Friday, January 20, 2012



"Moby Dick"

Raoul Trujillo

Land of Remakes


Herman Melville

From Wikipedia:
Queequeg is a fictional character presented in the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by U.S. author Herman Melville. He is the first principal character encountered by the narrator, serves as the chief harpooner aboard the Pequod, and plays an important role in many of the events of the book, both in port and during the whaling voyage. Although a "savage" cannibal, he is described with great sympathy and much admiration by Ishmael, by whom he is befriended early in the book.

Queequeg hails from the fictional island of Kokovoko in the South Seas, inhabited by a cannibal tribe, and is the son of the chief of his tribe. Since leaving the island, he has become extremely skilled with the harpoon. He befriends Ishmael very early in the novel, when they meet in New Bedford, Massachusetts before leaving for Nantucket. He is described as existing in a state between civilized and savage. For example, Ishmael recounts with amusement how Queequeg feels it necessary to hide himself when pulling on his boots, noting that if he were a savage he wouldn't consider boots necessary, but if he were completely civilized he would realize there was no need to be modest when pulling on his boots.

Queequeg is the harpooneer on Starbuck's boat, where Ishmael is also an oarsman. Queequeg is best friends with Ishmael in the story. He is prominent early in the novel, but later fades in significance, as does Ishmael.

The island is the home to his primitive tribe, who practice cannibalism, in particular devouring the flesh of enemies slain in battle. Queequeg claims that the only case of indigestion he has suffered was after a feast in which fifty slain enemies were eaten. He displays no shame regarding the practice, describing his people in a matter-of-fact fashion. In port he prefers a diet of rare red meat, but will settle for whatever is on the menu, such as clam chowder -- which is described as "his favorite fishing food".

Although the son of a chief, he chose to leave his island out of curiosity to see more of the world and to experience and evaluate the civilization of the Christian world. At first rejected by the whaler that landed on his island, he skillfully jumped from a canoe and clamped to the side of the boat as it was leaving for the open sea, at which point the captain relented. At the opening of the novel, he is in the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, having returned from a whaling voyage. The two first meet when Queequeg returns late to the inn where he is staying, not knowing that Ishmael has been booked into the same room with him. Although Queequeg initially threatens to kill Ishmael on the spot, the landlord persuades him to relent and the two soon become good friends. Ishmael convinces him, based on this friendship, to ship on another whaling expedition with him. At the time of the novel, he has been away from his home island for many years, so long that it is possible that his father is dead and that he would become the chief if he returned.

He is a young man, in the prime of life, tall and powerfully athletic, heavily tattooed, and an excellent swimmer who does not hesitate an instant to dive into cold water to save the life of a troublesome passenger aboard the ferry from New Bedford to Nantucket.
From the source:
Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down on any map; true places never are.

When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green sapling; even then, in Queequeg's ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two. His father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins-royal stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his untutored youth.

A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg sought a passage to Christian lands. But the ship, having her full complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the King his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a distant strait, which he knew the ship must pass through when she quitted the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the water. Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there, and swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.

In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a cutlass over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and Queequeg budged not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last relented, and told him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage-this sea Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain's cabin. They put him down among the sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter content to toil in the shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might happily gain the power of enlightening his untutored countrymen. For at bottom-so he told me-he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.

And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians, wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish. Hence the queer ways about him, though now some time from home.

By hints I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having a coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he being very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return, as soon as he felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he proposed to sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans. They had made a harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.

I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his future movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation. Upon this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed him of my intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most promising port for an adventurous whaleman to embark from. He at once resolved to accompany me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same watch, the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap; with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds. To all this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now felt for Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to be of great usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant of the mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as known to merchant seamen.

His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff, Queequeg embraced me, pressed his forehead against mine, and blowing out the light, we rolled over from each other, this way and that, and very soon were sleeping.


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