Why three hedgehogs?

Harris family coat of arms

I am closing my family history blog titled Three Hedgehogs and Other Family History Oddities.  I don’t have time for two blogs I discovered, so I’m moving the few posts here to my established blog.  You might wonder about the blog name, so here is the post that explains it:

I don’t mind if you wonder about my choice of hedgehogs as a title for a genealogy and family history blog.  I know they are cute and very popular–who can resist their little faces and their spiky outsides?  They don’t look fierce, like they are going to bite you.  Furthermore, they can run quickly and roll up into little balls when chased.

When I discovered there are three hedgehogs on the Harris family shield, I was  puzzled.  Where are the lions, tigers, bears or horses?  Bulldogs maybe, or wolves–but hedgehogs?  Relatives of the shrew and the mole? What is grand and mighty about them?   After googling the word hedgehogs,  I found out rather quickly.

In ancient Greece, the poet Archilochus established what has become  known as “The Hedgehog Concept.”  That is, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  Lyn T. Christian writes an excellent description of the theory.  She bases her summary on Isaiah Berlin’s application of this idea to writers and thinkers, in his 1957 essay, “The Fox and The Hedgehog.”  This essay was later extended to successful businesses in Jim Collins’s best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, HarperBusiness, 2001.

“The essence of the hedgehog concept lies in the two animal’s unique qualities. While a fox is very cunning, fast, sleek and crafty, the hedgehog is a waddling, frumpy looking compact armadillo/porcupine mix. The fox, as Berlin writes, knows many various useful strategies. The fox can wait for perfect moments to pounce on its prey. It can devise complex plans of attack and maneuvering. The hedgehog knows only one big thing. It knows how to stop, drop, and roll up into a tiny impenetrable ball of spikes. Anytime a hedgehog senses danger it does this one big thing impeccably well. The hedgehog in the long-run triumphs over the foxes of the world.” (Lyn T. Christian, 2003, soulsalt.com)

You can apply the hedgehog concept to your life.  Described as “Simplicity Within the Three Circles,” here are the three questions to ask yourself.   They are from  chapter five of Collins’s book.  Use these to  find your “inner hedgehogs.”

1) Determine what you can be best in the world at and what you cannot be best in the world at;
2) Determine what drives your economic engine;
3) Determine what you are deeply passionate about.

I plan to do this and write the results in a later blog entry.

Hundreds of years ago, when the Harris ancestors developed this shield, the hedgehog fable must have been passed around in tales told around the Great Room fire.  I like the idea that my ancient ancestors respected the simple strengths of this prickly creature.  Hedgehogs are more than cute!  They are small, but mighty in their unique way.


6 thoughts on “Why three hedgehogs?

  1. How unique. I’ve never seen a hedgehog up close. My only knowldege of them comes form the children’s novels Redfern. And as much as I hate the word “cute.” I have to use it here. Great story.

  2. Very interesting post Mary. I didn’t ever think about the hedgehog much beyond the fact that it is a cute animal. I know one of Amy’s friends even has one as a pet. It is interesting to learn that what it does best-to stop, drop, and roll up into a spiky ball can teach all of us a lesson. What a worthy animal for a family crest!

  3. Thanks for your comments, Valerie! I think they are an interesting animal as well. When I was researching this topic, I was surprised to find so much information on them, as well as so many varieties. There are even white ones!

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