How The Whale Got His Throat
: Just So Stories
IN the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and
he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the
dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the
mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All
the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth--so! Till
at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a
small 'Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale's right ear, so
as to be out of harm's way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and
said, 'I'm hungry.' And the small 'Stute Fish said in a small 'stute
voice, 'Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?'
'No,' said the Whale. 'What is it like?'
'Nice,' said the small 'Stute Fish. 'Nice but nubbly.'
'Then fetch me some,' said the Whale, and he made the sea froth up with
'One at a time is enough,' said the 'Stute Fish. 'If you swim to
latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is magic), you will
find, sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing
on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must
not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one
shipwrecked Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of
So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty
West, as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of the
sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a
pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best
Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked
Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his mummy's leave to
paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he was a man of
Then the Whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly
touched his tail, and he swallowed the shipwrecked Mariner, and the raft
he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders
(which you must not forget), and the jack-knife--He swallowed them
all down into his warm, dark, inside cupboards, and then he smacked his
lips--so, and turned round three times on his tail.
But as soon as the Mariner, who was a man of
infinite-resource-and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the Whale's
warm, dark, inside cupboards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped
and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he
clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he
prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and
he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped,
and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn't, and the Whale felt most
unhappy indeed. (Have you forgotten the suspenders?)
with his infinite-resource-and-sagacity, and the raft and the jack-knife
and his suspenders, which you must not forget. The buttony-things
are the Mariner's suspenders, and you can see the knife close by them.
He is sitting on the raft, but it has tilted up sideways, so you don't
see much of it. The whity thing by the Mariner's left hand is a piece of
wood that he was trying to row the raft with when the Whale came along.
The piece of wood is called the jaws-of-a-gaff. The Mariner left it
outside when he went in. The Whale's name was Smiler, and the Mariner
was called Mr. Henry Albert Bivvens, A.B. The little 'Stute Fish is
hiding under the Whale's tummy, or else I would have drawn him. The
reason that the sea looks so ooshy-skooshy is because the Whale is
sucking it all into his mouth so as to suck in Mr. Henry Albert Bivvens
and the raft and the jack-knife and the suspenders. You must never
forget the suspenders.]
So he said to the 'