Friday, July 14, 2006

A bit of stoat

Ever since I saw a stoat whilst visiting Sutton Hoo a few years back, I've been fascinated by 'em. The Sutton Hoo stoat was very bold. I was at the tail end of a big group of people being led round the burial mounds. We had just emerged from some trees and were on the path to site. We had stopped, and far ahead the guide was speaking about the river. I wasn't paying too much attention as I couldn't hear properly. But I looked to my right, and there was a stoat. It had come out of the undergrowth and was brazenly staring at the tail-end charlies of the tour. At the time, I wasn't exactly sure whether it was a stoat or a weasel, but later on I found out that the ones with the black tipped tail are stoats.

At the Great Yorkshire Show, I picked up a nice little book called Stoats and Weasels by Robbie McDonald and Stephen Harris, The Mammal Society, 1997. So now I know all about stoats, and realise how lucky I was to see one, especially at such a special a place as Sutton Hoo. Somehow, I must weave a stoat into one of my stories. It's really rather got to be one with Angles and Saxons in, after where I saw the beast. There's a TV lovely programme about the stoats of Mount Grace Priory and it has been repeated a couple of times. Unfortunately, we didn't see any there when we visited the Priory last year :-(


At 1:10 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

I love stoats. And weasels. They're beautiful animals and have such a lovely fluid way of moving. And they're very bright - I've seen a stoat look both ways and wait before crossing the road - and not afraid of anything. I deliberately put a character called Weasel in one of my novels.

Do you suppose the stoat or the weasel might have been used as a family badge or a symbol?

Simon Scarrow has one of his characters snigger about stoats in 'The Eagle and the Wolves' and the trainee legion decides to call itself the Boars instead, if I remember rightly. Shame.

At 2:09 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

Not just a badge or symbol - stoats is ermine, which is a fully fledged heraldic fur.

Ermines are also symbolic of purity, hence their appearance in Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine and the Ermine Portrait of Elizabeth I by Hilliard.

I have a mediaeval literary side-project called The Ermine in Summer which I will be pushing on with this summer in-between Regency matters.

At 5:16 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Stoats as ermine are mentioned in the little book I've just bought - there's a picture of an earl with ermines on :-(

Yes, I wonder if Anglo-Saxons might have been impressed enough to paint a stoat or weasel on their shields ...

At 5:36 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

It sounds plausible to me, Alex. Stoats and weasels are small but fierce. I once saw a weasel kill a full-grown rabbit at least three times its size. I can imagine a warband being jolly impressed by that :-) And I don't think anyone can prove they didn't - so feel free.

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