I love finding stories about P. M. (Peder Martinius) Jensen Tveit. The famous beaver whisper was front and center in my research at the Jamtli archive today. This was a man who loved beavers.
Jensen Tveit had an extended correspondence with the Jämtlands county heritage director Eric Festin and the forester Per Olov Steen about a beaver reintroduction effort in Råndalen, Härjedalen (which is close to Funäsdalen where I’ll be visiting the Swedish muskox later this week). There were lots of logistical details that had to be worked out and Jensen Tveit was a busy man. In his letter to Steen on 20 January 1935, he apologised for the delay writing back, but he was busy catching beavers — he’d be delivering a pair to Laxå (halfway between Oslo and Stockholm) at the end of the month and two pair to Finland after that, although he still needed to catch one more female.
In October 1935, Jensen Tveit came as promised with two beaver pairs to the release site in Härjedalen. The newspaper coverage of the event featured jensen Tveit’s involvement, like the one in Ljusdals Tidningen with a picture of him and Steen holding the beavers about to be released.
But the most impressive coverage was a short profile article about him in the major newspaper Dagens Nyheter with the title “Bäverkärlek” (Beaver love). Jensen was characterised as “a beaver enthusiast who believes beavers are the best of all the animals.” Then the article recounted a story Jensen told the reporter, which is worth reporting in full (my translation of course):
I remember for example a beaver male who when he was captured was separated from his partner and youngsters. Eventually they were reunited, although in captivity. The joy of meeting again was touching. But the male was so strangely tired when he saw his beloved that he lay face down and was dead, dead from joy. Well, beaver’s love is infinite, he likewise can hate to death, but never more than he has the right to.
Ah, the drama! The beaver loved his family so much that the joy of being reunited overwhelmed him and he died. Now that’s one for the storybooks. And so it was. When another, much longer profile article appeared on Jensen in the Östersund local paper in July 1936, he retold that story along with two others about the beaver’s cleverness. I’m sure it was one of those Romeo and Juliet style sagas that was told and retold during the last few years of the Swedish beaver reintroductions.
The assignment of emotions in this case is anthropomorphism in its extreme. Beavers are indeed monogamous so I’m sure the beaver recognised his life-long mate, but to say he died from love? That’s over the top. We humans have a tendency to think animals think like us.
Jensen stressed his love for beavers and their love for him on his letterhead from 1937, which featured three pictures of him with his beavers. He is holding, petting, and feeding them. Awwww. So cute.
But you have to wonder about his statement that the beaver could also die from hate. Did he mean that it could die from hating another beaver? Certainly males put in the same enclosure are known to fight, so one could die that way. Or could he perhaps have meant that a beaver could die from hating him, the beaver lover? After all, if I was a beaver and got trapped, taken away from my family and put into a wire cage with a little pool of water (like the middle picture shows), I wouldn’t be all too keen on my captor. But my guess is that he didn’t think the beavers hated him, even if they did. I’m sure he thought the beavers loved him, just as he loved them.