Feb 3, 2013

Bodach the Badger

by David Stephen

I grabbed this book with delight when I saw it on a free shelf, because I have loved for years another book by the same author, about a fox. This one was just as good, if not better. I was expecting it to be mostly about the badger and its habits, but was pleasantly surprised to find quite a lot of human interaction in it. I don't recall that much about people in the fox book- perhaps I just glossed over those passages before? Must read String Lug again to find out- when the Dare is over, of course!

Bodach is about a group of badgers that live on a mountainside in Scotland. I've only read a very few books about badgers before and those were either American badgers or didn't feature much of their natural behavior so I was happy to learn a lot about European badgers, which live very differently. For one thing, they live in family groups in large underground tunnels which they occupy for generations. I knew a bit about that from Badgers, but not the idea that they bury their dead, that they can purr, that they suck on their paws, that they eat -aside from small mammals and earthworms- slugs and acorns!

The storyline mostly follows the daily life of the badgers, but also includes quite a bit about the humans who live on farms around them. One set of farmers is fond of the badgers and keeps a close eye on them, another farmer across the way traps them and makes their pelts into sporrans. I wasn't sure from the context if this was illegal, but it was certainly frowned upon. Not only do the regular farmers make efforts to observe the badgers, they bring field trips of kids from a local school to see the badgers and learn about them, they treat injured badgers found in bad situations, and when a man several miles away wants to repopulate a sett on his land that has been empty for years, they carefully trap several badgers and transport them for him. So I was pleased to find quite a bit about wildlife conservation and education in this little novel!

There's a lot of foreign terms used in the narrative, I'm not sure if they are Gaelic or Scottish, as there was no glossary (a thing I sorely missed) but I liked the extra local flavor they added to the story, even if I often had to puzzle out the exact meaning. A lot of other animals are in the pages, too- weasels and foxes, deer, owls, eagles and wildcats. Also vivid personalities of the farm dogs, and one particular overeager terrier named Tarf. Through the course of the novel one of the main human characters tries to teach Tarf how to behave at a badger sett- differently from what he expects her to do at a fox burrow. His methods and reasons I found an interesting side-storyline. But the badgers are the main thing.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 191 pages, 1983


C.B. James said...

I love it when someone finds something good on the 'free' table. I once found a fairly decent read just lying on the sidewalk outside a used book store in Oakland.

Jeane said...

It is always such a delightful surprise!