The Myth about Disney inventing the myth about Lemmings Committing Suicide in a movie has little truth to it.
Disney did a lot of work to perpetuate the story, however.
Disney cameramen shooting lemmings for the film White Wilderness in 1958 were instructed to “throw them over the cliff by the bucketful if necessary” to create the spectacle of thousands of lemmings tossing themselves into the ocean to drown.
However, the Disney producers didn’t introduce the myth, they were merely trying to re-create something they’d heard about, and which they themselves believed to be true.
In reality, the lemming suicide myth existed long before Disney. Lemming suicide stories emerged centuries earlier in Scandinavia, where people had witnessed masses of the clumsy animals falling and drowning.
Over the years, the myths became even more bizarre. Swedish archbishop Olaus Magnus who wrote The History of Northern Peoples in 1555, speculated that the only explanation for sudden explosions in lemming populations was that they fell from the sky.
This echoes an Inuit myth about the collared lemming, which they call kilangmiutak, “that which falls from the sky”.
Too bad Disney didn’t show that, because it would have been a great movie.