June 30, 2016
The wonders of the sea are well documented. Tales of massive majestic creatures who emerge from the deep feature from the very earliest maritime adventures. As previously blogged, the risks of close encounters between a ship and a whale have been immortalised in Moby Dick
One of the most ancient refrains tells of a whale island, where foolish sailors mistake the rock coloured hide of a whale for a small crop of land and drop anchor. Physiologus, a Greek from the second century, eloquently explained the problems with this mistaken identity. When the whale eventually gets disgruntled with a boat load of sailors tramping over its back, and bothered by the heat of the seamen's cooking fires, it takes off down to the depths – sinking all who are attached.
The famous fictional Arabic sailor Sinbad fell into this apparently common trap. A relatively late addition to the famous series, A thousand and one nights, Sinbad is a merchant from modern-day Iraq who undertakes seven dangerous voyages
After setting off on his very first voyage to seek his fortune, Sinbad is pleased when the captain docks the ship. Climbing ashore on a large island, the intrepid Sinbad is horrified to realise it is in fact a giant whale! You can see how they made the error though, as trees and plants have grown on the whale's back since the earth was young. Irritated by the fires the sailors had set, the whale - in time honoured tradition – plunged to to the depths of the ocean. His ship having already sped off as the captain realised his mistake in docking on the animal, Sinbad is abandoned. Luckily he was not drowned but saved by a piece of driftwood, and washed ashore on a forested island.
When he saves one of the King's mares from a sea monster, he is taken to the royal court. There, Sinbad finds favour with the King and rises to become a trusted courtier.
One day the ship he originally set off on docks. Sinbad reclaims his possessions and gives them to the King. In exchange he is given rich presents which he sells on for a profit. And thus returns home to Baghdad having made his fortune.
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