Perhaps this tale from the dawn of time explains how fur became a fashion statement
At the dawn of time, an enterprising caveman, known as Swarthy Zub, lived at the far end of the cave village. Swarthy Zub might have thought himself an “entrepreneur,” and his old friend, Not-tall Zuk, a “mentor.” But, as neither word yet existed, Zub had not articulated this belief.
Zub was a simple fur trader who would barter tree-limb clubs and flint-pointed spears for fur pelts which he worked up into garments for the cave people. With bemusement, Zub often found that he was trading his finished garments for the very clubs and spears he'd exchanged earlier in the year. His old friend Zuk liked to expound on this phenomenon, which he called “a balanced budget,” but Zub usually just smiled and shrugged and kept on scraping hides, for he wasn't much into politics or civics lessons.
Early one morning in the late spring, the brutish Neb schlepped into Zub's cave accompanied by his ever present entourage of gnats and flies. Zub steeled his features so as to not grimace over Neb's reeking stench, nor scowl as several flies alighted on the cave walls, intent upon staying for good. Neb had stopped by to announce that the cave people had decided to appoint a king. The powerful caveman Mog was the most obvious and inevitable choice, according to Neb. With an evil leer, Neb growled, “Of course I shall handle all of the details for the king's coronation.” Zub was wary, for he didn't get along very well with Neb. In fact, Zub would have said there was “antipathy” between them, had the word existed at the time.
Neb smiled slyly as he laid down a single flint point and said, “Now, I have promised Mog that as king he shall wear the finest pelts that you have in your possession. And, Zub, just so you know, the king must have this new regalia by noon tomorrow!”
As Neb stepped to the door of the cave, chuckling, Zub's heart was heavy with worry. Then his blood ran cold when Neb stopped and turned back slowly. “By the way,” sneered Neb, “I have arranged to be appointed Chief High Executioner as soon as Mog is crowned king. So, my dear Zub, I would suggest that you do not disappoint him!” With an evil guffaw, Neb stepped out into the daylight and in a cloud of gnats sauntered off down the trail to the village.
In a panic, Zub rushed about the cave. Summer was approaching and he had tanned and traded away almost every pelt that he had. What could he do, he wondered, to save his life? Just then, a shadow fell across the cave door, a very short shadow, and Zub looked up to see his old friend Zuk enter. With more than a bit of agitation, Zub explained that he was in quite a predicament (which he mispronounced as “a pickle”), but Zuk didn't seem very worried. “Calm down, my old friend,” said Zuk, “calm down and tell me just what furs you do have left.”
Zub tried to keep his voice steady as he tallied aloud the pitiful inventory that remained. “Over there,” Zub jabbed his thumb over his shoulder, “I have several weasel pelts from Asia. And up there,” he waggled his finger toward his trash ledge, “I only have some winter weasel skins. So you see? I am doomed!”
Zuk began to stroke his beard as he stood deep in thought. At last his face brightened and he told Zub, “Don't worry, I have a plan! You make the finest cloak that you can from all these weasel furs, and tomorrow I will be at your side when you present it to our new King Mog.”
Zub was curious, but still worried because Zuk was rather short and not known to be much of a fighter. If the gift was perceived as an insult, Zuk could hardly stave off the brutish Neb and his clan. “How can you help me?” Zub asked.
Zuk smiled as he said, “Why, with my stentorian voice!” Zub didn't recognize the word, and he repeated, “Stentorian?” Zuk laughed, “Yes, it means I bellow like a Mammoth. That's why I was hoping for a senate rather than a king. But, go with the flow, my friend, just go with the flow.”
Zub shrugged, for he rarely followed politics and he didn't see how a speech would save his life. But Zub trusted his old friend, and so he set to work on the few bedraggled pelts he had left.
By mid-morning the following day, the shadow of the village day-pole had just begun to climb its shaft when the cave people gathered around with their gifts for the coronation of the new king. Accompanied by the brutish Neb and his scowling clan of clubsmen, the powerful Mog proceeded along the path toward the day-pole, smiling and accepting the woven twig baskets of fruits, berries, fried lizards, and shiny shells presented by his adoring subjects.
At the far end of the path, Swarthy Zub waited nervously with his friend, amazed at how calm Not-tall Zuk seemed to be, considering the two of them were within a minute of getting their brains clubbed in. Just as Mog reached the day-pole, Zuk cleared his throat and in stentorian tones spoke to the people. It was then that Zub realized Zuk was more than an old friend, more than a short caveman with a loud voice, more than a bearded wise man; Zuk was a Spin Doctor Extraordinaire!
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Zuk bellowed, “in a few minutes Neb and his Royal Guard of clubsmen shall have first choice of the ladies with whom to dance in a celebration promenade for our new king, Mog the Magnificent!” The clubsmen's scowls faded as they set down their clubs and the gift baskets and began to look around seeking the fairest, or at least cleanest, of cave women about. Zuk harrumphed for attention, then continued bellowing, “But first we must honor our king by presenting him with his royal cloak.” Zuk elbowed Zub who nervously unfolded the weasel pelts he had worked on all night.
As Zub stepped forward to present the cloak to the king, Zuk raised his arms in salutation and bellowed, “Ladies and Gentlemen please bow as King Mog is wrapped in this royal cloak crafted from the finest fur…of Far East Sable and trimmed with…the exotic fur of Ermine—most assuredly a cloak fit for a king!”
Zub could hardly believe his ears as the cave women began to “Ooo” and “Ahh” over the pelts he'd worked up into Mog's new cloak. Then a wry smile flitted across his lips as, deep in his heart, Zub realized that not only had his old friend saved his life, but from that day forward, kings and queens and haughty women of wealth would wear weasel and think they were really something quite extraordinaire.
-originally published in Bards & Sages Quarterly -January 2012