Hedgehogs!

British Library, MS Harley 3244, f. 49v.

Did you know that hedgehogs look like young pigs, just young pigs covered in spines? Well, medievals thought they did.

They also thought that those poky bits were great for gathering food. See all those little circles on the hedgehog above? Food!

A hedgehog would enter a vineyard or orchard at harvest time and climb up a vine or tree. It would shake it to make the fruit fall:

Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764, Folio 52v

Then it rolls around to spear the fruit on its quills:

How’s it going to eat fruit stuck to its back, you ask? It’s not for this hedgehog. It’s for the babies.

British Library, Royal 12, Folio viii

See how clever the hedgehog is!

But, don’t be fooled by how cute they are.

St Anthony of Padua (12th-13th c.) would have you know that

the hedgehog represents obstinate sinners, covered all over with the prickles of their sins.

You see, says Anthony, if you try to tell a sinner how, well, sinful he is, he immediately just rolls himself up and hides.

Oh, and apparently the hedgehog has 5 teeth in his mouth, one each for the 5 excuses sinners use:

  1. Ignorance
  2. Chance
  3. Suggestion of the devil
  4. Frailty of the flesh
  5. Occasion given by his neighbor

You are not required to think St. Anthony is correct. He did, after all, preach to fish.

Also, if sinners are anything like my students, there are more than five excuses. You’d think that a guy who talked to fish would have a better imagination.

Fun fact: If you’re ever reading kids books, look out for hedgehogs. They’re often depicted with an apple on their backs!

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