Nala the Shy Narwhal

Karin Taylor

Lennox Head, Australia

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Artist's Description

In Inuit legend, the narwhal’s tusk was created when a woman with a harpoon rope tied around her waist was dragged into the ocean after the harpoon had struck a large narwhal. She was transformed into a narwhal, and her hair, which she was wearing in a twisted knot, became the characteristic spiral narwhal tusk.48

Some medieval Europeans believed narwhal tusks to be the horns from the legendary unicorn.4950 As these horns were considered to have magic powers, such as neutralising poison and curing melancholia, Vikings and other northern traders were able to sell them for many times their weight in gold.51 The tusks were used to make cups that were thought to negate any poison that may have been slipped into the drink. In 1555, Olaus Magnus published a drawing of a fish-like creature with a horn on its forehead, correctly identifying it as a “Narwal”.49 During the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I received a carved and bejewelled narwhal tusk worth 10,000 British Pounds—the cost of a castle (approximately £1.5–2.5 million in 2007, using the retail price index51) from Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who proposed the tusk was from a “sea-unicorne”. The tusks were staples of the cabinet of curiosities.49 European knowledge of the tusk’s origin developed gradually during the Age of Exploration, as explorers and naturalists began to visit Arctic regions themselves.
(Wikipedia)

Artwork Comments

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