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Friday, September 9, 2011

Fabulous Beasts 2, Barnacle Geese



According to Medieval bestiaries, the goose pictured above hatched out of barnacles. Nobody saw him do it but nobody saw one come from an egg either so that was one of two popular theories. Other theory was it hatched out of driftwood. What was on (what little there was of) everybody's Medieval mind was: since these must be fabulous beasts, are there any restrictions about dining on them?

At the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), Pope Innocent III explicitly prohibited eating Barnacle Geese during Lent, arguing that despite their unusual reproduction, they lived and fed like ducks and therefore were ducks. Herein lies the origin of the expression, "if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, must be a duck", proving the Pope might be innocent to the third power but not idiotic. He was, however, misinformed. The creature is technically a goose.

This did nothing to hinder all of catholicity from calling the goose by the French word for duck, "canard". Canard became synonymous with untruth. Because the Barnacle Goose, like all canards, could not offer a believable account of its own existence, it was rejected by church, state and rabble and all tall tales were subsequently blamed on canards, ducks who were not even ducks. Here are two of them:

Because typing is almost like work, I shall condense the two selected specimens into one. You are invited to enjoy the invention of the compound canard. When Geo. Washington was a little boy, he chopped down a cherry tree. His father caught him at the scene and thundered, "Who did this?"



Geo. replied, "Father, I cannot tell a lie. It was I." At which admission, his father had him arrested and the boy spent his life in jail. This was a blow to all of us dissatisfied with governments based upon kings and rabble taking turns beheading each other. We were hopeful Geo. would've grown up to be president, perhaps even of a democracy. The tree was really cut down by Abraham Lincoln who needed to split it into rails and build the log cabin he would later be born in.


One is tempted to speculate the cherry tree was not felled purposely by any of the fabulous creatures mentioned but accidentally by Paul Bunyan's giant blue ox, Babe. However, this would try sober credulity and suggest a country thrashing belligerently around the world without the slightest idea whom it should be thrashing at. It would also strain the myth of the Barnacle Goose and quite possibly constitute an injustice.

According to its statistics page, this blog is visited 15 times daily by a Maylaysian company offering "onlinelawdegrees". Perhaps this outfit knows if defamation of fabulous beasts is actionable. I hope they will comment and settle my uncertainty.

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