Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ratatoskr, the Messenger Squirrel

Thanks to dondelion for passing along this information on Ratatoskr. In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr (anglicized Ratatosk) ("drilling tooth", an apt description of a squirrel) is a red squirrel who runs up and down the Great World Tree Yggdrasil, carrying messages between Veorfolnir, the Eagle who lives at the top of the Tree, and Niohoggr, the Dragon who lives in the Great Tree's roots. This entry from Wikipedia says Ratotoskr not only carries messages among the worlds, he also carries gossip. Not being able to read Old Norse, I am unable to vouch for the translation that is provided at this website. I don't know who put the website together, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information. Still, it's a fascinating look at the world of the skalds back in the old old days. Skalds were, I gather, the carriers of ancient oral tradition, troubadours, poets, entertainers, diplomats, teachers and carriers of the old ways. This is (evidently) the only line in Snorri's Edda that talks about Ratatoskr: Ikorni sá er heitir Ratatoskr, renn upp ok niðr eptir askinum ok berr öfundarorð milli arnarins ok Niðhöggs. (The squirrel called Ratatoskr runs up and down the ash-tree, carrying hateful words between the eagle and Nidhogg). My initial take on this is that Ratatoskr has some aspects of Lokki, the mischief-maker - but I wasn't able to find anything else under a quick search on the internet. Anyone out there know more about the traditional role of Ratatoskr in Norse mythology???

1 comment:

Captain Chaos said...

Growing up, my father told me incredible Magic Squirrel stories. I have continued that tradition with my kids, including giving the Magic Squirrel an extensive back story.

He is, of course, Ratatoskr.

Now it has carried to a third generation. My eight year old girl makes up magic squirrel stories sometimes.

so - long live Ratatoskr!

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