1. Ice Swimmer says

    The wrinkles are wonderful. Also, the slightly messy eyelashes of the brown-eyed elephant.

    The trunk is always fascinating.

    In Finnish an elephant is norsu, which is, according to Wikipedia, an old variant of mursu (walrus). Neither animal has lived here since the Ice Age AFAIK, but through trade ivory may have come here, the word for ivory is norsunluu (luu means bone, pronounced “loo”). Mikael Agricola who came up with the first written standard of Finnish used the word norsu for elephant in his translation of New Testament and Psalms.

    In wonder where do the Slavic slon and Lithuanian dramblys come from? The words for walrus seem to be quite different from the words for elephant.

  2. lumipuna says

    Highly interesting etymology on “walrus” in various languages -- although not those Ice Swimmer requested

    I recently read some zoological article noting that medieval West Europeans usually thought the walrus looked like an elephant -- if they even knew it was a different animal. In South/West Europe, the elephant was at least somewhat familiar from books via Roman cultural influence, whereas the walrus was only know as a source of substitute ivory. In the 16th century English and Dutch whalers started exploring the Arctic and brought along realistic descriptions of the walrus.

  3. says

    The Public Domain has a very interesting piece on 16th century narcoleptic walruses:

    Amongst the assorted curiosities described in Olaus Magnus’ 1555 tome on Nordic life was the morse — a hirsuite, fearsome walrus-like beast, that was said to snooze upon cliffs while hanging by its teeth.

    To the far north, on the coast of Norway, there lives a mighty creature, as big as an elephant, called the walrus or morse, perhaps so named for its sharp bite; for if it glimpses a man on the seashore and can catch him, it jumps on him swiftly, rends him with its teeth, and kills him in an instant.

    There’s a great woodcut, too.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    The walrus name thing is indeed interesting. Must be one of the few cases where the Norse and Fenno-Ugric/Uralic originated names are both so widespread.

    I wonder if Olaus Magnus Gothus (originally Olof Månsson from Skänninge) ever went much north of Uppsala (in Central Sweden/Svealand). But apparently, he had listened to many people and part of the stuff he wrote was accurate.

    Great stuff again in Public Domain Review.


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