Note: This is a piece of fan fiction I wrote for a booklet accompanying my Star Wars-themed altered taxidermy piece, the Teacup Tauntaun. You can see more pictures of this piece and find out more about its construction here. Part one of this written piece
Also, a quick shout-out to Cory Doctorow BoingBoing for sharing this critter in a post–many thanks!
A Victim of Its Own Success
Vordon was never particularly good at promotion, and although he sent a few dispatches out regarding the availability of new litters of Teacup Tauntaun, few visitors came to see his stock, and no one made a purchase. It is said by those who survived the experience that the normally noxious scent of the Tauntaun was concentrated even more greatly in this smaller version, which led to suspicions that Vordon had a particularly poor sense of smell, even for a Hutt.
Irrationally and desperately hoping that supply would create demand, Vordon continued breeding Teacup Tauntauns irresponsibly and only with an eye toward what he thought would be fashionable, with frequent inbreeding and little care for the animals’ health. He purchased more caves in which to keep his animals, and redoubled his meager promotional efforts, all to no avail.
By 68 ABY, even Vordon had to admit that things were not looking good for his scheme. The very traits that he had selected had become so exaggerated as to become harmful—sometimes even lethal—to newer litters of Teacup Tauntauns. The large pair of horns, meant now to be more ornamental than practical, had grown so long that they often extended far beyond the muzzle of mature animals, making it impossible for them to eat without assistance. Even the smaller horn buds had become hazardous; as the average size of a Teacup Tauntaun’s skull shrunk with each generation, the horn buds became more crowded, until one pair was routinely located so as to interfere with the animal’s ability to move its ears properly.
Sometimes this skull shrinkage would outpace the downsizing of the brains of Teacup Tauntauns. After several generations, some unfortunate animals would be born with skulls too small for their brains, leading to sometimes severe and painful neurological problems that eventually proved fatal. Others had such badly malformed hip joints that they were unable to walk properly. The list of health problems goes on and on: spinal deformities, missing teeth, and a disease that progressively robbed the animal of the ability to absorb nutrition from its food, leading it to slowly starve to death—or die from a burst stomach from overeating in desperation. The normally social Tauntauns at times would resort to killing their own suffering offspring to end their pain, displaying more compassion and intelligence than their breeder apparently showed.
Worse, a famine struck the region of Hoth where Vordon’s operations were located after the lichens that composed an important link of the ecosystem were stricken by a periodic bout of lichen blight. Wild stocks of Common and Glacial Tauntauns died of starvation, and the Teacup Tauntauns in their relatively flimsy pens became repeated targets for hungry Wampas. In the space of a year, the number of Teacup Tauntauns dropped to less than a dozen.
And Then There Was One
In 90 ABY, less than seventy standard years after Vordon began his ambitious project, the last Teacup Tauntaun passed away from a combination of congenital defects. Due to her stench, which was caused by the waste system of a Common Tauntaun being concentrated into the smaller body of a Teacup Tauntaun, and which as a result was repulsive enough to cause even the last two male Teacup Tauntauns to avoid her, she never reproduced. With her death, her species came to an ignominious end. Shortly before the animal—nicknamed “Yipo the Fluffy”—passed away, your beloved author was able to examine her and make a deal with Vordon to purchase her carcass once she had died of natural causes. It was the only Teacup Tauntaun Vordon ever sold.
Her head is mounted on a board decorated with idyllic scenery that belies the harshness of Hoth, her ancestors’ home planet, and reflects the romanticized imagery Vordon used in his sales pitches. She has been preserved with traditional Krish taxidermy techniques to best approximate her appearance in life, and with care this rare piece of history should last for a long, long time. Further, she should be seen as a reminder of our responsibility to our fellow creatures. When most species go extinct it is a tragedy; in the case of the Teacup Tauntaun, extinction was the final mercy.
About the Author
Haali Dendrac grew up in the floating city of Avtuu on her ancestral planet Ithor. From a young age, she knew she wanted to join the Ithorian nature priesthood, and voraciously questioned anyone she could about the flora, fauna and fungi that resided “in the arms of Mother Jungle”. When she came of age, she was made an acolyte of the priesthood and was allowed to accompany them on her first journey to the surface of Ithor, and nothing was ever the same. After the destruction of Ithor, she became one of the strongest proponents for the restoration of the planet’s ecology and continues to act as a consultant in the early efforts toward that end. Her youthful curiosity about the diversity of life on her home planet led her to further explore life on other planets, and she has dedicated her life to documenting her findings for the enjoyment of all. The Tragic Treatise of the Teacup Tauntaun is her fourth publication.
This piece is meant as a parody concerning the overbreeding of certain breeds of show dog in our world. While I am not against purebred dogs as a general concept, I find that many breeders, especially of popular breeds, put profits before puppies. There are few pure breeds today that do not have a slew of congenital defects. I have chosen to draw on a few of them in my discussion of the fictional Teacup Tauntaun. For example, it is estimated that over half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a condition known as syringomyelia, in which the skull is too small for the brain, which is pressed out the back of the skull cavity and causes both seizures and immense amounts of pain. And my own favorite breed, the German Shepherd, is frequently plagued by hip and elbow dysplasia, along with spinal myelopathy, a degeneration of the myelin sheath on the spinal cord which leads to a progressive numbing and eventual failure of the back half of the dog.
It is my hope that this piece will help raise awareness of the problems with inbreeding and indiscriminate breeding without care for these inherited health problems in pure breed dogs. Additionally, a portion of the funds from the sale of this piece will be donated to Multnomah County Animal Services to help them take better care of the animals waiting for forever homes there. MCAS is often overlooked in lieu of “sexier” shelters like the Oregon Humane Society, but when the time comes when I can finally get a dog of my own again, MCAS will be my first choice. I hope you’ll consider them the next time you wish you adopt a dog or cat, too.
Also, if you’d like to see the Teacup Tauntaun itself in person, it will be on display at Good: A Gallery here in Portland, OR for the month of May. The group show officially opens this Friday, May 2, from 7pm – 10pm; here’s more information.