Sunday, August 14, 2011

Last Song of the Whales by Four Arrows

Last Song of the Whales by Four Arrows is a powerful testimony to the universal intelligence of the planet with a strong ecological debate interwoven into the riveting tale of one man’s incredible journey.  While a page-turning story and an ecologically aware dissertation may traditionally be considered mutually exclusive, Four Arrow’s mastery of story-telling synthesizes a deep message into its plot.

Last Song of the Whales chronicles the tale of Brant, who is taken on a journey by a whale that he later names “Boy.”  Brant daringly decides to ride a humpback whale while he is whale-watching; however, he could have never calculated just how daring this act is.  After he rides the whale beneath the surface of the ocean, he ascends assuming that his escapade is over; however, the whale has other plans in store for him, gently taking him into his mouth and carrying him away.
In the mouth of the whale, Brant is startled at the care that the whale takes of him, ensuring that his mouth is intentionally filled with oxygen rather than water; through the surreal experience, Brant “vacillated between a sense of security and a feeling of horror.  There were no words to describe the various versions of reality he was experiencing.”  When “Boy” takes him to his family, Brant is stunned by the evocative whale songs; “Every note the whale uttered went to the core of Brant’s being.”  Over time, he learns the individual personalities of each whale and the various tones of songs that they sing, providing a strong argument for the intelligence of whales.

Brant’s wife, Angela, is distraught and, failing to find conclusive information from the rescue team and traditional sources, asks for information from a Nootka artist, Evelyn, who gives her only cryptic and fragmented information, telling her that “The humps teach us to remember who we really are… they remind us that we, too, are creative, spiritual and intuitive beings and we go about the cycles of life and death, same as they do…nowadays, they are trying to wake us up fore it is too late.”  When she enlists the help of the world’s foremost expert on humpback whales, Angela realizes that what she witnessed must be true—whales must be truly intelligent creatures, since great thought must have been put into the act of the whale for the “theoretically possible” circumstance to have occurred.  Angela does a great deal of research, discovering “whale intelligence” and reading an article that suggests that when humans understand that whales and dolphins are “ancient, sentient earth residents with tremendous intelligence and enormous life force,” they will finally realize that they are “not something to kill but someone to learn from.”

Faced with the option of continuing to try to paddle against the wind a few days away from Salmon Beach, where his journey began, sit and wait for a boat to come by, or stay with the whales on what would be a month-long journey to the Hawaiian Islands, where they wintered.  He eventually decides that “If he was going to die he may as well do so while on the adventure of a lifetime.”  As Brant surmises that “…if there was any chance he might survive the voyage the experience would be worth whatever risks he faced,” readers are provided with a powerful message on adventure, spirit, and risk.
Four Arrows teaches readers that there is a great deal to be learned from the animal kingdom and provides a powerful argument for the preservation of the sensitive, intelligent creatures of the world.  Last Song of the Whales delivers an incredible message through its engrossing plot that captivates readers and changes perspectives.