Tashtego

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego’s long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding eyes—for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their glittering expression—all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main.

—Knights and Squires

Harpooneer. Tashtego’s abilities to negate both RUNNING and UNFLAGGING SPIRIT come from Ishmael’s description of the harpooneer bending over his oar to prevent the escape of a prize. Tashtego’s penchant for spotting whales on the distant horizon is also taken into account here—a whale may not escape Tashtego by swiftness alone.

Stubb’s harpooneer is a native of the Wampanoag tribe, whose lands were early taken by English settlers, and whose people remained on those lands, which included Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, and Nantucket. Tashtego is described as an integrated but unchristianized whaling man, a man possessing both strength and wisdom to be used in the pursuit of whales. Unlike elsewhere in mid-19th century America, natives, blacks and other ethnicities could rise in ranks, captain whaling voyages, and fairly share profits with their white contemporaries and subordinates.[1] Though the Pequod is by no means a military ship, Queequeg, Tashtego and Daggoo certainly outrank most of their shipmates, oversee the whole affair, and take greater share in the profit from oil gained. Status as a Harpooneer in the game, however, does not entitle you to more oil per kill, rather a better chance at striking a whale, with a true arm and eye, and the spirit to ‘tempt a thousand devils.’

Original Image Courtesy of The New Bedford Whaling Museum.


[1] Amos Haskins, the Wampanoag whaler whose image is used for Tashtego in our game, became master of the bark Massasoit in 1851. He was lost at sea in 1861. http://www.whalingmuseum.org/learn/research-topics/overview-of-north-american-whaling/life-aboard

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