Gessner-vecka: Bäver

I februari 1860 läste den den amerikanske författaren Henri David Thoreau Historiae Animalium. Han antecknade följande i sin dagbok:

It would seem as if the more odd and whimsical the conceit, the more credible to the mass. They require a surprising truth, though they may well be surprised at any truth. For example, Gesner says of the beaver: ”The biting of this beast is very deep, being able to crash asunder the hardest bones, and commonly he never loseth his hold until he feeleth his teeth gnash one against another . Pliny and Solinus affirm, that the person so bitten cannot be cured, except he hear the crashing of the teeth, which I take to be an opinion without truth.”


Gesner (unless we owe it to the translator) has a livelier conception of an animal which has no existence, or of an action which was never performed, than most naturalists have of what passes before their eyes. The ability to report a thing as if [it] had occurred, whether it did or not, is surely important to a describer. They do not half tell a thing because you might expect them to but half believe it. I feel, of course, very ignorant in a museum . I know nothing about the things which they have there, – no more than I should know my friends in the tomb. I walk amid those jars of bloated creatures which they label frogs, a total stranger, without the least froggy thought being suggested . Not one of them can croak. They leave behind all life they that enter there, both frogs and men.


For example, Gesner says again, ”The tree being down and prepared, they take one of the oldest of their company, whose teeth could not be used for the cutting, (or, as others say, they constrain some strange beaver whom they meet withal, to fall flat on his back), . . . and upon his belly lade they all their timber, which they so ingeniously work and fasten into the compass of his legs that it may not fall, and so the residue by the tail draw him to the water side, where those buildings are to be framed, and this the rather seemeth to be true, because there have been some such taken that had no hair on their backs, but were pilled, which being espied by the hunters, in pity of their slavery or bondage, they have let them go away free.” Gives Albertus and Olaus Magnus as authorities for this.


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