
The desert crocodiles are Nile crocodiles, the most widespread species in Africa. The dry-land crocodiles are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long.
The crocodiles in Mauritania are living in caves, burrows, and under rocks, near wetlands that dry up and disappear for months at a time.
(Source: Hillary Mayell, for National Geographic News, June 18, 2002)
Big whale bones in the desert
Whale skeletons were first discovered in Wadi al-Hitan, or the Valley of the Whales, in Egypt in 1902. Fossilised remains of ancestors of modern whales - whales with legs and toes - have been unearthed here. One type of whale was 20 meters long. The area that is now a desert, was at the bottom of an ocean called the Tethys Sea around 50 million years ago.
(Jack Millner for Mailonline, 15 August 2015. - also see WP, "Wadi El Hitan")
Sand dunes - size and history
Do you know just how big "the biggest beach" on the planet is? It is nearly as large as the continent of Europe, covers most of northern Africa and measures ca. 4,800 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east, with a total area of some 8,600,000 square kilometres. And to the north is the Mediterranean Sea. In the south are ancient sand dunes.
The Sahara has sometimes been larger than today, and at other times lush. The end of the last glacial period brought more rain to the Sahara, from about 8000 BCE to 6000 BCE, but once the ice sheets were gone, northern Sahara dried out. And around 3400 BCE, the monsoon retreated south to where it is today, roughly, and this led to the Sahara becoming a desert. The Sahara is now as dry as it was about 13,000 years ago. Today there are signs that the Sahara and surrounding regions are greening due to increased rainfall.
There is much more to tell about it, how whale ancestors lived there (!) as documented by their bones, and how there is much underground freshwater too. [Wikipedia]
The Great Bear in Astronomy
Talking of bears, there are two of them in the sky.
The Great Bear, Ursa Major, is a cluster of stars in the sky, a constellation in the northern sky. Greeks and others in antiquity learnt to find them and identify them by drawing lines between the brightest stars in the cluster, and imagine the lines had something to do with a bear or two. North American Indians also chose bears for these two constellations. But there are other shapes imagined onto the constellation as well: a plow, wagon (in France it was the Great Chariot), dipper, coffin, bear, or a reindeer (Lapland).
Stars in other parts of the sky have been found to belong to the same cluster. Sirius, for example, is a stray member of that cluster.
The Greeks and Romans found the Great Bear revolved the Pole Star. The seven brightest stars in it make up the Big Dipper, also called the Plow, the Wagon, and much else. For the Hindus these seven stars represent the seven seer-sages, rishis.
Long before the Greeks, Sumerians called the brightest stars of the Great Bear the "Lord-of-the-Ghost-World" and connected it with "The-Lord-the-Voice-of-the-Firmament", also called "Lord of the Night-world". "High enthroned in the north, by its splendor it awed and ruled the darkness," Brown asserts.*
In ancient China, the end of the Bear's tail was the God of War and of Averting War.
* Brown, Robert Jr. Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Babylonians, Vols 1 and 2. London: Williams and Norgate, 1899 (Ballantrae Reprint)
Great Bear Mythology
Many ancient myths link up the stars in the heaves to beings on earth. Some imagined, other beings are there too.
The beautiful young woman Callisto who was a hunter, and Zeus fell in love with her. It made his wife, Hera, trace down Callisto, and change her into a bear with human feelings. The she-bear Callisto afterwards roamed the forest day and night in fear of the hunters and of other wild beast till one day Callisto found herself face-to-face with a young and handsome hunter and recognized him as her son, Arcas. She raised up on her hind legs to embrace her son.
Thinking that the bear was about to attack him, Arcas raised his spear and was about to hurl it and kill his mother. Zeus, the king of gods on Olympus, happened to be looking down on the scene from his position on Olympus and at once turned Arcas into a bear too. Zeus then grasped each bear by its tail and tugged and tugged until he had managed to lift both high into the sky, Callisto as Ursa Major and her son Arcas as Ursa Minor. This tugging of tails over such a long journey through the sky, stretched both tails and explains why the celestial bears, unlike earthly ones, have long tails. The tail of Arcas became even longer since he was continuously swung around the sky by the end-star in his tail, Polaris (the current polar star).
In this way the Great Bear got a honoured places in the heavens, and to this day both the Lesser Bear and the Greater Bear are held high in the sky near the Pole Star, never allowed to sink beneath the sea horizon.
