This past June at the end of the school year, me and my students became obsessed with this Scatergories-type game called “Alto!” Because fifth grade Spanish vocabulary is somewhat limited, we had a rule that one of the words could be given in English, because, in the end, it was supposed to be a fun game. When the letter “N” came up and one of the underdog teams shouted “ALTO,” I was excited to hear some new voices. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned “quiet student finally finding their voice” moment. So, when they got to the category “animal,” my heart sank. I had to disqualify them. They wrote narwhal. “Um, I think we need to use real animals, chicos,” I said. You want to hear a room full of twenty-five 10-year-olds go crazy? Try telling them that an awesome unicorn-like creature (that, in reality, actually does exist) doesn’t exist. They looked at me/ yelled at me like I was some fool who actually believed that the world was flat, and had just tried to convince them of this fact. Talk about losing credibility!
Since that fateful day, the pesky narwhal sure has poked his little nose into my life in other ways. Remember back to my late night screen printing class? Claire’s print was of a narwhal! You can see her beautiful work below. I asked some other non-10-year-olds, and sure enough, they all knew about narwhals. I consulted the Google machine. One of the entries calls it, “the best mammal in the ocean.” There’s a Facebook page dedicated to it. National Geographic refers to it as “the unicorn of the sea.” In fact, in the Viking times, narwhal tusks were sold for more than their weight in gold to people believing they were unicorn horns. And I was thinking it was something out of the latest YA sci-fi fantasy series! Ha!
Today, I set out to redeem myself with the animal kingdom by creating a stuffed animal effigy of this not-so-mythical arctic creature. Although it wasn’t my intended result to make a caricature of the poor beast, that is what happens when you use a combination of intensely bright colored fabric, not enough stuffing, and absolutely no pattern or warm-up. In hindsight, I probably should have just written a haiku.
Sources for all of my narwhal knowledge? Where else but National Geographic and Wikipedia.