Moby Dick as a ‘very funny story’

This morning, two of my wee sprogs – Samuel (3) and Ambrie (2) – were keen to play on ‘my’ tablet. This is not unusual. They were especially keen to do some drawing. While they drew, I told them about the great Moby Dick. They thought that it was a ‘very funny story’ (clearly I have some work to do there!) and then they drew this delightful picture together:

Samuel - Sailing with Moby Dick


I reckon that they got the proportion between The Whale and the Pequod about right.

Then Samuel, who is mildly obsessed with aeroplanes, thought that he would draw the flight paths for Air New Zealand’s domestic flights. He was certainly right about AirNZ cutting back on those flights to/from Dunedin:

Samuel - Air New Zealand Flight Paths

Signed: A very proud dad


  1. Hahaha- so awesome!
    As an artist, I couldn’t help but notice the column of 5 circles, followed by 4 columns of 5 dashes (of relatively equal size and distance). That is a pretty sophisticated visual pattern for a 2 or 3 year old. You have something special going on there!


  2. Mike and your kids are right – and many critics concur – that M-D is a “very funny story”. For example, Ishmael has always struck me as the narrative’s stand-up comedian, and his relationship with Queequeg can be read as an entertaining mini-buddy movie, while some of the excursus Melville lobs in are a real hoot. And whales – they are comic creatures (God, of course, has a laugh at Job’s expense about being their creator).

    Your kids also remind me of the epigram (from Schiller), written on a piece of paper and taped inside the old man’s desk, discovered by his family after his death: “Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.”


  3. @ Mike & Kim: I agree insofar as M-D is certainly a book of great satire, that it has its hilarious moments, and that even the larger narrative is a great comedy, the kind of which readers of the first testament – and those who see in circuses a parable of life in its most exposed form – will identify as strangely familiar. But to my mind (though possibly not to my kids’) comedy is not the same as ‘funny story’, at least it is not the same as what I assumed they meant by saying it was so. Their response to the story can certainly not be put down to the way I told it, for I am the most unfunny of people and the most terrible of story tellers. Perhaps they simply heard something I’ve never stopped long enough to notice, in a way akin to how I always thought it odd that my grandmother always considered that the story of John the Baptist losing his head was the most hilarious (the word recalls St Paul’s use of the word ἱλαρός in 2 Cor 9.7) story she had ever heard, but when you stop long enough to think about it she may be right. I trust my kids (and you two for that matter), so perhaps I should listen more attentively for what they (and you) have heard the next time I read the book. Either way, I appreciate your comments, for they prompt me to think again, and notice something as if for the first time.

    [BTW. the personal context for my comments on comedy arise out of my current reading of Catherine Keller’s most extraordinary book, Face of the Deep. Are you familiar with it? In her short section on Job as tragic comedy, Keller draws on William Whedbee’s belief that biblical comedy in general, and Job in particular displays a ‘dual intention’. It aims, says Whedbee, at ‘both subversion of the status quo and celebration of life and love – all in the service of transforming perceptions and affirming hope and the possibility of renewal’. I find this a very helpful insight. Perhaps my kids see this same thing happening in M-D and call it ‘funny’.]


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