The Lesser Bear or Little Dipper
Ursa Minor, often called the Little Dipper, is a constellation in the northern sky. The handle of the little dipper is the tail of the "little bear". For a bear it is an unusually long tail. It was said to have been lengthened when it was held by the tail and spun around the pole (the center of the sky).
The Greeks related Ursa Minor and Ursa Major to the myth of Callisto and Arcas. But in a variant of the story, Ursa Minor was thought to represent a dog. This is the tradition which sensibly explains one of the names of the North Star, Polaris: Cynosura (the dog's tail).
In early Greek mythology, the seven stars of the Little Dipper were considered to be the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas. And in earliest times, Ursa Minor was named the Dragon's wing.
The Polar Bear
The polar bear Ursus maritimus, also called White Bear, Water Bear, Sea Bear, or Ice Bear is found throughout Arctic regions, mainly on drifting ice floes. Excellent swimmers, they are seldom found more than a kilometre or two from the sea. The polar bear is inedible, poisonous, and since 1973 much protected by an international agreement.
Its skin is not white, but as black as its snout. The whitish fur offers camouflage in ice and snow. It travels swiftly and widely. It swims very well, and stalks seal. It also eats fish, seaweed, grass, birds, and a stranded whale now and then.
The male weight from about 410 to 720 kg and grows to about 1.6 m at the shoulder and is up to 2.5 m long. The tail is 7-12 cm long. The hairy soles of its broad feet protect and insulate it from the cold and also eases moving on ice. The neck is long, the head quite small. The bear is dangerous when confronted or attacked, and regards humans as suitable prey.
Cubs weigh 500 gram to 1 kg at birth and stay with their mother for up to 2 years.
The Beaver stands for Libido (Id) in this Context
The beaver (Castor fiber) is the largest Eurasian rodent. Their bodies measure up to 80 cm. They live in ponds, marshes, streams, rivers, and shorelines of large lakes and construct dams of branches, stones, and mud. They also landscape large ponds that often cover many hectares.
Small front feet grab and hold food and are used for much else. The hind feet are quite large, and the five "toes" are webbed, and makes them good but slow swimmers, even underwater. The beaver tail is tail is scaly, flat, and paddle-shaped. It gets almost half a meter long and 13 cm wide.
Beaver lodges are usually 3 metres high and 6 metres across the base but can be as large as 5 metres high and 12 metres wide. A tunnel entrance or more are found below the water's surface, and leads into a spacious central hall.
They feed on the soft layer beneath bark in trees and twigs, and also eat buds, leaves, and whole twigs of such as willows and aspens -
Beavers work a lot. They fell shrubs, saplings, and trees, cut them into portable lengths, and drag them as best they can along mud slides or float them through beaver-made canals to the lodge.
Beaver fur was once much in vogue. [Ebu "beaver"]
Cue: The beaver may be used as a favourite identification or symbol of the human id (libido, zest, and so on).
Speaking of libido, it is guessed at. Most renowned among libido guessers is Sigmund Freud. There are good guesses and other guesses. Guesswork can be good. Heuristics (the art of finding out) uses and schools just that. If you need grey-bearded people to guess for you, hope that what they tell is all right for young ones with more hair, fewer titles and no beard too.
Maybe it doesn't matter full well how cute and handy you are in yourself if the others you depend on, don't appreciate it.
The ten stories above are about facets of growing up and finding one's identity, told of in masked ways. Many sorts of stories do such things. To pass on facets of the culture, or main facets of the meanings of getting adult, is quite a lot. Story-telling may assist enculturation and maturation, in other words.
Often seemingly simple things are among the most difficult. "In actual life it requires the greatest discipline to be simple", asserted the Swiss Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. [In "Psychotherapists or the Clergy - A Dilemma", in Cw v 11]
Cw: Jung, Carl Gustav. Collected Works. New York: Pantheon (Bollingen Series, Vols 1-20), 1957-1979.
Dq: Cohen, J. M and M. J. The New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations. Rev ed. London: Viking, 1992.
EB: Encyclopædia Britannica is the same as Britannica Online.
Fo: Handford, S. tr. Fables of Aesop. New ed. London: Penguin, 1964.
Of: Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.
Tpd: Keegan, Desmond, ed. Theoretical principles of distance education. London: Routledge, 1993.
Tram: James, Muriel. Transactional Analysis for Moms and Dads. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1974.
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