Whoosh! Issue 36 - September 1999

THE ONCE AND FUTURE BEAVER
IAXS project #707
By Virginia Carper
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
1652 words



Author's Note: I have spent many hours observing beavers at various ponds and streams in Northern Virginia (U.S.).




Life Is Like A River (01)
Beavers On The Brain (02-03)
Meet The Beaver (04-08)
The Way Of The Beaver (09-11)
Behold The Power Of The Beaver (12-14)
Furs, Firs, And Dams (15-16)
Disclaimer
Beaver Information
Biography



The Once and Future Beaver




Life Is Like A River

"What we sow in life,
We reap in our future lives.
This is our Karma".
   --From the Xena "Blue" Scroll, BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415)
"Now I'm responsible for getting you two blown up... this is a karmic catastrophe... I'm gonna come back as a worm... a cockroach... no, a TV evangelist".
   --Dr. Mattie Merrill (Gabrielle in a future life, DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422)

[1] Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) explored the concept of past lives in the India Arc of the fourth season. In BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415), the two women were destined to become Armanestra, Mother of Peace (Xena) and Shakti, Warrior (Gabrielle). In THE WAY (84/416), Lord Krishna counseled Xena on how to live her present life so that she may have a future life as a saint. Later, Xena and Gabrielle returned as Harry and Mattie in DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422). Who else could Xena and Gabrielle come back as?


Beavers On The Brain

"I woke up... I took a bath... I know I put my shirt on that tree... it's just gone. Well, it doesn't make any sense... unless an animal took it... you know, a fashionable beaver, or... or ... oh, you didn't".
   --Gabrielle, IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412) (Emphasis added)

By Season 6, Gab's outfits will shrink to the point where she
wears nothing but a towel on her head.


Gabrielle soon has to explain a lack of clothing in IF THE SHOE FITS


Gabrielle: I love rivers ...
Xena: They're alright if you don't have to cross them.
Gabrielle: There's a certain inevitability to a river, nothing stops it from finding its way.
Xena: Ever hear of a dam? Beavers?
   -- THE WAY(84/416) (Emphasis added)

[2] An animal of the Northern forests, the beaver is rarely seen by Xena and Gabrielle in their travels. However, the two women may have encountered one in Southern Europe or Asia Minor. Before extensive trapping by humans, beavers could be found in all parts of Europe, in Siberia, and as far south as the Euphrates River.

[3] This nocturnal and shy animal inexplicably intrudes in the thoughts of both women. Since beavers are not a daily part of their lives, why would either woman think of them? This burning question begs to be answered.


Meet The Beaver

"Once there he [the beaver] felt more secure, for at the slightest sign of danger he would, as he had done many times in his far-off Canadian wilds, dive in and loudly slap the water with his tail to warn his friends and then instantly disappear from view beneath the water and make straight for his burrow. His curiosity, however, soon got the better of his natural timidity, and out he came with the usual quiet splash and dive. This time I stood near his regular landing place, which was as clearly marked as an otter's slide, and wondered whether he would venture near. Slowly he swam towards me, stopping repeatedly to investigate. What was it that gave him confidence I could not tell, but suddenly he apparently made up his mind that there was no occasion for fear and he moved quickly, landing within three feet of where I stood".
   -- Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, The Romance Of The Beaver, (1914, J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia)

[4] Nature photographer, Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore knew that the beaver was more than a large rodent with buck teeth, a flat tail, and lustrous fur. In his writings, he described a creature of wonder and intelligence. An advocate for the beaver, Dugmore believed that people could learn a lot from them.

As a way to mollify Renee and keep costs down, Gabrielle gets a
pet beaver instead of a horse in Season 5


Beavers -- bothersome vermin or vital to the ecosystem?


[5] A keystone species, the beaver creates rich habitats for animals and people. By building dams and designing waterways, beavers provide flood control. The pond, created by the dam, is not only a place for fish, frogs, and birds, but also insurance in times of drought. When beavers abandon their dam to build another one someplace else, the waters recede creating prime meadows for small mammals.

[6] Master engineers, beavers build canals to float and transport heavy logs for food and construction. After felling trees, they weave the logs and sticks into a grand structure to retain water. No river is too wide or swift for a beaver to attempt to dam it. Teams of industrious beavers have targeted the Missouri and the Tidal Basin of the Potomac.

[7] Almost entirely aquatic, a beaver is designed to live in water. By drawing its loose lips tightly behind its protruding front teeth, a beaver can cut and chew wood under water. In swimming, the beaver uses its broad black tail as a rudder.

