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Aug 23

Written by: Jayanthi
Thursday, August 23, 2007

 Wilderness Wisdom Wednesdays: Mongoose


comments welcome


mongoose.jpgMy Encounter

I have chosen to discuss Mongoose, because this animal is mysterious to me.  I have only seen this animal twice in my life: once in 2000 in the campus of Madras Christian College, and the other time was in Trivandrum, India in 2007.


Wisdom of Natives

Natives believe the mongoose teaches us to use speed of defense, to lack fear when defending yourself, apprehend wrongdoers, and to protect your family.


Modern Wisdom

Researchers have found that the mongoose lives in a highly structured social setting.  A mongoose could go up the social structure, but generally, once the place is fixed, it rarely changes.  Also, mongooses assign babysitters for their young.  Most of the time, the young are guarded by the non-dominant mongooses.  Mongoose are also always on guard and can be attacked by land or air borne animals.  This being the case, they will not attack for the thrill of attacking, but will attack if they are being attacked first.


Global Folktales

The Mongoose and the Brahmin

Mongoose’s role:  The mongoose protects the family, knows its role and baby sits. 


The Four Friends

Mongoose’s role- Demonstrates there are ways to stand up for the truth and escape other’s angry wrath for being found out as a fraud.  It’s ok to have an escape plan.


The Golden Mongoose

Mongoose’s role- Though I like the theme of this story, I am unsure why a mongoose had been chosen to symbolize greed and anger through turning into solid gold.  If anyone has any ideas about this, please share below.


Sayings Associated

In Malayalam, there is a saying: Keeiryum pambum pole aanu.  This means “They are like the mongoose and snake.”  The mongoose doesn’t like snakes.  It is known for killing poisonous snakes (as in the story above, the Mongoose and the Brahmin).  It is said that the mongoose and snake don’t like each other, they are always fighting.  So, if two people go on fighting, they are always quarrelling whenever they can or just to pass time, they are referred to as keeriyum (mongoose) and pambum (snake).


Further, this phrase in other Asian countries can particularly refer to bickering and fighting among married couples. Often in a relationship, one is like the cobra, slow moving, but puting up defense (the hood) and can be quick to bite back without slithering away; standing it's ground. The other person would be quick moving, ready to bite back and irritate at any sign of attack (always defensive). Basically, the snake could be considered more mature and thoughtful in it's delivery, while the mongoose is more immature and off-handed. To see this 'fight' in action, I embedded a video below. It's interesting this is allowed in other countries, kind of like 'cock-fights' but wouldn't it be considered animal cruelty?


Personal Reflections

I saw the mongoose in India on two occasions when I was part of a larger group: a class of 25 and the other as part of a family in India.  In both situations, I was integrating into a group, learning my place, how I fit in and affected others in that group. 

I also believe the mongoose came to me to show me that it is ok to defend myself and stick up for myself: gain self confidence.  However, the mongoose is selective in defending itself- since it will only do it if there is a true sense of danger, I think the mongoose is trying to teach me to reduce my defensiveness as I am overly sensitive to criticism and am told by others that I am too defensive.  I also like the teaching of the mongoose from the story above, “The Four Friends.”  The mongoose in this story told me that if you are the only one standing up for truth and justice, it can be scary and dangerous.  Also, this story clearly shows that when this is the case, it takes not only bravery to overcome falsehood, but a thoughtful plan, including a viable escape plan, to keep yourself safe, also.  Just because you’re standing up for someone doesn’t mean you have to get hurt too.



comments welcome


Read more on totems/medicine/superstions/symbology related to other animals:
Cow  | HippoSnake  |  Skunks  |  Mongoose


Part 11 in Series:  Kerala 2007

Updated July 2009, November 2011

Thank you for reading and visiting Alaivani.com.


Copyright ©2007 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar


4 comments so far...

Re: Wilderness Wisdom Wednesdays: Mongoose

I never reflected about Mongoose in this way. Whatever I thought of mongoose was what I read in my childhood with exact references of stories you presented. But you presented the idea with good material that presented a different perspective. The fact of facing poisonous snakes boldly reflects fearlessness in my opinion. Thanks for sharing.

By cskishore on   Sunday, August 26, 2007

Re: Wilderness Wisdom Wednesdays: Mongoose

Hi Kishore, I agree. I had not thought about that criteria. Sometimes the most obvious attributes are the easily missed! Thanks for sharing.

By Jayanthi on   Sunday, August 26, 2007

Re: Wilderness Wisdom Wednesdays: Mongoose

“In Malayalam, there is a saying: Keeiryum pambum pole aanu. This means “They are like the mongoose and snake.” The mongoose doesn’t like snakes. It is known for killing poisonous snakes (as in the story above, the Mongoose and the Brahmin). It is said that the mongoose and snake don’t like each other, they are always fighting. So, if two people go on fighting, they are always quarrelling whenever they can or just to pass time, they are referred to as keeriyum (mongoose) and pambum (snake).”

I found out today that this saying is used in everyday speech, at least in films. And, when it is used, it is quite funny.

In Chathikkatha Chanthu, a Malayalam movie, there is a scene taking place on the bus. The hero and heroine meet on this bus and go on fighting and bickering with each other. As the other passengers notice this, the passengers in the seat just behind them comment, “Nalla chercha keeriym pambum pole.” This means they are a good couple that will go on fighting. They need each other, just like Tom and Jerry. Without Jerry, what’s Tom to do? Without Tom, what’s Jerry to do? Just like that the mongoose (keeriyum) and snake (pambum) have a mutally symbiotic relationship.

Of course, like in most Indian films, where the hero and heroine meet and go on arguing, they end of together in the end

See the film clim at Mallutube.com – Film Clips. Line comes in Part 2 at 6 minute mark.

***Chathikkatha Chanthu means Chandu (boy’s name) will not betray.

Posted in relation to Follow Up Fridays, November 9, 2007.

By Jayanthi on   Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Re: Wilderness Wisdom Wednesdays: Mongoose

Today I read in "Social History of Kerala, Vol II- The Dravidians" by L.A. Krishna Iyer on page 133-134, " The first milk-tooth shed by the child, boy or girl, used to be marked by a ceremony. It was carefully wrapped up in cowdung, and thrown over the roof, while the baby was asked to recite, "Mongoose, mongoose, your tooth in exchange for mine." This invocation was expected to give the child the same set of regular well-formed teeth."

I am very curious why the mongoose is called up on in this way- almost as if the mongoose is a type of tooth fairy!

By Jayanthi on   Thursday, April 03, 2008

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