Everyone reaches a point in growing up where he or she realizes the horror of most fairy tales and lullabies. From Cinderella’s stepsisters’ eyes being pecked out by birds, to a baby being blown out of a tree (why was it up there to begin with?), we grow up learning morals and values taught through terror. From there, it’s a pretty natural transition in high school to 1980’s horror movies and Victorian novels where adulterers are punished with horrible deaths.
“Squid” does not fit the bill of morality play, per se, but Ishmael presents the titular kraken in a creepy way evocative, at least to me, of scary stories and fairy tales. In the midst of a calm, Daggoo disrupts the crew’s collective lull with a possible sighting of Moby Dick. Upon reaching what they thought was a white whale, the four boats find instead a giant squid, “a vast pulpy mass” with arms “like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach.” Ishmael continues, describing the squid as having “no perceptible face or front,” and being “an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.” Starbuck, of course, jumps to omen, saying that few ships have seen a kraken and survived the rest of their voyage, but Ishmael dismisses the concern, thinking rather that a kraken sightings are simply rare, which somehow “invest it with portentousness.”
A faceless, shapeless, blind reaper-of-souls, rarely seen and little understood? Sounds like a Puritan lullaby to me. And so I give you “Squid.”
Chapter 59: Squid
Matterhorn, now rising from the ocean —
A twisted form as roots into the deep.
As the mountains
Reach down and down
To the brimstone, the Kraken grasps the sea.
Nest of snakes, to blindly rip asunder
Hapless souls who chance into their reach.
From sin and sorrow —
Let The Whale drive him to the deep.
But beware (beware!),
As the weight descends
A whirlpool left behind.
So beware (beware!),
From the oceans fair,
Damnation grasping thee.
Though they say, the rising Whale as portent,
Bringing ’round the fateful end of days,
It’s the Kraken
That rises with Him
In the fray, will shatter all the world.
(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea October 4, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea October 17, 2009