Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You know nothing about Lemmings!

Following a conversation with a young person about activities which "everybody does", I stopped myself from uttering the old canard about people jumping off bridges. I didn't even mention the Lemmings - those little rodents living in the north of Canada and along the same latitudes throughout Europe and Asia with a reputation for tossing themselves off cliffs in large numbers at the behest of some inner compulsion.

In fact it's all tosh. They don't throw themselves off cliffs. They migrate for food across vast distances where they are easy prey for owls and foxes. Most of them end up being dinner not suicide. A few of them fail to make it across rivers.

But no cliffs. They're smarter than that.

In order to create the myth of the suicidal lemming for their film "The White Wilderness" the Walt Disney people, in 1958 needed to transport large numbers of intelligent and self-preserving lemmings from the Canadian north to a suitable cliff down south from which they were tossed off with a turntable contraption for the benefit of the camera.

Without the commercial interests behind the enterprise, the poor creatures would be up on the tundra enjoying the Midnight Sun and munching on some sedge.

Lemmings know better. So should you!

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