The Fable of the Chipmunk, the Bear, and the Sunflower Seeds ; or, How Fortuna’s Wheel Turns such That in the End no one should try to rise above the “Rank or Station wherein the ALMIGHTY Has plac’t him” lest he find the ever-spinning WHEEL of FATE returns him to his place

[Editor’s note: Animal fables have a long & rich history in the Township. The local historian, a retired Doctor of Letters who lives north of the swamp, traces this tradition as far back as 2015, and in location, particularly the tod-stripe south of the expressway. The figure of the existential chipmunk is a stock character in Township folklore].

One day in the Township a man returned home with a fifty pound bag of sunflower seeds. Having recently posted a witticism on Facebook, he left the bag on the back stoop and hurried inside to see how many likes he had received and soon became distracted for hours. A chipmunk, passing by, saw the seeds and was overcome by the sight of such great wealth. Gnawing a hole in the corner of the bag, he gorged himself till full, then staggered off to his den underneath a spruce root and fell into a contented sleep. A bear, also passing by, saw the bag and consumed it to the last seed before continuing his amble up the Shore. Passing the spruce tree, he heard the chipmunk snoring and peered into his den. “I have eaten my fill,” said the bear, “and can hold no more. Yet I want to eat this chipmunk, too.” He reached into the den and picked up the sleeping chipmunk and swallowed him whole.

The chipmunk awoke to find himself in the bear’s stomach lying atop the pile of sunflower seeds.  “Alas,” wailed the chipmunk. “What is the value of such wealth if it makes you nothing but a prisoner inside a bear’s stomach?” The chipmunk began to rage against his fate and flailed his arms out right and left. His rage traveled all the way to the bear’s sphincter and started a peristaltic reaction, causing the bear to squat suddenly along the Lake shore. Turning to look behind him, the bear saw the giant pile of shit he had created, but blaming the chipmunk, he left it lie and continued his amble up the Shore.

Animal Tales of the Township. Plate no. 3.

The chipmunk, now freed, climbed to the top of the dung heap and shook his fist at the heavens. “It is through my own actions that I am free!” he cried. “I am autonomous! I have free will!” An eagle, sitting in a nearby tree, heard the chipmunk’s boast and swooped down out of the sky. His mighty talons snapped the chipmunk’s spine and his mighty beak rent the chipmunk in two as he was devoured.

An aged Finn of third-generation descent in the Township was driving slowly down the Scenic Highway with a doghouse and a desiccated Christmas tree in the rusted bed of his pick-up truck. Rounding the corner at Blueberry Point and peering towards the Lake, the years having turned his vision myopic, he mistook the now-empty dung heap for the ageless rocks along shore, and overcome with something that upon retrospection he decided must have been emotion, called out loud … “Kiviranta! Kiviranta! All life is connected! All life is a poem!”

Animal Tales of the Township, as Related to T. Arthur White by Various Denizens of the Greenwood Along the North Shore of Lake Superior. With a Scholarly Introduction and Notes by the Township Historian. Duluth Township: Sign of the Two Ravens Press, 2020.

“Rank or Station wherein the ALMIGHTY Has plac’t him.” See: The Mowing-Devil : Or, Strange NEWS out of Hartford-shire. [England], 1678. p. 3.

“Love’s noose is delicate / Nothing escapes the knot / Man, nor Divinity”

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