Daggoo

Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black negro-savage, with a lion-like tread—an Ahasuerus to behold. Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors called them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail halyards to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler, lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors most frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold life of the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in his socks. 

—Knights and Squires

Harpooneer. The squire of knight Flask is the huge African harpooneer, Ahasuerus Daggoo, who voluntarily shipped in a whaler from his native coast, and having never in his life encountered American or colonial slavery, does not pander to or resent in the least his white shipmates but, quite literally towers over them. He and little King-post make quite a pair, Melville likening Flask to a chessman beside mighty Daggoo.

Much of the mechanic of whaling in this game was taken from Chapter 48: The First Lowering. This epic chase scene, ending in the loss of a particular quarry in a sudden squall and a shivering night spent on the open ocean in a half-swamped boat, is unique both for its detail and its character descriptions. The scene is painted in a very pleasing and complete way: four boats give chase to a whale, each mate cheering his crew of rowers in his own unique manner. Bad weather approaches but the mates persist. Queequeg’s harpoon is thrown—the whale is missed, the boat is swamped, the night comes quickly on. It is both the step-by-step process and the painful difficulty of whaling that is described here, and had greatest effect on the mechanical balancing of whale hunting. Make no mistake—whales may often escape despite your best efforts, and those reckless King-posts among us must in the end know this: that Starbuck’s prudence and Ishmael’s metaphysics may prove greater tools by far, than the devil-dealings of Ahab and the Parsee Fedallah.

Original Image Courtesy of The New Bedford Whaling Museum.

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