Bats in Myth, Legend and Folklore from Around the World

Original photo: אורן פלס Oren Peles Derivative work: User:MathKnight [CC BY 2.5 (]

This article was first published on as Bat Myths and Folktales from Around the World by zteve t evans on 31st October 2019

Strange Creatures

Bats feature in many myths, legends and folklore from diverse cultures around the world, and are often associated with darkness, death and the supernatural. Unquestionably, they are strange creatures, appearing as half animal and half bird, like something from a nightmare world. From this duality and strangeness evolved a reputation of duplicity and threat, appearing as neither one thing nor the other. In fact they are mammals of the scientific order Chiroptera, meaning “hand wing” in ancient Greek, because their forelimbs have become adapted to be wings. Do they really deserve this sinister reputation, or do they play a more important role in the world than feeding the dark human fascination for the spooky and the supernatural?

Presented here are different viewpoints from around the world, followed by a short look at the real significance of bats to humankind.

 Aesop’s Fables: The Bat and the Weasel

The duality of bats is mentioned in one of Aesop’s Fables, which tells how a bat fell to the ground and was pounced on by a weasel. The bat begged to be spared but the weasel insisted that he could not do that because he was an enemy of all birds. The bat said, “Well look at me.  I am a mouse, not a bird!” The weasel looked at the bat and agreed it was a mouse and released it. A little later the same bat was caught by another weasel and begged for mercy. The weasel replied, “No, I never let mice go!” The bat said, “Well, look closely at me.  I am a bird.  See my wings.” The weasel replied, “Well, so you are!” and let the bat go.

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10 thoughts on “Bats in Myth, Legend and Folklore from Around the World

  1. The difference between Western And Eastern ideas about bats is quite interesting. In Vietnamese culture, seeing a red bat in a dream is a sign of fertility and happiness in relationships. Owls are bad luck in Asian culture, while Westerners think of them as wise.

  2. Great minds think alike! I did a post about bats last week 🙂 Loved (this) your article over on FolkloreThursday.

  3. Bats are certainly very alluring creatures, possessing some unique traits like their ability to echolocate their prey and get a feel of their surroundings. They make calls that travel through the air until they hit an object. This call then bounces off the object and echos back to the bat, letting it know where the object is.

    A few years back I caught myself wondering about the bat logo that appears in the Bacardi rum. When I did a little research about it, I discovered this peculiar tale: after founding the company in 1862, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso set up Bacardi’s first distillery that was nothing more than a shabby warehouse. His wife spotted hundreds of fruit bats living in the rafters of the family distillery, attracted by the fragrant smell of the molasses and, instead of hunting them away, she allowed them to roost there. Bats are natural friends of the rum industry as they pollinate the sugarcane crops and prey on insects that damage them. What’s more, they are thought to bring good luck throughout Latin America. So, the bat was the perfect choice of a logo for that case.

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