The Legend of the White Whale: Part Two

Lightning flickered like tongues, their forks revealing in the salty dross
the fleeting sight of a crushing dorsal fin. What beast could it be?
My children I swear,
that it was fifty hundred spans by a dozen leagues across!

Such a spectacle could not be washed from the water, unless cleansed by human hands.
Fishing villages quickly called forth their boats, a flotilla of golden keels and soft sails.
Boys numbly fingered charms as priests prayed, as girls played tunes for their return.
Only splintered masts floated back. Burned like incense, sown ashes; 
   mocking funerary rite.
Oh children, to hear the widows wail every night!

Peg-legged Ahab did not ploy our seas for this spectral murderer; What man could? 
No, his honour goes to Chizue in our tale: 
Wife of Kinzei the Fisherman, Rotten Chizue was a tempest
swearing to She Who Invites that she would find revenge. 
‘This phantom monster will feel dread!’ Raven Haired Chizue uttered every night,
dreams of great offerings to the dead, gashed skulls wrapped shut

The Legend of the White Whale–wow, what a poem to write! There is so much going on in the finished version that it embodies a lumbering, legendary whale; too large to put into one post, to say the very least!

This Epic is ‘from the archives’, a category that includes any ‘hidden gems’ that have been written and promptly forgotten about. Some have been languishing in my computer files for quite a while, so they might be…as less refined…as some of my much recent works. However, with a bit of spit and polish, most of these ‘from the archive’ poems can be brought back up to good form.

Anyway, back to the Epic! So, backstory: The poem was written at the start of my second-year studies, where I was frequently exposed to mythology, folklore, and legends. For those who know me well, I was totally in my element. My tutor also motivated us (the students) to re-write old literature, so that’s what I did to these fairy-tales!

The narrative of the poem is quite simple: It’s Moby Dick, but re-set in Medieval Japan, pitting a vengeful heroine against the mythical Bake-kujira–the ghost whale. The mythos surrounding the ghost whale is quite interesting, so if you want to know more about this Spirit I’ve attached a link to its (disappointingly short) Wikipedia article.

I’ve tried my hardest to respect the original mythos surrounding both Moby Dick and Bake-kujira, while constructing something new. If notice any references or Easter Eggs, let me know below!

The next part of this Epic will be published next Tuesday at 8am!

© Thomas Gallimore Barker, 2021


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