Yesterday I noticed with alarm that this video is now six years old. It was the third video I ever attempted to make and you can see now that I was already deeply down the rabbit hole in wonders – both beaver and research oriented. I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, so it was an easy weekend to spend gathering stories of beavers in native lore, although a much, much harder task forcing the information into a film with my very new skills. At that time, we had only two beavers, so they were fairly easy to keep track of. No one knew about mom’s tail marking, and no kits had ever been born. I didn’t know about grey Owl when I made this, just found the photo on the web and thought it should be included. You’ll note that the video doesn’t say Worth A Dam at the end, because at the time I made this there WAS NO SUCH thing. In fact, the city hadn’t even committed itself to killing them yet, although it had tossed around the idea. Ahh memories.
Feeling nostalgic I posted this on our Scottish friend’s facebook page, asking about beavers in celtic mythology and Paul Scott (who is one of the Tay beaver champions), replied that he personally had always thought about the Kelpie or water-horse as a likely celtic or pictish representation of a beaver. This is the most depicted animal on scottish stones and no one knows what they might have referred to. Of course there are no more Kelpie’s in Scotland but until recently there were no more beavers either – coincidence? This was was so intriguing I had to start researching and reading all over again.
Stone carvings of this mysterious ‘pictish beast’ are seen all over Scotland. It has been described as like a seahorse, or a dinosaur. In most tales the Kelpie is noted to be very black, very at home in the water, but breathing air. Usually only its eyes are seen above the surface of the water, it’s very strong and its mane is constantly dripping. It’s fur is smooth like a seals but it is deathly cold to the touch. The mythical beast has both sinister and magical properties, In tales it lures children into the water to offer it rides on its back, sometimes even changing its length to hold as many as 20. Then it dives, drowning and devouring them. In many tales the Kelpie acts like fresh water mermaid to take the shape of beautiful woman to lure the men to their deaths beneath the water.
Here’s a famous tale of a Kelpie victim from an 1889 retelling. It’s beautifully archaic language, but give it a try.
A party o’ Highlanders were busily engaged, ae day in harvest, in cutting down the corn o’ that field; an’ just aboot noon, when the sun shone brightest an’ they were busiest in the work, they heard a voice frae the river exclaim, “The hour but not the man has come.”
Sure enough, on looking round, there was the kelpie stan’in’ in what they ca’ a fause ford, just foment the auld kirk (old church). There is a deep black pool baith aboon an’ below, but i’ the ford there ‘s a bonny ripple, that shows, as ane might think, but little depth o’ water; an’ just i’ the middle o’ that, in a place where a horse might swim, stood the kelpie. An’ it again repeated its words, “The hour but not the man has come,” an’ then flashing through the water like a drake, it disappeared in the lower pool.
Spooky huh? A man on horseback then comes crashing down the hill to try and get to the Kelpie, but his friends stop him and lock him up to protect him, whereupon he promptly drowns himself in a water trough, because some fates you can’t be protected from, I guess. Ain’t that the truth.
Speaking of the hour coming…guess who graduated from high school this weekend? Our good friend Ian Timothy who will be off to CalArts in the fall for their experimental animation program. Here he is posing with his rightfully beaming parents. The ceremonial cords represent National Art Honor Society.
Can I say how much like yesterday it seems when I first saw Ian’s Beaver Creek animation? He was 13 when he made it. Ian has been part of the Martinez Beaver story since there was a story. He and his parents visited last year, and the entire beaver world wrote letters on his behalf when the beavers in draught park were threatened. Still not convinced his graduation is relevant news for a beaver website? He asked me to submit letters of recommendation to colleges (which I did) and when he was being wooed by two amazing art and design schools and not sure which to pick I asked the producer of the Beaver Whisperer’s documentary and she asked her animator who pitched in with excellent advice on where he should go! Small, small beaver world.
Ian has already gathered such an amazing wealth of awards and experiences he won’t need beaver contacts or praise from me anymore, but I’m so proud and grateful our paths crossed that I had to send him this photo I found on the web. Yes that’s a cake showing a beaver graduating. I don’t know why either.