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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fabulous Beasts 3, The Loch Ness Monster

[Photo: Freefoto.com; Loch Ness. Run!]
On August 4, 1933, according to the "Inverness Courier", a London man, Geo. Spicer --while motoring around the Loch-- had seen "the nearest approach to a dragon... that I have ever seen in my life", trundling across the road toward the Loch carrying "an animal" in its mouth. He described the creature as having a large body, 4 feet high and 25 feet long, a narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk as long as the width of the road and with as many undulations in it. It lurched across the road towards the loch, leaving a trail of broken mucous-covered undergrowth.

The Inverness Shire Chief Constable penned a letter stating that, although a woman of that description was reported "strayed after domestic dispute" by her husband just that morning, the monster existed beyond doubt. He also enthusiastically implied serious thrill-seeking scientific parties could avail themselves of the many fine local inns and restaurants at a discount. The letter was released by the National Archives of Scotland on April 27th, 2010. That they received the letter only the day before indicates an alacrity not shared by the Inverness Shire Post Office since at least 1932.

That same month, a motorcyclist claimed to have nearly hit a monster while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore, at about one a.m. on a moonlit night. He saw a small head attached to a long neck. The creature saw him and crossed the road back into the loch. A veterinary student, he described it as a typical hybrid between a seal and a plesiosaur, which glanced back at him with a look he could only describe as flirtatious. The motorcyclist said he dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples. Certainly, ripples in a lake can mean only one thing: a monster has submerged!

My own researches into this mystery took me into review of citizens on the south-western shore who approximated the Courier description and could swim really well. My efforts were rewarded with an inn listing, "Nessie's", that has not undergone ownership change since its establishment nearly 80 years ago. Its proprietress is described as a regional treasure who, although not particularly handsome, has a great personality.

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fabulous Beasts 1

I do not know if fabulous beasts reward inspection but have decided to try. This is intended as the first of a series of essays dealing with the monsters of myth, legend, and allegory as well as those actually hiding under my bed trying to reach me with their slender white fishy fingers. Since the latter are easily foiled by declaring one's blankets magical before nodding off, I shall deal with the former. Let's examine the Beast --or Beasts-- of Revelations and see how that goes.

In the New Testament, from Revelations 11 through 17, there was a spate of monster sightings on the island of Patmos. Saint John the Apostle was there and he took notes. His account details the most alarming creatures emerging from the earth, sea and sky, but most attention is given to the one pictured in the tapestry below:

[fig. 1: Tapestry]

The picture shows a seven-headed creature ridden by a woman. Some say the number 666 was printed on her forehead but the tapestry omits it --conflicting accounts. Possibly, some witnessed spit-curls and took them for numbers.

[fig.2:spit-curls]

But St. John was a keen observer and saw it somewhere. He made a note of it, reproduced in fig.3 on a scrap of ancient parchment. Unfortunately it is in poor shape. Sometimes one jots something important on a matchbook then runs it through the wash because one --not me, of course-- forgets to check one's pockets. It produces a distinctive damage pattern:
[fig.3:Parchment]

Some believe the number conforms to magical systems of calculations, such as Thelema, and points to things incomprehensible to the sober essayist. I agree. Others identify it with the 666th letter of the alphabet. Since I come from a time when there were only 26 letters, I shall reserve comment. Theologians, however, identify the rider as a harlot because she is drinking from a big goblet and acting all sexy. From this and other clues, they endorse St. John's opinion that she represents adulterated governments in apostasy, powers that have deserted their good principles and defy God's commandments.

There is, incidentally, another interpretation, not necessarily or intentionally in conflict with any aforementioned. The number, 666, especially if painted on cardboard and taped to the rider's back, indicates a rodeo and distinguishes this contestant from all the other harlots riding monsters. It also means, assuming there were not more entries, that about 50 of these things occupied every square mile of Patmos, which is only 13 square miles. Clearly an infestation of Biblical proportions.