I’m having one of those days when I feel like Maria from “The Sound of Music.” But, instead of singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I have the urge to sing about beaver fur pillows and Native American legends. You have to admit; it promises to be a pretty darned original song!
Oh, what the HEY! I’m going to give it a go. Everybody sing along to the tune of “My Favorite Things”!
Beaver fur pillows with Indian legends.
Bright leather runners all wrapped up as presents.
Handcrafted placemats to match your décor.
We make the things you can’t find in a store!
You see, this is one of those days when all seems right with the world and I realize that I am a very fortunate person because I get to do what I love to do, every single day. Designing new products happens to be one of my favorite things. I get to combine my love of art, history and the West. I am particularly pleased by the fact that our products are so much “bigger” than what they appear to be. To me, they’re as big as the history they represent! And few products have a bigger history than those that are crafted with beaver fur.
It would be impossible to cover the importance of the beaver in Native American folklore, in one blog post. The tales and the symbolism vary from tribe to tribe, and the legends are endless. In stories, some tribes tell of industrious beavers that persevered through adversity. That makes sense since the beaver does have a reputation for being busy! In other tribes, the beaver represents selfishness. If you’ve ever wanted to get beavers to stop destroying the trees on your land, that makes sense, as well! Some legends tell about the beaver being responsible for a worldwide flood, while others tell of the beaver equivalent of the tooth fairy.
(Slightly) Fractured Beaver Tales
Do you remember watching “Fractured Fairy Tales” on television? I used to love those. As I started collecting Native American Tales about the beaver for this blog post, I realized that I would never be able to do the original stories justice. So, I’ve decided to paraphrase a couple of my favorite beaver tales. Hopefully, they aren’t too fractured!
How the Beaver Got His Tail
The Ojibwe tell the legend of “How the Beaver Got His Tail.” In the story, the beaver was originally very proud of his fluffy tail. He went from animal to animal boasting about his attractive posterior. We’ve all heard enough mythology to know this kind of pride did not bode well for the fluffy tailed beaver. His boasting irritated the other animals. In a huff, the beaver went into the woods to cut down trees. (Cue the ominous music. Dum, dum, dum!) That is when a tree landed on the beaver’s tail and turned it into a flatso! The beaver was devastated until the Creator told him the other creatures liked him for his kindness rather than his tail. The Creator told the beaver how to utilize his flat tail for swimming and signaling. From then on, the beaver stopped his endless bragging and his popularity among the other animals soared! I wonder what his KLOUT score was.
The Pretty Woman
Lenape legend tells of a woman who was punished for being rude to Beaver. Long before the Julia Roberts’ movie, there was a pretty Lenape woman. She was so pretty that all of the men wanted her as a wife. But she would have none of them. One day, Beaver, Skunk and Owl had a meeting and decided they wanted her as a wife. Well, sure! That makes sense. She wouldn’t have any of the regular men. Maybe she was holding out for an animal!
She turned Owl away by saying that he was ugly and his eyes were too large. Harsh!
She turned Skunk away by saying that he was ugly and he smelled bad. Harsh, but let’s face it . . . it’s understandable.
Beaver was a clever suitor and planned a way to claim the pretty woman for his own. Beaver must have heard a fairy tale or two himself, because he knew that damsels in distress are usually much more receptive to living happily ever after. So, Beaver went to the creek and chewed through a log where the pretty woman normally stood while collecting water. The following morning, the pretty woman stood on the log and went, “Splat!” into the water. Beaver immediately went to her rescue. Before rescuing her, he proposed marriage. But, the pretty woman scorned Beaver by saying that he was ugly and that his teeth were too big and his tail was too flat. In hindsight, perhaps the pretty woman should have said she would like some time to consider his proposal on dry land. But she didn’t. So Beaver left her, and returned to Owl and Skunk, presumably because they understood his pain. In the meantime, the pretty woman was washed away and drowned.
Yeah, those Native American legends aren’t always so cheery!
Images of the Beaver can be found carved in totem poles throughout the Pacific Northwest. Cherokee and Creek tribes include a beaver dance in their ceremonial traditions. So, you see, the beaver is far more than just an animal with big teeth that fells trees and builds dams. The beaver is the stuff of which legends are made. When I admire our beaver fur bolsters, that’s what I see. I see a few of my favorite things, and I hope you do too! Have a look-see!
Happy Trails, y’all!