V: Otter

The ridiculous journey of Thomas Muir.

quintidi, the 25th of Thermidor, Year CCXXXI
What a little water ewok. Photo by mana5280 / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is quintidi, the 25th of Thermidor, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la loutre, the most adorable marine mammal on the planet.

Otters, at the time of this calendar's creation, were hunted for their fur and as trophies. An entire breed of dog known as otterhounds was created from the French Griffon, crossing it with wolf and bloodhound to create a dog with tremendous scenting abilities, mildly webbed paws, and great endurance. They are not the friendliest companions, and as otter hunting as decreased in Europe following the collapse of the Eurasian Otter population 50 years ago, there are only a few hundred otterhounds left in the world. The last large-scale otter hunt took place in England in CLXXXVI (1978) when there wasn't enough quarry to harvest the typical thousand otters, mostly discarded except for their baculum (penis bone), which would be worn as a tie pin. (If you can't picture the nobs who did this, good on you for avoiding a subset of humanity that stands in as villains in most movies for good reason.)

The French Revolution's story is usually glossed as a huge backfire, with Napoleon's ensuing rampage putting a button on 19th century Europe's opinion of "see? bad idea" that still lingers over the affair. And while a great many messy and murderous outcomes are hard to ignore, there's also the enduring push for the idea of innate human rights that the American and French revolutions kickstarted, and which eventually bore fruit – to a lesser or greater extent in different regions – in the banner year of LVI (1848).

The shock to monarchs that a major power could topple a king so thoroughly led to a seemingly comical backlash against even the most (in retrospect) polite requests for reform. That's my take, anyway, on what happened to poor Thomas Muir, who was sent all the way around the world as punishment in the final decade of the 18th century for the sin of advocating for basic voting rights and representation in Parliament.