Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Foxes and Sunshowers

I was thinking about sunshowers today, and the ways they are described. A sunshower, of course, is when it is raining while the sun is shining. Growing up, we always had a saying for a sunshower: "The devil is beating his wife". As it happens, that is a quite common tag for sunshowers in the American South, and is apparently the saying for the same phenomenon in some places that speak French, Dutch, or Hungarian, as well. But folk sayings associated with sunshowers are extraordinarily common, and some of the most common are animal-linked. One of the animals that keeps coming up is the fox. Just looking at Wikipedia, here are some of the fox-and-sunshower sayings from around the world:

In Bangladesh: "shial mamar bia hoce" -"Uncle Fox is getting married"
In Brazil, "Casamento da Raposa" (Fox's Wedding)
In Finland, it is called "ketut kylpevät" or "foxes are taking bath"
In Galician, the traditional belief is that the vixen or the fox are getting married: casa a raposa / casa o raposo; sometimes the wolf and the vixen: estanse casando o lobo coa raposa.
In Japan, it is known as "kitsune no yomeiri", or "the kitsune's wedding", and means a fox's wedding ceremony is being held.
In Korea, a male tiger gets married to a fox.
In Nepal (Nepali), it is called "the fox's wedding" or "gham-paani, gham-paani shyal ko bihe" which literally translates to "Sunshine-rain, sunshine-rain, the fox is getting married".
In Sinhala, it is called "the fox's wedding"
In Bengali, it is called "the blind fox's wedding".
In Kannada, it is called "Kaage Nari maduve" which means Crow and fox getting married"
In Malayalam, it is called the Fox's wedding
In Oriya, it is called "the foxes wedding"
In Tamil, it is called the fox and the crow/raven are getting married
In Telugu, it is called "Yenda Vanala, kukkala nakkala pelli" which means "Dogs and Foxes getting married in the sunshowers"

This is extraordinarily widespread, too widespread to be coincidence, but nobody knows why foxes and sunshowers are linked together in the imaginations of so many cultures. Given how common it seems to be in Indian languages, I wonder if it started in India and spread from there, but it's anyone's guess. On the other hand, the culture that seems to have the most elaborate folktales associating foxes and sunshowers is Japan; but whether this is because they got the saying from the folktales or they developed the folktales because they had the saying, nobody knows.

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