Saturday, January 21, 2006

Whaling Walls...

Yesterday's live "Thames River Whale" story on NPR had me white-knuckling my way through the molasses traffic of LA on a Friday afternoon. Certainly the stuff of dreams: a young bottlenosed whale loses its way in the North Sea, and makes its way up the Thames right into the heart of London. There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it is possible that the baby whale had become separated from this group. "It is the epitome of cool," quietly commented one young schoolboy (can you picture a nine year-old American kid saying that?). The whale had injured itself and landed in shallow water where it was in danger of having its lungs crushed under its five tons of mass. Sadly, the massive rescue effort went south when the whale went into fatal convulsions after being lifted by crane onto the salvage barge "Crossness." No doubt Prince Harry and his friends will dress up as Nazis and gorge on whaleburgers well into '06.

The Alaskan Eskimos have told a tale for thousands of years about The Trickster Raven. While drying his feathers by the fire on the beach one day, he spied a whale-cow close to shore. He called, "Next time you come up for air my dear, open your mouth and shut your eyes." The Raven gathered up his firesticks and waited. When the Whale surfaced and did as she was told, the Raven flew right through the open jaws and deep into her belly. There inside, the Raven saw a handsomely decorated room, dry and clean, the whale's spine supporting the ceiling and the ribs forming the walls. At the far end of the room burned a lamp, and sitting next to it a beautiful girl, The Soul of the Whale. A great tube ran along the ceiling from which great sticky drops fell from a crack into the lamp. Everytime the Soul of the Whale left the room, she forbade the Raven to touch the tube. Of course, he could not resist, the drops were so sweet he proceeded to catch each drop as they fell. And in his greed, he broke off a piece of the tube. Then, a great gush of oil poured into the room and the whale began to convulse and roll violently for four days. The Raven had punctured the Whale's heart-artery and her death (along with the Soul of the Whale) was slow but certain. After four days, the dead Whale washed ashore. Trapped inside, the Raven, almost dead with fatigue, heard men climbing on to the dead Whale's body. They pierced her flesh in several places and from one of the holes the Raven snuck out and ran away. But then, the Raven, cold and wet, remembered that he had left his firesticks inside the Whale. The Raven then removed his feathers and his Raven beak and took the form of a man. He too climbed up onto the great carcass and began searching inside. One of the men then called out "Look what I have found, firesticks!" The Raven was angry and very hungry by now. He quickly thought up a tall tale: "My, but this is very bad," he said. "My daughter once told me that when fire sticks are found inside a whale, that all the people in the village will die. I'm for running!" And he did so, and all the other men followed him in suit. And that was how the Raven, who doubled back retrieved his firesticks and had a whole feast of Whale to himself.


Post a Comment

<< Home