In folklore (legends, tales and myths) animals play an important role. As representatives of the natural world they have freedoms and capabilities not available to human beings. This makes them either allies or foes and over the eons people have found ways to ‘work with’ these creatures in a way that will ensure a society’s survival. For cultures that exist along coastal shorelines, the whale is highly regarded as a source of supra-natural power.
Whales have been considered to be monsters of the sea. These 100-ton beasts are feared by many because of their size. In other cultures they are allies who help bridge the distance between islands as well as between mankind and the mysterious world he lives in.
While some culture myths regard these great mammals as gods, others hunt them down as demons of the sea. Over the decades many famous stories about whales have been created.
Here are some popular stories about whales:
Moby Dick – This iconic whale is the subject of Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick. After Captain Ahab loses his leg to Moby Dick, he becomes obsessed with revenge and dedicates the rest of his life to hunting down the great whale. The story was inspired by the real whale, Mocha Dick, who swam the Pacific Ocean in the 19th century and survived over 100 attacks by whaling ships, even destroying a few with his great fluke.
Jonah and the Whale – In bibliography, Jonah runs away from God to Joppa and hides out on the sea in a fishing boat. God sends a great storm throwing Jonah overboard and he is immediately swallowed whole by the whale. After three days in the belly of the whale, Jonah seeks repentance and the whale spits him out onto dry land.
Yu –kiang – In Chinese culture it was believed that the whale, Yu-kiang, was a mythical creature who ruled the sea. He had the hands and feet of a man and when angered, he would turn into a giant bird and cause devastating wind storms across the ocean.
Want some whale facts?
-Whales breathe through a hole on top of their head called a “blow hole.”
-Sperm whales have the largest brain on the planet.
-Whales eat 110-330 pounds of meat every day.
These magnificent creatures have become so famous over the years that some cultures even hold festivals to honor them. In Little River, California, the Little RiverWhale Festival takes place March 9-10,2013. The festival consists of sea cave tours, whale watching expeditions, great food from local chefs and more.