[8] Prudently monogamous, beavers live in families of two adults, two-year olds, and the current year's kits. Beavers create secure homes for their families by burrowing in stream banks or constructing lodges of mud, stones, and tree branches. Inside their homes, beavers groom each other to keep their fur soft and shiny. After combing out and rubbing the fur dry, beavers waterproof it with oil from their tail glands. (This distinctive smelling oil is how beavers received their scientific name "Castor".)


The Way Of The Beaver

"Xena, since I met you, I've been on this spiritual quest. I've been looking for the meaning of it all".
   --Gabrielle, THE WAY (84/416)

[9] In several Native American traditions, the beaver is the "sacred center" of the land. The Creator separated the land from the water, employing giant beavers to make it suitable for the abode of man. Ever the master builders, beavers provided homes for all.

[10] In shamanic traditions, beavers govern dreams. They show how to construct wonderful ones, and then how to make them a reality. Again, the beaver's talent for building is recognized.

[11] In American popular culture, "busy as a beaver" is a metaphor for industriousness. Beavers work constantly building dams, storing food, and constructing homes. The beaver symbolizes hard work.


Behold The Power Of The Beaver

"The beaver has so many interesting ways, and is altogether so useful, so thrifty, so busy, so skillful, and so picturesque, that I believe his life and his deeds deserve a larger place in literature and a better place in our hearts".
   -- Enos A. Mills, founder of Rocky Mountain National Park, "The Beaver and his Works", IN BEAVER WORLD (University of Nebraska Press, 1990 reprint)

[12] Wildlife rehabilitators find beavers to be affable characters. Beavers are gentle, reasoning beings who enjoy playing practical jokes. Gabrielle thought that a beaver stole her top. Perhaps a "fashion sensible" beaver did play a joke on her by making sure Xena saw her top [IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412)].

[13] Xena's notions about dams link her with beavers. One safe way to cross a river is on a beaver dam. However, a more subtle link with beaver dams is the building of homes. Beavers live in close knit families in secure homes. Perhaps the beaver is calling to Xena to live her dream. After all, like her, they also change the world (through their dams).

[14] Wildlife managers usually throw up their hands at preventing beavers from eating prime trees. The average beaver generally beats them at every trick the park managers use to save the trees. Xena can often out-think the myriad plots of warlords and gods. Meanwhile, Gabrielle whacks trees with her wooden staff.


Furs, Firs, And Dams

Xena: Gabrielle, we're headed in opposite directions in life.
Gabrielle: All rivers run into the sea. We'll end up in the same place, I'm sure of it ... thank you.
Xena: For what?
Gabrielle: Not mentioning dams.
   --THE WAY (84/416)

Fed with with Gab's smugness, Xena whacks her in the head
with her own staff.  Repeatedly.


Gabrielle's thoughts turn to water in the early part of THE WAY.


[15] Parallels between Xena's and Gabrielle's lives and beavers abound. In their own way, beavers have much to offer the world. They teach constructive actions that promote peace and love, ideals that both women are striving for in their lives.

[16] Although Xena believes that she and Gabrielle are headed in opposite directions, their inner "beavers" draw them together. With her closer affinity to trees, Gabrielle may have seen a glimmer of their future life together as beavers. Perhaps, Xena and Gabrielle, in their future lives, will find a place in our hearts as beavers.


Disclaimer

Although the author does not believe in "past lives", coming back as a beaver does have its merits.


Note

Beaver species include the European beaver (Castor fiber) and the Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis). The mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa) of the western U.S. coast is not a beaver.


Beaver Information

The University of Michigan - Museum of Zoology - Animal Diversity Web

Beavers: Their Extraordinary Lives And Curious History. James Poling (Franklin Watts, 1975).

Beavers: Water, Wildlife And History. Earl Hilfiker, (Windswept Press, New York, 1991).

Beaversprite, My Years Building An Animal Sanctuary. Dorothy Richards & Hope Buyukmihci (Heart of the Lakes Publishing, New York, 1983).

Website for Beaversprite Animal Sanctuary: Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife



Biography

Virginia Carper Virginia Carper
My goal is to be a garden variety human being. My friends know me as a squirrel. I am, however, a card carrying member of the Squirrel Lovers Club, and do squirrel studies. My family watches XWP for the marvelous things Xena does and for Joxer, the warlord with autism.
Favorite episode: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "A great many people have become allies because of their hatred of me." Xena and Gabrielle nod 'Yes!' BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)
Least favorite episode: Most of the Third Season

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