Here be Hedgehogs

Well, it’s actually Hedgehog Awareness Week, so I feel that I need to do my part. I always decorate with animals, and generally it’s a seasonal cycle of snails/foxes/deer/rabbits with a few individual oddities, but just recently I bought a cute ceramic hedgehog so I was thinking about about expanding my menagerie…..and then came Hedgehog Awareness Week! Interesting and historical images of hedgehogs are not difficult to find: medieval illustrators often inserted urcheons/urchins into the margins of their manuscripts and there are also several tales to inspire images: Aesop’s Fox and the Hedgehog ( a title that was adapted by Isaiah Berlin for his classic essay on types of thinkers, inspired by the observation of Archilochus that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing), the Grimm brothers’ Hans-my-Hedgehog and The Hare and the Hedgehog, and a host of other hedgehog stories penned (and drawn) more recently. There are hedgehogs in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Rabbit: they are a cute and easy addition to any illustrated story. So it was difficult to narrow down my collection of hedgehog images, but here goes.

Medieval Urchins (hence Sea Urchins!):

Hedgehog BL 2-001

Hedgehog Egerton-001

Add. 39636, f. 13.

Hedgehog and Ape-001

British Library MS Harley 3244 f. 49v (13th c.); MS Egerton 1121 f. 44v (15th c.–the hedgehog mocks the goat admiring his reflection in a stream); MS Additional 39636, ff. 13  (15th c.–St. Benedict and a hedgehog); Royal 15 E IV f. 180 (15th c.)

Some early modern hedgehogs: because of his voracious appetite and hibernation habit, the hedgehog often represented gluttony, as on the flag below, and his round silhouette was made for mockery:

Hedgehog vices BM-001

Hedgehog and Hare BM-001

Hedgehog 1777 BM-001

British Museum engraving of the Vices by Heinrich Aldegrever, 1552; engraving after Marcus Gheeraerts’ illustrations of Aesop’s Fables, c. 1630; satirical print of “Miss Hedgehog” published by Matthew Daly, 1777

Whimsical and utilitarian hedgehogs, 19th-21st centuries:

V0049518 A crowned fairy king seated on a hedgehog drawn by a young g Hedgehog Bulb Pot Wedgwood V and A 1820-001

Hedgehog Pincushion-001

Hedgehog May-001

The King of the Fairies rides his hedgehog, 19th c., Wellcome Library Images; Bulb Pot by Josiah Wedgwood, 1820, Victoria & Albert Museum; Hedgehog pincushion (there’s a long tradition of these!), Tatjana Ceramics; Calendar Page for May, Catherine Bradbury,© Catherine Bradbury, Bridgeman Art Library / Private Collection





8 responses to “Here be Hedgehogs

  • markd60

    Are you sure the pincushion isnt’ a procupine?

  • ethgran

    I think they are lovely wee creatures and certainly worth making a collection of them. I have several (or had – one got broken when a grandchild dropped it) that were given to me by my thoughtful younger son who also sent the hedgehog sweater. I have started reading the Vikings in My Attic and it is a hoot. It seems that when Scandinavians came over to America, they formed separate towns or neighborhoods rather than live together even though they could understand each others language. I hope I will read about why they don’t care for each other’s company later on but they don’t. Did you ever go to a church pot luck as a kid and find green, carrot filled jello with pretzels on the bottom amoungst the salad offerings? Apparently that comes from the Norwegians though I can’t think that they actually Had ‘jello’ to use – perhaps gelatin. The author who grew up with a Norwegian and Swedish grandparent in Minnesota said he was always flummoxed as to how jello mixed with marshmallows, Coolwhip and pretzels could be called a ‘salad’.

  • Suzanne

    Hedgehogs have been an interest of mine for many years. I was thrilled to come across your blog posting with these lovely medieval illustrations. When I travel in Europe, I always look for antique hedgehog items but never find them in the shops. I have a few antique prints but no antique hedgehog figures.
    You have interesting topics on your blog, and I will explore more of it. Thank you for a wonderful hedgehog posting!

  • Mecki

    i love hedgehogs, and i care for 4 of them, coming to my garden every evening. 🙂
    about history: there is a small Figurine of a hedgehog (from the ice-age) found in the Vogelherd-Höhle in Germany (picture here:

    • Mecki

      (this Figurine is about ~ 40.000 years old) 😉
      “The Vogelherd figurines are some of the world’s oldest-known works of figurative art, artefacts “made from the ivory of woolly mammoths” and “finely carved and exquisitely detailed”. The 1931 excavation yielded 11 figurines, found in the Aurignacian layers”

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