Moby Dick as a Lullaby?


There was a time last year when my Little Dynamo would say, “‘by Dick”. It means we were to go to bed and read “Moby Dick”.

My copy of “Moby Dick” is the one published by Dhingra Publishing House of Malaysia adapted for easy reading to children. I have not read the original novel. It actually stayed for awhile in the bookshelf without being read until my Little Dynamo kept on pulling the book and flipping through the pages. I think he was trying to look for pictures – colored pictures – but finding none, he would ask me to “Read!”. Of course, there woudn’t be a decent reading time as he would just flip to another page when he gets bored from the reading sans the pictures. I only have to mention “whale” or “Moby Dick” if I want to finish a page.

I realized that I may have missed out (?) on the highs and joys of reading the novel in its original. While the original novel starts with “Call me Ishmael“, this adapted version starts with “I am Ishmael“. In English literature, “Call me Ishmael” is supposed to be a very popular line opening exclusively attributed to Moby Dick. Would the impact have been different, I wonder? Hmmm… but for me, nothing beats the opening line, or rather paragraph, of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. Who could forget “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” No basis for comparison, really :-). “A Tale of Two Cities” opening lines just came to mind when I read Wikipedia’s entry about Moby Dick’s “Call Me Ishmael” as one of the most recognizable opening lines of English Literature.

Would have I understood better Captain Ahab’s obsession to kill Moby Dick if I read the original novel? If Moby Dick was a man, it would have been easier to emphatize with Ahab. Pursuing an elusive big white whale in the vast sea because of, and with, a lost leg is next to impossible! More so when stories abound about Moby Dick’s exploits and seeming invincibility. Ahab’s lost leg was already hungrily swallowed by Moby Dick. What would stop him from swallowing all of him the next time? But of course, literary experts have good explanations about this. That is just so beyond me:-). I can’t help thinking about another Captain. Captain Hook didn’t obsess about the crocodile who ate his right hand. He was afraid of him. Oh, but then again, it was Peter Pan who cut off his hand. While Captain Hook was, in the end, directly gobbled up by the crocodile, it was only described in Moby Dick that Captain Ahab fell to the sea and to his death… and eaten by Moby Dick, perhaps? Double victory for the big white whale against Captain Ahab. Oh my, my Comparative Literature professor would be rolling her eyes with my comparison. LOL.

Little Dynamo was not yet two years old when he fancied Moby Dick as his night time, and sometimes nap time, book but we did manage to read a number of pages together. Several times, mostly on his afternoon nap, I would just see him already asleep in my arms while I was reading the book to him. He understood nothing (LOL), no doubt about it. But he remembers “Moby Dick, the whale” to this day. That’s the most his little mind can comprehend, for now:-).

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3 thoughts on “Moby Dick as a Lullaby?

  1. hi arvinsign, i am honestly not so extensively exposed to classic literature. i just read what i fancy reading:-)… so, those authors you mentioned above are not familiar to me. anyway, thanks for the insight. i’ll note those down:-)

  2. I haven’t had the chance to read the book itself, but i saw the film (TV) adaptation (P Stewart) long ago. Its a great classic.

    I know “Tales of Two Cities” though since Dickens along with Hawthorne and Tolstoi are my favorites (novelists). Its a long list actually ( F Dostoevsky, Verne, Doyle, etc.) and lots of short story writers. How i wish i have the time to go over those novels again, and read those i have not.

    If i have a child, i will probably read some novels too in a way that my child will understand and appreciate. Though i might start with light classics such as those of Lewis Carroll’s, and L. Frank Baum 🙂

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