||Hedgehog in Cosmogonic and Etiological Legends of the Balto-Balcanic Area
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||The mythical hedgehog is an ambiguous being. In the available bestiaries it can interchangeably be perceived as a positive (benefactor of humans, God’s helper) or a negative creature (evildoer, Devil’s agent). It remains similarly ambiguous also in the cosmogonic narratives: here it brings up mud on its spines from the bottom of the ocean, so that God could create Earth, or advises God to squeeze the freshly created Earth, in order to make it go under the sky, and thus successfully complete the Creation. On the one hand, the hedgehog acts here as a God’s helper. On the other, however, the squeezed Earth becomes jagged, thus causing emergence of mountains and valleys, which are generally associated with the Devil’s activities. Moreover, the hedgehog sometimes even attempts to harm God. Besides, in some variants of the narrative about squeezing of Earth, to make it go under the sky, the role of the hedgehog is taken over by the Devil, and there are even such stories, wherein Devil is himself squeezing or crumpling the Earth.
The cosmogonic stories with hedgehog as an actor have been recorded along the whole length of the “Amber Road”, connecting the Baltic Sea to the Balkans; moreover, hedgehog also appears in the Northern Russia, in the etiological myths of the Finno-Ugrian Veps and Siberian Buriats, describing the emergence of various tribes, and that is not yet the end to it. Because the hedgehog tends to perform the Devil’s functions in the dualistic cosmogonic narratives, in the Balkans it used to be linked up with the Bogomils of the Manichean deviation. However, Mircea Eliade proved this dualism to be of “Slavonic” kind rather than of the Manichean origin.
Nevertheless, the cosmogonic story, wherein the hedgehog advises God to squeeze the Earth so that it could go under the sky, is also well known among the Balts, especially Latvians, in whose stories the hedgehog’s role can also be taken over by the Devil.
In numerous variants of this etiological legend the origins of the hedgehog’s coat of spines gets explained as well: God has gratefully given it, so that hedgehog could defend itself from its enemies. But there are also quite different stories, interpreting the same thing, e.g. according to one Lithuanian etiological legend, the hedgehog had nice soft hair in the beginning, but after having hurt itself upon the fir tree’s needles it started grumbling, snubbing at the fir tree and boasting of its own soft hair, thus causing God’s wrath. Therefore God gave it “needles” too, and even far more pointed ones, than those of a fir tree. Here, the hedgehog’s spines seem to be God’s punishment, rather than a gift; thus reminding us again of its dualism mentioned above.
||dualistic cosmogonic narratives; mythical hedgehog; Balto-Balcanic Area;