The Legend of Lemuel the Lemming

Lemuel Lemming was a lemming, much like other lemmings.  He ate what other lemmings ate.  He slept about as long as other lemmings slept.  So, pretty much your average lemming.

Lemuel did sometimes wonder about things.  Like why they all ate certain foods.  But he noticed that other lemmings did not ask questions like that, so he figured he wouldn’t ask questions like that.  Go with the flow.  Like other lemmings.

One day, while Lemuel was engaged in the normal everyday business of being a lemming, he heard a strange sound.  A rumble.  Lemmings around him lifted their heads, so he did too.

The rumbling was the sound of many lemmings running.  They were running in the same direction, and coming right at Lemuel and his companions.  When the crowd of running lemmings enveloped them, Lemuel and the other lemmings began running, too.  Go with the flow.  Like the other lemmings.

After running for a bit, Lemuel began to wonder why they were all running.

“Why are we all running?” he asked the lemmings running next to him.

“Because everybody else is running!” several lemmings replied.

“Umm, do we know where we’re running to?”  asked Lemuel.

“To the cliff!”  was the answer.  “We’re running to the cliff to jump off!”

Lemuel continued running while he thought about this.  He couldn’t make sense of it.  We’re running to the cliff to jump off.  No, Lemuel thought.  That makes zero sense.

“That makes no sense!”  yelled Lemuel.  “We should stop!”

Some nearby lemmings looked at Lemuel.  They were a bit startled.  We should stop?  But every other lemming is running.

Lemuel angled to the edge of the sea of running lemmings.  There, he was able to slow down, extricate himself from the mass of lemmings, and come to a stop.  A few other lemmings noticed that he stopped.  Some of those lemmings stopped too.

“Why are you stopping?” they asked him.  “Everyone is running.”

“Running makes no sense,” replied Lemuel.  “We’re just running to jump off a cliff.  Jumping off a cliff is a bad idea.  We should not keep running to the cliff.”

Some of the other lemmings thought Lemuel made sense.  Others weren’t so sure.  Everyone else was running.  Maybe they should ALL keep running.  Some of the stopped lemmings decided to run anyway.  Others stayed with Lemuel, uncertain what to do.

Lemuel decided to climb up a small hill to see what was going on ahead.  After all, he had only been told that they were running to jump off a cliff.  Maybe that wasn’t true.

What Lemuel saw astounded him.  As far as he could see, there was a mass of lemmings, running straight for the cliff.  At the edge of the cliff was a lemming standing on a rock, urging the lemmings to jump.  This lemming had a parachute pack on his back and looked important.

The other lemmings didn’t slow when they got to the cliff, they just ran right off the edge.  Lemuel couldn’t see what happened after they ran off the cliff, but he could imagine.  The thought sickened him.

Lemuel returned to his dwindling band of followers.

“Look, guys,” he said, “I saw up ahead.  There’s a leader at the cliff urging lemmings to jump over the edge.  I think he’s wrong.  I think he’s not a good lemming.  A good lemming would not do something to harm other lemmings.”

Lemuel’s lemmings agreed.  But what could they do?  They’re lemmings.  They go with the flow.  That’s what lemmings do.

Lemuel convinced his new lemming friends to help him stop other lemmings from running.  They worked their way up the fringe of the mass of lemmings, urging other lemmings to stop.

Some lemmings did stop to listen to Lemuel and his friends.  Some of those lemmings joined Lemuel.  Others agreed that running made no sense but felt compelled to run anyway.  So many other lemmings were doing it, and they felt uncomfortable not doing what most other lemmings were doing.

After a while, Lemuel could see the futility of his task.  He and his friends just could not convince enough lemmings to stop running.  His little band had grown, but they were still so small in number compared with the many lemmings running by.

Lemuel returned up the little hill, seeking inspiration.   He looked to the right, to the cliff.  He looked to the left, where the lemmings ran from.  He looked straight ahead, across the sea of running lemmings.  That’s when he saw it.

“Hey guys!” Lemuel called, skidding down the hill.  “On the other side of the running lemmings, I see other lemmings like us!  They’ve stopped running, and they seem to be trying to urge other lemmings to stop too.”

The other lemmings in Lemuel’s group thought this was great!  It wasn’t just them.  More lemmings had stopped running!  But there was just one problem.

“How can we get to those lemmings?” they wondered.

Lemuel had an idea.  He explained his idea.  He scratched in the dirt to demonstrate his idea.  Some of his lemmings doubted, but most were game to try.  There wasn’t much time to lose.  They had to act.

Lemuel and his lemmings formed a V-shaped wedge and began working their way into the sea of running lemmings.  With Lemuel at the front of the V, their wedge cut on an angle through the flow of lemmings.  Their wedge went against the flow.  Some of the running lemmings changed course and began to follow Lemuel’s wedge of lemmings.  By the time they got to the other side of the flow of lemmings, they’d gained dozens more lemmings.

After they came out of the flow of lemmings on the other side, they made their way to the group of stopped lemmings Lemuel had seen from the hill.  Both groups were so pleased to find each other.  Now, instead of two little groups separated by masses of running lemmings, they were a larger group.

The larger group of lemmings quickly made a plan.  The wedge idea had worked well, so they headed back into the flow of lemmings, heading upstream away from the cliff.  As the running lemmings had to part to make way for the growing wedge, many of them slowed and then turned to follow the wedge.

While many lemmings—so many that it would break your heart—continued running and did jump over the cliff, Lemuel and his friends of both groups managed to turn the tide and stop many more lemmings from running and jumping.

What Lemuel did wasn’t easy.  It’s difficult getting lemmings to go against the flow.  That’s not usually what lemmings do.

But Lemuel Lemming saved so many lemmings by doing what was unusual, what was difficult.  Lemuel did what average lemmings never thought to do—go against the flow.

Lemuel turned the tide of lemming history.