Meet Winston

One of the main characters in On Purpose is Winston, the dung beetle. We sat down with Winston recently to learn more about his role in this book.

Listen to the interview

Good morning.

Yes, it is.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Winston. I'm originally from the Nile delta region of Egypt.

And you are a dung beetle.

Of course. Would have thought that was self-evident. I am from the family Scarabaeidae, scarab for short.

Oh...that's a more refined term than dung beetle.

Not at all. You are, after all, what you eat.

And how exactly does dung taste?

Delicious! And very high in nutrients.


An acquired taste, I suppose.

So, how did you come by this remarkable ability to speak?

I owe it all to Mr. Henry Salt, the Egyptologist. Henry discovered the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Ramesses III in the early 1800s and brought it to the Louvre Museum in Paris. I was residing inside at the time.

And you got to Oxford, how?

I hitched a ride with Francis Llewelyn Griffith. He was a frequent visitor to the Louvre collection in 1920s. Jumped into his briefcase one afternoon and off we went.

Was Prof. Griffith aware of this escapade?

Never caught wind of it and I've been auditing classes at Oxford ever since.

That would mean you're at least 200 years old give or take. I thought the average life-span of a dung beetle was 3 days.

Yes. I am the exception to that rule.

So, how did you end up in this book?

I think Vic took a liking to me due to my species' most distinctive trait: We relentlessly pursue our purpose: making dung balls and then relentlessly rolling them in as straight a line as possible to our destination. We are very determined. And our lives are all the richer for it.

So you're a symbol of sorts. A mascot for finding and pursuing one’s purpose.

Mascot? I'm a little more sage than that. The Egyptians used to give me credit for the sun coming up.

Fair enough.

In the book, I help Vic teach his class On Purpose. When magical things happen, I’m generally behind it. Myself, or that other fellow.

Other fellow?

Death, of course. Thinks a lot of himself, that one. Gigantic ego.

Well, thank you for sitting down with us.

A pleasure, I'm sure.