The Misfortunes of Otters

Recently someone tweeted a definition they had seen for the German word schadenfreude which contained a slight but wonderful misprint. The word was mangled to mean ‘laughing at the misfortunes of otters’. To think a language might have a whole word dedicated to such a rare phenomenon. (Of course, German doesn’t, the original definition should have read ’others’). That set me thinking.

And to the person who spotted and tweeted the misprint, thank you. This poem is dedicated to you.

The Misfortunes of Otters

Misfortune comes to creatures large and small –
provoking both the elephant and vole,
but otters are most sensitive of all:

a hint of mocking in a magpie’s call
will drive the creature blushing to its hole.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,

yet the ocelot that fluffs its mating call
will shrug and throw itself back in the rôle.
But otters are most sensitive of all,

they’ll curl into a furry, quivering ball,
tormented by a misjudged forward roll.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,

the shark that spots a sailor’s leg to maul
then misses it, just spins back to its goal.
But otters are most sensitive of all,

don’t tease one if you see it take a fall,
please think of what is happening in its soul.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,
but otters are most sensitive of all.

© Huw Evans 2019

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