USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘seagull’
general
Legends
Narrative

The Unprepared Sailor

The informant related a legend his Sailing professor told him as an example of why one should always be prepared when going sailing.

Story:

There’s this guy and he’s leaving from Long Beach and he’s only going to Catalina which you can actually see when, um, you, um, leave the harbor over there and, ha, so, ya know, he… he’s a novice. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But he thinks Oh, it’s just Catalina, I can see it um, ya know, what could go wrong?  Haha. And whenever you say that ya know, you know there’s gonna be a story after that. Um.

So anyway, um. What ends up happening was he had this um GPS system which ended up not working, um. I think what happened was first, his propeller went out. And so, his onboard battery only lasted a certain amount of hours before his GPS died. So after that died, he had no way of knowing where he was. And he had no, no motor. And after that point he didn’t really know how to sail cuz he wasn’t an expert on that ya know. He just knew how to use his, his motor.

And, uh, long story short, he wasn’t prepared at all. Only had enough for maybe lunch. Uh, couple gallons of water. And uh, after, after a while he decided he needed to start saving his food. He like had a stack of crackers that was left. [Gestures to represent about a one foot stack of crackers.] And he was out to see for probably three months. So um, he got by and survived. But um, basically what happened was maybe half of his stack of crackers went by. He was eating ya know, like one or two a day. He, he started reasoning oh, ya know, I should start using this to hunt. And, when you’re on a boat and you don’t have a fishing line the only thing you can really hunt is seagulls. So he would set out maybe like, a piece of a cracker out and hide, wait for the seagull to come then he’d take his oar and like whack it. [Mimes braining a gull with an oar.]

And uh, our teacher said that seagull meat is the worst meat to eat. It’s such salty meat and it tastes terrible. So that’s why we don’t eat seagulls. But this guy had to eat it. He, um ya know, ran out of water so the only water he was drinking was small doses of sea water which would make you go insane cuz you would dehydrate you, uh, make you hallucinate, do all kinds of crazy things.

At the end of the story, they found him three months later. He was in Costa Rica. Off the shore. And uh, so, ya know, a small ship or a small journey to Catalina ended up being this looooong journey to Costa Rica. And uh, when they found him, they said he was crazy. He was out of his mind. He thought that, that the rescuers were there to steal his food, which he didn’t really have much of. So he, when they came on board he was trying to fight them and he attacked them [Shadowboxes.] biting them and stuff. So they had to wrestle him down, restrain him, put him in one of those, like a, one of those jackets. [Wraps his arms as though in a straightjacket.]

And uh, you know, he eventually regained his senses. They got him healthy, fed him food, gave him water, got him all shaved up, ya know he had a long beard.

Uh, that’s all I really know from the story my professor told me but uh, the point of the story is: Be Prepared.

Annotation:

The popular graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons appears to have used a similar story as inspiration for one of its subplots. In the graphic novel, a character reads a comic book called Tales of the Black Freighter in which a sailor is shipwrecked and makes a raft out of his fallen comrades to sail home. In the process, he is driven mad by starvation and heat and ends up catching and eating the gulls that come to feast on his raft.

This is interesting in that the Graphic novel was written in 1986, well before the advent of GPS, showing that the story has likely evolved into its current version from something slightly different. The core however is still there.

general
Myths
Narrative

Creation Myth: Raven, the Trickster

This myth is known to mirror Christian theology and was spread by the natives of Alaska, specifically the Inuit culture.

Inuits first of all believe in a “divine spirit” that created the Raven. The Raven was originally a seagull, who was brilliantly white and pure. The “divine spirit” also created man and the man lived in a hut. The divine spirit forbade the raven from going in to the man’s hut. However the raven would continually intrude on the man’s hut. Yet one day the raven was caught by the divine spirit in the hut. The raven in fear of the divine spirit escaped through the smokehole, and thus turned black due to all the soot. This is the story of how the seagull became a Raven and from then on the Raven became a trickster. The raven is known as the source of sin and trickery to humans, as this Raven taught humankind to lie, steal, and other evils.

My informant stated that in Alaska, that many regions have variations of this story. This version of the story comes from the Chignik Tradition. My informant has heard this from elders of Chignik as he was listening to their stories while at a fishing stop. He shares this myth as he belives that it is very interesting as it is a variation of the fall of Lucifer. My informant states that the elders love to share this myth and keep the Inuit stories alive and he also think it is a creative take.

This is a very entertaining creation myth as seagull must be prevalent on Alaska, yet so are raven. It is an interesting connection that the Inuit people have made that the a raven use to be a seagull. What is also interesting is how similar this story is to the fall of Lucifer: the raven betrayed the divine spirit’s trust and thus spread evil to get back at the divine spirit, Lucifer betrayed God and thus has a vendetta against him. This legend also has a nice narrative structure where a seagull which is white is pure, and a raven which is black contains all of mankind’s evil. Not only is this a creation myth about the raven, but also the birth of all the sins in the world.

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