1776: Reindeer

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And then in a twinkling, a sound gave me pause / From the roof came the scratching of eight tarsal claws.
Title text: And then in a twinkling, a sound gave me pause / From the roof came the scratching of eight tarsal claws.


In the Christmas comic of 2016, Black Hat is at it again, freaking out a young child, by replacing the eight reindeer of Santa's sleigh with a single spider-legged reindeer, thus with eight legs. He considers this "more authentic" because Santa Claus is based on Odin (among many other things), the chief god of Norse mythology. On the pagan holiday of Yule, Odin was said to ride his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, across the land. Children would leave one of their boots out and fill it with hay for Sleipnir to eat, then Odin would refill the boot with gifts. This predates the Christmas tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney.

The traditional interpretation of the horse with eight legs is a normal equine body, with a pair of identical legs where each leg of a normal horse is. As such, Sleipnir looks majestic and not entirely unnatural. Black Hat's interpretation is to use the body plan of a spider. The result of this is to make a chimaera that is both creepy and terrifying, at least to those with arachnophobia (the quite common fear of spiders).

The title text is a parody of two lines from the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas", "And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof / The prancing and pawing of each little hoof."

The lines are changed to what they could have been if Santa had a spider-legged reindeer - the sound of "eight tarsal claws", referring to the small pair (or triplet) of claws at the end of each of a spider's eight legs. These claws allow them to hold onto objects, including their own web. However, as such an eight-legged spider would have 16 or 24 claws, the text is slightly incorrect.


[Black Hat and a boy, with a lot of dark hair, are standing to the right of an empty sleigh pulled by a reindeer with eight spider-like legs. Black Hat has raised one arm towards the reindeer and the boy has his arms out to either side.]
Black Hat: In earlier Norse myths, the eight reindeer were actually one steed with eight legs.
Black Hat: So I think this is more authentic.
Boy: Aaaaaa!

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Captcha does not work on mobile browser. (Android Firefox) Had to switch over to laptop to make edit. Also, it's two words, not one as the thing above implies ("To help protect against automated edit spam, please type the word you see in the box below:") ~Dartania 14:03, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

This post was made with Firefox on Android. Are you sure you didn’t just get a difficult CAPTCHA? 14:32, 23 December 2016 (UTC)
The captcha from my most recent edit had a total of four words and 23 letters. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk)

Title text could be a parody of "When what to my wondering eyes should appear/but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer" from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus's_reindeer#Eight_reindeer 14:42, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Seems more likely to be a few lines later, “And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof / The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.” 15:19, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

To pick nits, an octopus has eight arms and no tentacles. A squid has eight arms plus two tentacles. -- 15:21, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

To pick further nits, some instead argue that octopuses have 6 arms and 2 legs. Hppavilion1 (talk) 20:14, 30 September 2018 (UTC)

Is the octopus tentacle comment adding anything? I believe octopodophobia is substantially rarer than arachnophobia (to the extent that it doesn't seem to have an official name); Cthulhu aside, I suspect a deer with octopus tentacles would mostly look weird (or comical) rather than scary. To most, I suspect octopus tentacles are only scary if you're on a ship being attacked by a kraken or if you're a diver and one is playfully tugging on your respirator. Of course, I speak as an arachnophobe who cringed when I saw this comic... Fluppeteer (talk) 15:39, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

In the Odin myth, he rides Sleipnir while he distributes gifts. Black Hat isn't all that authentic if he got that mixed up with the more modern "Santa Claus" mythology. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk)

Except that Black Hat doesn't actually care about being authentic, he just discovered a new fact that he wants to use to mess with people. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Fun bit of trivia: Loki is Sleipnir's mom. 19:23, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

One of many ways that Loki's life kinda sucked. He starts Ragnarok for a reason. -- 21:21, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
What makes you think that? Sure, there was lot of things which sucked in Loki's life, but we can't be sure what his sexual preferences are ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 07:05, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

Does Randall's repeating interest in spiders have any relevance here? -- 21:32, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

I think Randall screwed up with the title text. Spiders only have two (or, rarely, three) tarsal claws (See last line here: https://www.amnh.org/learn/biodiversity_counts/ident_help/Parts_Arthropods/male_spider.htm). So either BlackHat has been doing more agressive genetic engineering than you'd think or Randall screwed up! 21:44, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Maybe he's keeping it simple for people who didn't know that. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 00:32, 24 December 2016 (UTC)
I think the link provided above says that spiders have only two (or, rarely, three) tarsal claws per leg. This site (http://www.findaspider.org.au/info/glossary.htm) mentions that each leg has these claws, and some spiders have a median claw behind their main pair. This refers to the third claw spiders sometimes have, mentioned in the previous link. 01:37, 24 December 2016 (UTC)Count Schlick (talk)
Ah...that makes more sense. OK - so "the sound of sixteen to twenty four tarsal claws"...unless the reinspiders are standing on tippy-toes? 01:55, 24 December 2016 (UTC)

Perhaps a nod to Love Actually - one of the holiday season's more popular movies - which notes, "Eight is a lot of legs." ~Dave (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

To those of you who have watched Infinity Train, I think you'll agree with me that this deer's name is Alan Dracula 23:54, 4 May 2021 (UTC)