Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The scrimshaw imp

This was my son's favourite story of Tales of Terror from the Black Ship I seem to remember. It is one of my favourites too. As usual, it is hard to say what it is about the story that I was trying to achieve or why I think I succeeded without ruining it for anyone who hasn't yet read it.

I suppose I can say that it involves a haunted or possessed object - a piece of scrimshaw work - but almost anything else I say will give a hint or clue that will spoil the story.

I do like scrimshaw work. If you don't know the term, it is the name for the artwork done by sailors - whalers, for obvious reasons - etched into whale bones and teeth (often of sperm whales) with the incised lines then filled with pigment or ink.. There is something about the intensity of the work and the often clumsy, naive imagery that combine to fascinating effect.

I find the idea of whaling abhorrent, but that doesn't stop me finding these artifacts weirdly compelling.


  1. i have just read this book and this story was my favourite too! :) i kept looking behind me while reading it, as i was sure i would be attacked at any moment. i love the imagery used with the more..erm...violent scenes-but people say i'm weird-i say people are weird

  2. My son and I read this together, as we did all of the stories in the book. The book is fantastic, but this story in particular is quite terrifying. It still sends shivers down my spin several years after reading it. I have just secured a copy of the book, as I would like to re-read it. Good work Chris.