Thursday, June 22, 2006

How the chipmunk got its stripes

Just posted a folktale about the Chipmunk and how it got its stripes. I was told the story last week as the story of Edun in Yoruba. I asked, what is Edun and was told it's the squirrel-like creature that's got stripes. I thought "that's a chipmunk but we don't have any in West Africa" but apparently, I'm very wrong. It's a pity that all my knowledge of chipmunks came from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Anyway, I digress.

Like with every folktale I hear, I try to identify the moral of the story if there is one. I was initially simply amused that the chipmunk got away with what he did and still got to keep his pretty new stripes. Later on as I was writing the tale, I realized that the other animals reaction to the chipmunks new do was disdain and clearly not envy. So I concluded that the moral is this:

Ill-gotten wealth ends up wasted on superficial things without obvious benefit to anyone.

The ancient Yoruba (from whom this folktale originated) must have believed the chipmunk's stripes to be completely useless. Which makes me wonder..."why does the chipmunk have stripes?". Time to google...

4 comments:

Kanako Hargreaves said...

Nobody believes me when I say there are chipmunks in Africa!
So there realy are? Or was it just a tale

folktaler said...

I never saw a chipmunk in Nigeria. Which doesn't mean they don't exist. I've never seen one is the US either. Wikipedia doesn't mention their existence in Africa but my take on this is - if there's a Yoruba word for chipmunk (edun), then they must have known of its existence.

Anonymous said...

Chipmunk can be found in Africa. The IFON people of Ondo state, Nigeria use to pack it among the items of a traditional hamper presented to 16 priests during Obaloro festival... Except if edun is not truli a chipmunk

Boots said...

Chipmunks, either the Siberian kind or the chipmunk of the Eastern US and Canada, is not indigenous to Africa. If Africans had them as import pets, they might well have gotten loose, but they wouldn't last long in most African fauna or flora. They may live a decade in captivity, but they last only about 3 years in America. They are very common in New England where there are innumerable stone walls. They live in burrows but also climb trees. Most people find their antics amusing. They scurry about and chatter alot. I knew one that lived on a sailboat for 8-1/2 years with a dog aboard, sailed to Canada, Bermuda, and Europe, and never missed a sailing but would go about on land until he was called forth by name: Chita-chita-chita. He seems to have been a confirmed bachelor. He is buried in a park in Charlestown, next to Boston USA. He didn't much like squirrels, red or gray, and would chase cats away; I guess he thought them all competition.