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How the Bat Got His Wings

Written by Guest Blogger
    Sunday, 21 September 2014
How the Bat Got His Wings

Long-time Urban Ecology Center member Andy Connors is a born storyteller. Growing up within the Anishinaabe community along the Bad River in northern Wisconsin, Andy developed a strong sense of Native American identity through his ability to engage and connect with others through storytelling. To celebrate the upcoming Wisconsin Bat Festival, Andy tells a riveting traditional Native American story of how the bat got his wings.

How the Bat Got His Wings:
A Traditional Native American Story
As told by Andrew Connors

Every day Mouse watched the birds and insects flying to and fro. Mouse believed he could fly. His friends said, "That's good, Mouse," and left it at that. After all, Mouse had his daydreams.

Soon, Mouse was bragging that he was the highest flyer of them all. Everybody knew Mouse was just a mouse. They all laughed at him, even the other mouses. (This was before Human Beings came and corrected Mouse's English to "mice". I wondered if two moose would be two miises.)

But Mouse would show them. Mouse would fly even higher than Eagle.

Well, Eagle heard about Mouse's bragging. You see, Eagle not only was the highest flying of the birds. Eagle was also the Chief. (Someday I will tell you about Turtle and Eagle and how Eagle was stripped of his chiefdom.) Eagle was wise and humble - sort of - and had to teach Mouse a lesson.

"So, Mouse," Eagle said. "I hear you can fly higher than me?"

Mouse had to think fast. "Duh, uuurrmm, er, yesss, Chief Eagle." Although Mouse was nervous, he had an idea. "Yes, Eagle, and I can prove it. I'll race you to see who can fly highest."

"Oh...really," snorted Eagle. Although Eagle was humble and wise, he did have his pride. No one could fly higher than he could. Some flew faster, like Hawk or Hummingbird, but no one – I mean no one – flew higher than Eagle.

Eagle said, "It's a deal. If you can fly higher than me, I'll give you wings."

Mouse was overjoyed. Mouse always wanted wings like the birds.

On the day of the race all the animals, the birds, insects and - yes - even the fishes gathered all around to watch Mouse get what was coming to him. Bear, the Tribal Policeman, roared, "Ready, steady and go."

(I will tell you about Bear and Chipmunk another time. It's a hoot. Anyway...)

Just as the Eagle was ready to fly, Mouse jumped on Eagle's back and hung on tightly with his little claws. Eagle flew higher and higher, with Mouse on his back.

"Weeee..." Mouse had a blast. "I'm flying higher than you!"

They landed. Eagle was frustrated. Mouse did fly higher than him, but Mouse had also cheated. Eagle thought and thought. Finally Eagle knew what to do. A deal was a deal.

"Mouse, you flew higher than me. Congratulations. You did good so I'll give you your wings." 

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From Mouse's tail, Eagle fashioned wings and put them down Mouse's sides from his hands to his feet. Because the wings were made from Mouse's tail, they had a weird shape to them.

Mouse was overjoyed. He had wings to fly with. "Thank you, thank you."

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"Not so fast," said Eagle. "You have wings, I'll grant you, but you can only use them at night." Then Eagle flew off. 

Because Mouse wanted to fly, Eagle gave him wings. We are like that, sometimes. We want something, no matter what or how, and someone provides the means to get what we want.

Mouse could fly now, but only at night. Why? Mouse cheated. Maybe some of us have cheated, too. Makes you think, hey?

We see Mouse flying every night with his odd-shaped wings and no tail. We call him "Bat".

And that's how the Bat got his wings.

Fun Facts

Although in many languages the word bat is actually a cognate for the word "mouse", the bat is not even closely related to a mouse and shares a lineage more closely related to carnivores (weasels, wolves, etc.) and even-toed ungulates (camels, hippos, etc.).

For other fun facts about bats, check out another recent blog post, which highlights bats as the Center's native animal of the month!

Want to learn more?

Explore the wide world of bats! Come see for yourself just how large a bat's wingspan really is and learn what it is like to be a bat biologist at the 2014 Wisconsin Bat Festival on October 4th at our Riverside Park branch!

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