Estonia’s masked bandit (3)
Archived Articles 30 Mar 2007  EWR
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Ära mängi mäkra! – “Don’t play badger” is not synonymous with the English expression “Don’t badger (pester) me”. If you play an Estonian mäger, so to speak, you cause trouble. Erakond hakkas presidendivalimistel mäkra mängima – The political party started scheming during presidential elections. A thing can also “turn badger”, if it fails to perform properly: Mobiil hakkas mäkra mängima – My mobile / cell phone started acting up.
The badger may have being singled out in this way due to its crafty nocturnal ways, or perhaps because of its cartoonish good looks and gorgeous smile. (The European cousin looks friendlier than its low-to-the-ground, wider North American counterpart.) Saku brewery introduced Mägra õlu a few years back, which started up mägra mania, including calls (half jokingly) for the badger to be declared the national animal and to replace the lions on the Estonian coat of arms with mägrad, since they are a native species and reflect the Estonians’ penchant to out-badger one another.

News from the extensive networks of badger tunnels (called setts or mägralinnakud) is that their cubs have been, or are about to be born. Hilly Southern-Estonia is perfect for excavating such setts, which can be tens of kilometres in length and in use for centuries by countless generations of social, omnivorous, (troublemaking?) mägra clans. No doubt the mäger is well known as the token practical joker at extended family get-togethers including the marten, ermine and weasel (nugis, kärp ja nirk).
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