• Hedgehogs In Literature

    Hedgehogs have been a figure displayed in various forms of literature and media for thousands of years. Some accounts are close to realistic, some are quite comedic and exaggerated.

    Some of the earliest mentions of hedgehogs can be found in ancient Greek, Chinese, and English poetry and plays. The Greek lyric poet Archilochus wrote "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." in the middle of the 7th century BC.
    In the 9th century, Chinese poet Chu Chen Pu wrote
    "He ambles along like a walking pincushion,
    Stops and curls up like a chestnut burr.
    He's not worried because he's so little.
    Nobody is going to slap him around"

    Shakespeare also made mention of hedgehogs, though not with such a pleasant opinion of their virtues. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, he penned
    "You spotted snakes with double tongue,
    Thorny hedgehogs, not be seen;
    Newts and blindworms, do no wrong;
    Come not near our Fairy Queen."
    And in King Richard III,
    "Dost grant me hedgehog? Then, God grant me too
    Thou mayst be ****ed for that wicked deed!
    O, he was gentle, mild and virtuous."

    Hedgehogs have also made their appearance in philosophy, in texts such as Isaiah Berlin's "Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History" where Tolstoy's comparison of hedgehogs and people who see everything in life as relating to a single central system, and The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities by Stephen Jay Gould who branches out from Archilochus' poem (above) to compare science and the humanities.

    Probably the most well-known hedgehog in literature would be Mrs. Tiggywinkle from the Beatrix Potter books. Mrs. Tiggywinkle was a washerwoman hedgehog who found the missing handkerchiefs and "pinny" of a little girl and returned them to her freshly washed and starched. She is described in the story with "Her little black nose went sniffle, sniffle, snuffle, and her eyes went twinkle, twinkle; and underneath her cap -- where Lucie had yellow curls -- that little person had PRICKLES!"(taken from Mrs. Tiggywinkle) If you haven't had the opportunity to read Mrs Tiggywinkle by Beatrix Potter, it can be found online at University of Virginia Library.

    Another author that has an obvious enjoyment of hedgehogs is Jan Brett. She has some books that include a hedgehog as a main character, such as Hedgie's Surprise, The Hat, and The Mitten. Hedgehogs also appear quite frequently in her other books if you look closely at the side and bottom panels. One where hedgehogs can be seen quite frequently is "The Trouble With Trolls", where a hedgehog makes itself at home in the trolls' den while they are out causing mischief. More information on Jan Brett and her extensive collection of books can be found at Jan Brett's web site.

    The small childrens' section at some book stores is a good place to find books featuring hedgehogs. Some of these that I personally have in my collection include "Hazel The Hedgehog" by Grandreams USA publisher where Hazel looks for a playmate that won't be scared away by her quills, and "Holly the Hedgehog" of the "Not So" Cuddly Pet Board Book collection by Paradise Press Inc, where Holly goes in seek of food, defends herself from a fox, and finds a treat left in a garden. These are both hard board books designed for toddlers, and were a great hit with my children when they were little.

    Another children's selection is The Three Hedgehogs, by Javier Saez Castan. In this book, three hedgehogs lead a farmer and posse on a chase after the hedgehogs steal some apples from the farmers orchard. After the hedgehogs are captured, a surprise witness speaks up to change the verdict in the trial. This book is technically geared for children, but some critics feel that it is most likely to be enjoyed by adults who are more able to understand the political entendre and subtle humor.

    The Happy Hedgehog, by Marcus Pfister and Diego Lasconi, is the story of a young hedgehog who goes out to do something great after his grandfather accused him of being lazy and says he needs to go make something of himself. In the end, the young hedgehog discovers that the best way to be happy and productive is by following the path that his own interests and knowledge directs him in.

    Also available in the children's section is "One Snowy Night" by M. Christina Butler. This is a story about a hedgehog who recieves a gift from Father Christmas that isn't really appropriate for him, and chooses to share the special gift with his friends to help cheer them up. It is a good story to encourage sharing in small children.

    The most well known modern day character commonly appearing in books, comics, and video games is Sonic the Hedgehog, a quite speedy blue fellow who is somewhat of a superhero, rushing through the games in search of special rings. This hedgehog has brought attention of many youngsters to hedgehogs as pets, though some seem to have problems understanding that hedgehogs do not actually come in blue, and that htey can't roll off of ramps to launch themselves high into the air. The Sonic the Hedgehog commercials have occasionally featured real live hedgehogs on the commercials.

    There are many other examples of hedgehogs in literature, both modern day and very old. Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com are good places to look for books that include hedgehogs in them, to add to your collection check them out or go to your local library or bookstore.