Oh and hey everyone 🙋 glad to stumble on this polyamory community.
(well, in folk etymologies)
draws my attention to a myth about the beaver which flourished in classical and medieval times. Here's Aelian:
Now [the beaver] understands the reason why hunters come after it with such eagerness and impetuosity, and it puts down its head and with its teeth cuts off its testicles and throws them in their path, as a prudent man who, falling into the hands of robbers, sacrifices all that he is carrying, to save his life, and forfeits his possessions by way of ransom. If however it has already saved its life by self-castration and is again pursued, then it stands up and reveals that it offers no ground for their eager pursuit, and releases the hunters from all further exertions, for they esteem its flesh less.
In fact what the beaver was hunted for were not its testicles (which are internal) but its scent glands, present on males and females both but of similar dangling appearance, and whose extract had uses in medicine, perfumery, and cuisine. But that's a small quibble in light of the self-mutilation story, which AFAICT has no factual basis. Ed's source speculates about the origins of the myth but entirely misses the crucial fact, which my main link does pick up on — though etymologically unrelated, the Latin for "beaver" was castor, and for "castrate" castrō. That's just too good a coincidence to pass up! Some Romans were bound to have told a just-so story about why the beaver was called the castrator, which would've easily been astonishing enough and quite possibly early enough to spread to Aesop, and stuck around with embellishments for a millennium or two.
This makes a nice second example to set alongside the one that's been my mainstay so far: the Cyclops. We all know the Cyclopes as the giants with a single big eye smack in the middle of the forehead. Some have attempted to trace the story to birth defects or skulls with big central holes, but I reckon likeliest the explanation of Paul Thieme and others: the Cyclopes will have originally been giants of quite common appearance whose distinguishing feature was that they were cattle thieves, *pḱu-klōps in Proto-Indo-European, and stock characters in Indo-European tales the continent over. In Greek this name developed to Κύκλωψ and chanced to look like it broke down as Κύκλ-ωψ, "circle-eye", and the Cyclopes' faces were adjusted to match.
Anyone know of further examples?
 I'm assuming this bit about the Egyptians is noise: even identifying animals in hieroglyphs can be a tricky proposition...
 Here's one, from a dwarf elephant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:0472_-_Siracusa_-_Museo_archeologico_-_Elephas_Falconeri_Foto_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto_-_22-May-2008.jpg
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