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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2007

A Bare Tail Tale

There is a Cherokee folk tale explaining why the opossum’s tail is bare. According to the story, many years ago, the opossum was very proud of its long, bushy tail. Because the other animals resented the opossum’s lovely tail and his pride, they arranged to have his tail shaved. When the opossum discovered that the formerly fluffy tail was now thin and bare, he was so embarrassed that he fainted, with a grin on his face. This was the first time an animal “played possum.”

While this interesting fable reminds us of the danger of pride (Romans 12:3), it does not reveal the real story of the origin of the possum’s bare tail. Actually, God created the possum’s tail to be prehensile: perfect for climbing, grasping, and wrapping around tree limbs. Possums’ tails are long (10-21 inches), thick, and hairless.

The possum can even hang from its tail for a short time. Possums do not sleep hanging from trees, because their tails cannot suspend them for that long. However, many of them live primarily in trees. They use their tails to gather and carry grass and leaves to construct nests.

Fortunately, God gave each creature, including the possum, its necessary tools for life. Sometimes, we are surprised to learn that so much of a creature’s lifestyle depends on a body part we rarely notice (such as the tail).

We enjoy physical life in a beautiful, natural world filled with amazing creatures, and a spiritual life through Christ—a life that will endure long after we die (John 10:10,28; 11:25; Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 15). God provides for the animals and, even more, He gives us everything we need in order to live here and hereafter. 

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