Thursday, August 6, 2015

Queequeg and other Black Indians


Update (h/t John Gretchko): As David Jaffé first showed way back when, Melville also found inspiration for Queequeg in the Māori chief Ko-towatowa as described in Charles Wilkes's Narrative of the U. S. Exploring Expedition. You can read all about it in the 1957 American Literature article,  Some Origins of Moby-Dick: New Finds in an Old Source; and also Jaffé's The Stormy Petrel and the Whale.

By now everybody knows Queequeg is really a Māori royal based on Tupac. I mean Tupai Cupa--no, make that Te Pehi Kupe. If you don't know, read Moby-Dick and then The New Zealanders by George Lillie Craik and then Whence Come You, Queequeg? where Geoffrey Sanborn reminds us that
"Queequeg is neither black nor Native American...."
Then again...not to mention the problem of finding Kokovoko at Mapquest or even Google Earth, Queequeg differs interestingly and meaningfully from the New Zealand prince described in The New Zealanders. In Tattooing the World: Pacific Designs in Print and Skin, Juniper Ellis finely distinguishes the differing treatments of Te Pehi and Queequeg. Whereas Craik "puts the story before the tattoo," Melville has Ishmael introduce Queequeg's tattoos before his biography. In terms of design, Queequeg's tattooed squares look closer to Marquesan:
Melville does not follow the curvilinear pattern of Te Pehi’s tattoo, instead emphasizing the square nature of Queuqueg’s. ...Melville, in treating Queequeg’s tattoos, departs so far from Te Pehi’s self-portrait that Queequeg’s design is not a moko. Instead, the patterns are much closer to the square bands of facial tattoo men may receive in the Marquesan tiki.  --Tattooing the World, p64
The influence of Craik's book is strong on Melville for sure, and discernible in his writing as far back as Typee--if you accept editor Sanborn's case in the New Riverside Edition of Typee (I do, John Bryant in Melville Unfolding dont) for Melville's use of The New Zealanders in the "striking a light" passage. That's the one where Kory-Kory starts a fire by rubbing sticks together. And some close reader or other must have noticed the obvious similarity between the names of Tommo's personal assistant Kory-Kory and the chief of Parro named Korro-korro (Koro Koro in Samuel Marsden's account and Korra-korra in Nicholas's Narrative) as described in Craik's The New Zealanders.

But I digress. If you're like me you love contemplating the dignified "Portrait of Tupai Cupa" in The New Zealanders while reading Ishmael's most succinctly stated view of Queequeg as

"George Washington, cannibalistically developed."
Just don't forget that tomahawk pipe. Or is it pipe-tomahawk? Doubtless Timothy J. Shannon will have the most comprehensive answers in Queequeg's Tomahawk: A Cultural Biography, 1750-1900.

Eastern Pipe Tomahawk / Image Credit: Cowan's Auctions
Eloquent emblems of War and Peace, such things are also regarded as precious physical artifacts, "beautiful pieces of history" as Wes Cowan and Danica Farnand say. Which explains why Professor Sanborn kept Queequeg's safely wrapped in the fourteenth footnote of "Whence Come You, Queequeg?" That and he was not so keen as Carolyn Karcher and subsequently Robert K. Martin had been on taking Queequeg as "composite racial figure." Nevertheless, this new study to me looks promising:
The Black Indian in American Literature
by Keely Byars-Nichols with a comparative chapter on "Domesticated Savagery" in Moby-Dick and Elzabeth Stoddard's Temple House.

Sneak-peaking at Google Books I notice generous credit to and quotations from the chapter by Russel Lawrence Barsh on 'Colored' Seamen in the New England Whaling Industry: An Afro-Indian Consortium--in
Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America 
another book that's suddenly on my must-get list. Why, because I'm trying to learn more about about whaleman Isaac D. Rose. Massachusetts vital records routinely list him as "colored." But who knows what that means. So far the documented association of Isaac D. Rose with Gay Head begins with his marriage to different Wamsley women: first, Priscilla Ann (who sadly died the next year, 1838), then Harriet A. (1841), sisters from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. In 1838-9 Isaac Rose had boarded in New Bedford but this transcribed 1860 Indian Census of Gay Head Indians gives his "Tribe or Race" as Fall River. You say Fall River, I would say


if I only knew how to pronounce it. A-ha, "Quick-a-Shan":
The "falling" river that the name Fall River refers to is the Quequechan River (pronounced "quick-a-shan" by locals) which flows through the city, dropping steeply into the bay. Quequechan is a Wampanoag word believed to mean "Falling River" or "Leaping/Falling Waters."  --Wikipedia entry for Fall River, Massachusetts
First Cotton Mill, built in 1811, Fall River, MA
Did one or both of Isaac D. Rose's parents work at the mill? Did he, as a child? While I'm hunting, a few more titles to look for on the next expedition south to Magers & Quinn:

And here's one by Jerome D. Segel and R. Andrew Pierce that will be essential:
And one more, considering the yet-to-be named parents of Isaac D. Rose are reportedly both from Connecticut:
Yikes, thought I could see this volume next trip to Wilson Library at the U., but WorldCat shows the nearest library holding it is the Wisconsin Historical Society. Time for a road trip...

3 comments:

  1. I believe you're on a roll!

    (And as you explore the neighborhood, keep any eye out for Pip in his native Tolland County, Connecticut. I seem to remember he had a source in a cabin boy from one of HM's own voyages, yes?)

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  2. Do not overlook David Jaffe's book! Queequeg also derives from Wilkes!
    John Gretchko

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    1. Right you are. I need to look at Jaffé again.

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