Henreich Kley (1863-1945) Titled "Leben und Ausleben Lassen" (Live and Let Live), the work depicts a crocodile with top hat and walking stick being chased by a tiger and nude woman. A frog with top hat is seen holding a champagne bottle to the right in the background, 1919
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"How doth the little crocodile Improve his shining tail, And pour the waters of the Nile On every golden scale! How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spreads his claws, And welcomes little fishes in, With gently smiling jaws!" ~ Lewis Carroll, 1865
The smiles of crocodilians have always been met with great (and reasonable) trepidation. The phrae "crocodile tears" (meaning a superficial sympathy or a false, insincere display of emotion derives from an ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey, and as such is present in many modern languages. Other crocodilians such as alligators and caimans, though not seen as hypocritical, are also tarred with superstition. In Cajun and south Louisiana folklore, it is believed that if an alligator crawls under your house, there will be a death soon! While in South America, the Hombre Caiman, or Alligatorman, is a legendary creature that possesses both Alligator and human features. He is said to have been a fisherman converted by the spirit of the Magdalena river into an alligator, that returns every year on St. Sebastian´s day to hunt human victims, much like the werewolf! Yikes! "See you later alligator!" And "In a while, crocodile."
World Crocodile Day was established as global awareness campaign to highlight the plight of endangered crocodiles and alligators around the world.
Despite being entirely different animals (sharing the order Crocodilia, but not a family), crocodiles and alligators can be distinguished easily by several features, including their smiles.
In both animals' lower jaws, they have a long tooth on either side. When crocodiles close their mouths, you can see these long teeth protrude from their faces. Alligators, on the other hand, slip them into sockets in their upper jaw. Also, crocodiles tend to have V-shaped faces, while alligators have shorter, U-shaped snouts and a generally greener skin.
In terms of geography, crocodiles are much more common, inhabiting a good chunk of the eastern hemisphere and Central America. Alligators are more modest in their population, living mostly in South America and the southern United States, with a tiny pocket in China.
The expression "to shed crocodile tears" meaning a superficial sympathy or a false, insincere display of emotion, is an ancient one, and is derived from an actual phenomenon observed in crocodiles, though it appears to be a reflex action triggered by feeding and possibly, the rush of airs through the sinuses, triggering the tear ducts.
However, it was originally believed that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey. A collection of proverbs attributed to Plutarch suggests that the phrase "crocodile tears" was well known in antiquity: comparing the crocodile's behaviour to people who desire or cause the death of someone, but then publicly lament for them. This expression occurs in many languages, having been introduced in Europe in the original Latin. An alternative meaning exists, introduced by 16th century writer, Edward Topsell, who wrote: "There are not many brute beasts that can weep, but such is the nature of the crocodile that, to get a man within his danger, he will sob, sigh, and weep as though he were in extremity, but suddenly he destroyeth him." In this version, the crocodile pretends to be in distress to lure prey into a false sense of security.
Regardless of the insincerity attributed to them, many crocodilians (including alligators, crocodiles, caiman and gharials) are threatened by the leather trade or habitat encroachment. Learn more here.
And although there are no real native modern Scottish crocodilians, a prehistoric fossil of crocodile relatives, called atoposaurids, has been found on the Isle of Skye - these small crocodile creatures coexisted with the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era and unique for their semiaquatic lifestyle and “dwarfed” size—they were no more than 1 foot long fully grown.
If you are in Scotland, you can still see a resident crocodile in the form of the "Crocodile Rock" a painted rock formation in Millport, Scotland. To learn more about this 1913 reptilian graffiti art, click the picture below.