Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11: The Great Kraken, Nephilim, Cryptozoology

Slowly wading through the meadows of brit, the Pequod still held on her way north-eastward towards the island of Java; a gentle air impelling her keel, so that in the surrounding serenity her three tall tapering masts mildly waved to that languid breeze, as three mild palms on a plain. And still, at wide intervals in the silvery night, the lonely, alluring jet would be seen.

But one transparent blue morning, when a stillness almost preternatural spread over the sea, however unattended with any stagnant calm; when the long burnished sun-glade on the waters seemed a golden finger laid across them, enjoining some secrecy; when the slippered waves whispered together as they softly ran on; in this profound hush of the visible sphere a strange spectre was seen by Daggoo from the main-mast-head.

In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed before our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus glistening for a moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once more arose, and silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick? thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on re-appearing once more, with a stiletto-like cry that startled every man from his nod, the negro yelled out- "There! there again! there she breaches! right ahead! The White Whale, the White Whale!"

Upon this, the seamen rushed to the yard-arms, as in swarming-time the bees rush to the boughs. Bare-headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on the bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave his orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction indicated aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo.

Whether the flitting attendance of the one still and solitary jet had gradually worked upon Ahab, so that he was now prepared to connect the ideas of mildness and repose with the first sight of the particular whale he pursued; however this was, or whether his eagerness betrayed him; whichever way it might have been, no sooner did he distinctly perceive the white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave orders for lowering.

The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab's in advance, and all swiftly pulling towards their prey. 
Soon it went down, and while, with oars suspended, we were awaiting its reappearance, lo! in the same spot where it sank, once more it slowly rose. Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to catch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.

As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice exclaimed- "Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!"

"What was it, Sir?" said Flask.

"The great live squid, which, they say, few whale-ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it."

But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel; the rest as silently following.

Whatever superstitions the sperm whalemen in general have connected with the sight of this object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being so very unusual, that circumstance has gone far to invest it with portentousness. So rarely is it beheld, that though one and all of them declare it to be the largest animated thing in the ocean, yet very few of them have any but the most vague ideas concerning its true nature and form; notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the sperm whale his only food. For though other species of whales find their food above water, and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the spermaceti whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and only by inference is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that food consists. At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length. They fancy that the monster to which these arms belonged ordinarily clings by them to the bed of the ocean; and that the sperm whale, unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it.

There seems some ground to imagine that the great Kraken of Bishop Pontoppodan may ultimately resolve itself into Squid. The manner in which the Bishop describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with some other particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond. But much abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he assigns it.

By some naturalists who have vaguely heard rumors of the mysterious creature, here spoken of, it is included among the class of cuttle-fish, to which, indeed, in certain external respects it would seem to belong, but only as the Anak of the tribe.

Melville employs a Biblical allusion at the end of this chapter to describe the Kraken (giant squid).  He calls it the "Anak of the tribe."  Anak was the ancestor of the Anakim, a tribe of giants who were the descendants of the Nephilim.  The Nephilim were purportedly the "sons of God" who had children with human females, thus creating a race of what would be considered demigods, I suppose.  In some texts, Nephilim are angels who procreate with humans.  Goliath, from the story of David and Goliath, is said to belong to the Anakim.

It's an interesting chapter in Moby-Dick, discussing the giant squid, which stayed simply a legend until almost the 20th century.  The giant squid remained the Kraken.  A sea monster of old.  Feared by all sailors and whalers.  Ahab wants nothing to do with this mythical creature.  His eyes are set on the White Whale only.  Of course, the appearance of this creature is another harbinger of doom for the crew of the Pequod.  Bad luck is all around.

As I said, a giant squid wasn't actually caught/photographed until the late 19th century.  And then myth became scientific fact.  I find the stories of the Nephilim and Anakim fascinating.  Of course, these two races of humans could be myth.  Or they could be actual accounts of nations of warriors.  Or, and this is the one I like the most, they could be ancient records of neanderthals that existed side-by-side with human beings during the time of Moses.

You can probably see where I'm going with this.  If the third option is truth, then, perhaps, the Nephilim/Anakim continued to exist into modern times--a tribe or family of immense Stone Age Goliaths who disappeared into the wilds, avoiding contact with the human race at all costs.  Thus, these giants could be both a Biblical and cultural anthropological explanation for Bigfoot and the Yeti.

I did not come up with this idea.  I read it somewhere.  I find it compelling because it connects theology to anthropology to mythology to cryptozoology.  And it's pretty cool to think that, in ancient times, the legend of Bigfoot was already established.  Yes, I'm sort of rolling over and showing you my belly.  I have a soft spot for all things Bigfoot, scientific.

As I've said at poetry readings and interviews where I've read my Bigfoot poems, I like the idea of Bigfoot.  I'm not sure I'm a true believer.  But I am not a disbeliever, either.  I'm open-minded.  I think there's something to the legends of Bigfoot.  It's too much of a coincidence that these giants appear in the Bible AND Native American mythologies AND a slew of other cultural mythologies, from Asia to Europe to North America.

I'm not trying to convince anyone that Bigfoot is alive and well in the modern world.  I'm simply talking about a really interesting Biblical parallel.  Until some 21st-century David goes out and slays a 21st-century Goliath, I reserve judgement.

However, Saint Marty is thankful today for the possibility of giants.

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