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.