The Lemming Who Wouldn’t Jump

Photo of cliffs overlooking a treacherous stretch of ocean

Photo by Dylan Alcock on Unsplash

The lemming is a type of rodent that lives around the Arctic. They are the most fascinating of rodents because they make migratory excursions to the sea where they jump off cliffs and commit mass suicide. Here is a tale of a group of lemmings who made one such journey off a cliff.  

My story begins in the high mountains which are called fells, spelled fjell in Norwegian. Lemmings usually live in the snow and make nests to escape predators. When it thaws they migrate to lower lands. This particular winter was mild and the snow had thawed and there was plenty of food for the lemmings, including lots of berries, nuts, and vegetation. The male lemmings are doing prosperously and the females have a lot of mates to breed with.  

They are all living the good life where they believe there will be no more winter. So they come out of their burrows and feast till their bellies are full. These lemmings cheered and partied everyday. “No more winter!” they all said.  

One lemming, however, was different. His name was Spot. He was suspicious of the other lemmings. He remembered the hard winters and stored his food in the burrows. The other lemmings asked him why put so much food in his burrow. “There’s gonna be no more winter didn’t you hear,” they said. “You need to be a lemming like us and get rid of your food.”  

Spot said, “I feel a storm coming.” The lemmings chuckled. “Only muskrats forecast storms. Go ahead in your burrow and miss the party.”  

They all sang and rolled around till a snowflake hit the ground. One lemming said, “Don’t worry. There’s always a little turbulence in prosperity.” Then the wind growled and the temperature dropped. A blizzard was on the way. The lemmings hurried in their huts and the snow piled up.  

Soon, their harvest was gone, food was scarce and they all pointed fingers and started fighting each other. They wanted to know who said, “no more winter.” They all were grumbling from starvation, they looked thinner and thinner and wished the snow would go away.  

Until one day a charismatic lemming name Haiku talked about what it was to be a lemming.  

He had a different kind of fur – it was slick, well-groomed and his paws were trimmed. He told the males it was time to go to the ocean, find a good cliff and jump. The lemmings became excited. There was hope in their dull lives! As Haiku glorified the idea of jumping the lemmings cheered. “This is what a lemming should do!” they shouted. They cheered, they celebrated, until Spot the lemming said, Who’s gonna be the first to jump off the cliff?”  

The crowd got silent. They looked angry at him and said, “Is he a lemming? He can’t be a lemming. He must be a mole, or worse yet a hedgehog, for he isn’t a jumper.” One asked him where was he from? “Are you imported from France? ‘Cus we jump here!”  

Spot spoke and said, “This lemming Haiku talks the talk of jumping, but ask him what’s it like when you hit the ground. He’s not a jumper, he’s a runner. When the great day of jumping comes will you be able to tell. How many lemmings see their grandchildren? How many wise old lemmings are there? I don’t see any, so I’m not jumping.”  

This charismatic lemming Haiku told the crowd, “I am gonna be a lemming and do what a lemming does, and that is jump. Is anyone coming?”  

They roared and started for the cliff. As they cheered and jumped Haiku and Spot hung on as the lemmings hit the water. As the lemmings fell off the cliff they all hit the water and drowned.  

The next day there were dead lemmings everywhere. Only two lemmings standing – Haiku and Spot. One told the lemmings to jump and the other used his judgment and didn’t jump.  

I guess there is a moral for this tale: Before you follow someone off a cliff, see if they jump first.  

Jeffery has been a vendor for two years and hails from New Jersey. 

information about New Signature, a Washington DC tech solutions and consulting firm


email updates

We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.