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Anthropology in Practice

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Malagasy Myth Explains Why Bats Sleep Upside Down

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Golden crowned fruit bat. Creative Commons, Wikimedia.

My friend Wendy traveled to Madagascar where she was bitten by a (tame) lemur, nearly fell through a broken bridge to her doom, and climbed a mountain of steps. It was a trip of a lifetime—although we’re all very happy she’s home safely. She brought me a couple of of neat things back from Madagascar, but she also brought me a myth. I haven’t been able to find it online to verify (well, I found a link, but Google indicates that the page is likely infected with a virus, so I haven’t investigated it), but perhaps one of you, Dear Readers, can help. It’s the story of how the drongo came to be the king of birds, but it also indirectly explains why bats sleep upside down:

There was a great fire in God’s kingdom, and He sent all the birds to put it out. However, only the bat was successful—he beat the flame out with his large wings (which is also how he lost his feathers).

The drongo, who was pure white, covered himself with ashes and hurried back to God before the bat could get there. He said, “I put out the fire. Look at how black I am.” God was pleased and made him the king of birds.

The bat arrived soon after, but God did not believe that he had put out the fire. The bat was understandably angry, and declared that he would forever turn his rear to God.

To this day, the drongo is regarded as a clever bird, and the bat remains upside down.

Okay, Readers, this is where I put you to work:

  • Can anyone verify this myth?
  • Does anyone know of a similar story from another cultural background?

 

Edit:  Here are some reader submitted myths! Keep sending them in, and I’ll continue to link to them:

 

Krystal D'Costa About the Author: Krystal D'Costa is an anthropologist working in digital media in New York City. You can follow AiP on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @krystaldcosta.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Jerzy New 11:56 am 11/15/2011

    So, cross-post with blogger Darren Naish and ask why bats REALLY, unique among vertebrates, sleep upside down?

    Link to this

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