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Thursday, September 06, 2007


Squirrel of doom spreads like virus

Yo, cats and catted ones. Darcy here.

Research is strange, but viral research is perverse. And fast. It took the New York Times and several other news media only a New York minute to connect the unusual sighting of a baseball-loving squirrel with the legendary Norse Ratatosk--a.k.a. "Squirrel of Discord"--during a recent Yankees-Red Sox game. During the game, the squirrel ran up and down the right-field foul post. The NYT interviewed a scholar of Old Norse, who saw some similarities between the Yankees-Red Sox battle with that between the eagle and the dragon in the Norse Eddic poems.

It took only minutes more for a passel of sports bloggers to plaster the story all over the WWW, thus gumming up my thingpoddy and raising my hackles. I started goggling around for the truth.

One of the first things I came up with was this image from a 17th century Icelandic manuscript: note that Ratatosk is depicted with a horn, and that--if not black--he's a dark shade of green. We have seen his avatars before: here and here.

I goggled on over to the Internet Sacred Text Archive, where I found this suggestive excerpt:


The Ballad of Grimnir

Ratatosk is the squirrel | who there shall run
On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
From above the words | of the eagle he bears,
And tells them to Nithhogg beneath.

Wikipedia explains: "In Norse mythology, Ratatöskr (drilling tooth, sometimes anglicized Ratatosk) is a red squirrel who runs up and down with messages in the world tree Yggdrasill and spreads gossip. In particular he ferried insults between the eagle at the top of Yggdrasill, and the dragon Níðhöggr beneath its roots."

The scoundrel Ratatosk may have been a red squirrel, but quite a few recent references have him of a different color, the Wikipedia item notes:

Ratatosk appears as a woman running a temp agency for the gods in Esther Friesner's "Temping Fate" and is quoted as saying "I am Ratatosk, the Dark Squirrel of Doom!"

Virtual Ratatosks are littered all over the WWW. Most of them refer to the popular video game, Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk. But there are others. For example (and I don't have a clue as to what this means) Ratatosk is also

An SLR parser generator written in Gofer (a Haskell variant) by Torben AEgidius Mogensen. Ratatosk generates purely functional backtracking LR0 grammar parsers (also in Gofer).

A musician--"experimental, ambient, alternative"--living in Cardiff, UK, whose songs will likely lull you into a hypnotic state, styles himself Ratatosk. Why? Beats me. Just go on over the MySpace and look him up. While you're at it, look up all the other Ratatosks who use the Squirrel of Doom as an avatar or a screen name.

Then tell me what this means.

I'm outta here!

Darcy X

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