Welcome to Wandering the Whale Road! Dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals haved played a fascinating role in the cultural imagination and spiritual landscape of so many people around the world, past and present. This website is dedicated to collecting and sharing the stories that people have been telling about these magnificent creatures from time immemorial. The ultimate goal of this site is to become a database for the world’s cultural interpretations of marine mammals, one story at a time.
What is a “whale-road”? The Anglo-Saxons had a literary device called a “kenning”, which is a compound word that represents a basic concept in a clever or poetic way. The poem Beowulf uses the term hron-rād (literally “whale’s riding”) to describe the sea. With what modern science has enabled us to learn about the incredible migration routes of whales, the concept of a “whale-road” takes on new layers of meaning.
I’ve been reading about marine mammal mythology for a while now, but there’s bound to be plenty of stories I haven’t yet discovered. If you have any suggestions for a topic you would like to see covered, please feel free to leave a comment.
The images in the banner come from the following sources:
- Dolphin fresco from the palace at Knossos, c. 1700-1450 BC [source]
- Flute-player and dolphin, Etruscan red-figure stamnos, c. 360-340 BC [source]
- Katsushika Hokusai’s “Whaling Off the Coast of the Goto Islands”, from the series “One Thousand Pictures of the Ocean”, c. 1833-34 AD [source] [source]
- Karelian petroglyph, depicting a beluga whale and possibly a shaman, in northwest Russia, c. 4000 BC – perhaps the oldest known image of a whale [source] [source]