Hedgehog
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Source: George Warner, 1912 (Queen Mary's Psalter) Copyright 2003-2004 David Badke Manuscript description British Library, Royal MS 2 B. vii, Folio 97v


 

Hedgehog

Latin name: Herinacius

Other names: Echinus, Ericio, Erišon, Herišon, Hericus, Herison

A beast that carries away grapes on its sharp quills

 

 
General Attributes

The hedgehog has the appearance of a young pig, but is entirely covered with sharp spines or quills, which protect it from danger. When it is time for the harvest, the hedgehog goes into a vineyard, and climbing up a vine, shakes the grapes off onto the ground. It then rolls around on the fallen grapes to spear them with its quills, so it can carry the fruit home to feed its young. (Some say that the fruit the hedgehog carries away is the apple or fig.) A cooked hedgehog can be used to make medicine. When the hedgehog notices the approach of a man, it rolls itself into a ball so its spines protect it, and creaks like a cart to fool the man. Hedgehogs can detect the direction the wind is blowing from; when the wind comes from the north, the hedgehog closes the north hole of its lair.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 56): To prepare for winter, hedgehogs roll on fallen apples to stick them to their spines, then taking one or more in their mouths, carry the load to hollow trees. Hedgehogs foretell a change in wind direction from north to south when they retire to their lairs. When hunted, they roll up into a ball so that it is not possible to pick them up without touching their spines.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 3:7): The hedgehog is covered with quills, which it stiffens when threatened, and rolling itself into a ball is thus protected on all sides. After it cuts a bunch of grapes off a vine it rolls over them so it can carry the grapes to its young on its quills.

St Antony of Padua [12th-13th century CE] (Sermons): Sinners are compared to hedgehogs. Note that the hedgehog is altogether full of prickles; and if any one tries to take it, it rolls itself up, and becomes as it were a ball in the hand of the holder. Its head and its mouth are set low down, and inside its mouth are five teeth. The hedgehog is the obstinate sinner, covered all over with the prickles of sins. If you endeavour to convince him of the sin he has committed, he immediately rolls himself up, and hides, by excusing, his fault. And thus it may be said that his head and mouth are set low down. By the head, we understand, the thoughts; by the mouth, the words. While the sinner excuses himself with respect to the sin he has done, what else is it than that he bows his mind and his words down to the ground? Whence also he is said to have five teeth in his mouth, which are the five kinds of excuses that are found in the mouth of the obstinate. For, when he is blamed, he excuses himself either by ignorance or chance, or the suggestion of the devil, or the frailty of his flesh, or the occasion given by his neighbour. (MediŠval preachers and mediŠval preaching: A series of extracts, translated from the sermons of the middle ages, chronologically arranged; with notes and an introduction (London, 1856) Neale translation)


Illustration

The hedgehog is usually depicted as climbing a vine or rolling in fruit, either grapes or apples.


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