Goose Commerce


A Song of Whales and Profits by goosecommerce

Or, Winter Is Coming (to New England)

Earlier this summer I read (consumed, devoured) the latest installment of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and perhaps that’s why I can’t help but see in my sources a certain Westerosian tinge now and again.

But honestly, I’m only reading that into it so far –- sometimes it’s just there. For example, doesn’t this French official make the semi-desperate, post-Revolutionary mariners of New England sound a bit…Ironborn?

“Those [states] that manage best are the Northern States; New England especially displays astonishing activity and resources: I am assured that this year Massachusetts alone has put to sea 900 ships of 70 to 180 tons. Forty have been Whaling in the seas off Brazil and on the coasts of the Country of the Patagonians up to the Falkland Islands. These voyages are long and perilous. But the Seafarers of the North are hardened to fatigue and to the Sea: they live with an extreme sobriety, and the size of the profits makes them scorn danger.1

A bit less raiding, I suppose. But is it so much of a stretch to think that Ahab’s ancestors, limned here, might have worshipped the Drowned God in a slightly different universe?


1.) François Barbé de Marbois to Comte de Vergennes [translation], Philadelphia, 14 July 1784, in Mary A. Giunta, et al., eds., The Emerging Nation: A Documentary History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Under the Articles of Confederation, 1780-1789, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: National Historical Publications and Records Commission, 1996), II: 418.

Image: Abraham Storck, “Walvisvangst bij de kust van Spitsbergen — Dutch whalers near Spitsbergen,” Stichting Rijksmuseum het Zuiderzeemuseum. 022296, Wikimedia Commons, accessed 16 September 2011.

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