Fictional Whale

Born: 1851
Best known as: The great white whale of American literature

Moby-Dick is the enormous white whale who torments Captain Ahab in the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick (1851). Ahab is obsessed with finding and killing Moby-Dick, having lost a leg in a previous encounter with the whale, and Ahab's burning desire for revenge is the center of the tale. At novel's end, Ahab finds and attacks Moby-Dick, striking him with a harpoon, but the terrible whale attacks right back and takes Ahab, his ship Pequod, and nearly all its crew down to a watery grave. Melville based his tale, in part, on the sinking of the real-life whaling ship Essex in 1820.

Extra credit:

Yes, it’s true: the first mate Starbuck in Moby-Dick was the inspiration for the name of the Starbucks coffee chain… The musician Moby is a descendant of Melville — hence his wry nickname… Moby-Dick‘s first line is famously short: “Call me Ishmael.” Ishmael is the book’s narrator and the only survivor of the Pequod‘s encounter with Moby-Dick… Moby-Dick has been filmed several times, including in 1938 (with John Barrymore as Ahab), in 1956 (with Gregory Peck as Ahab) and in 1998 (with Star Trek star Patrick Stewart as Ahab).

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