Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Mighty Hippopatamus

A random memory: The summer between 2nd and 3rd grade we moved to a new school district. Very early in the year, perhaps even the first day of school, in gifted class, we were asked what our spirit animal was (obviously, it was not phrased that way; I don't remember the exact question...something like "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?") I said "hippopotamus". Now, as a fat girl, that was not a wise choice. I was teased unmercifully about it for some time thereafter. Eventually, I denied I had ever even said such a thing, and forgot all about it. I wonder what that does to a spirit-animal...mocking, denying, and forgetting them. This echos what has become of the hippo in modern western culture; they are considered comical. Well, I am reclaiming that part of me. Hail Hippopotamus! In restitution for this insult, I have made a sin offering to the WWF to "adopt" an African Hippopotamus.
Hippopotami are fucking awesome. While herbivorous, they are among the most dangerous animals in Africa; more powerful by far than lions, more aggressive than crocodiles. They have no significant natural predators. Among the Zulu, they are the symbol of bravery. A Zulu would be somewhat offended to be told he was "brave as a lion"; instead, a warrior is described as "brave as a hippo". In Egypt, they were considered a symbol of both male virility and female mother-protectiveness.
Of all animals on earth, the hippo is the most similar to that common ancestor of both whale and elephant; the wisest of mammals. Alone among large animals, they are semi-aquatic. Legendarily, hippos sweat blood (although it is actually a reddish colored natural sunscreen they excrete). Hippos are a bit gender queer (ie, they do not exhibit much sexual dimorphism), and not particularly social. (just like me!)

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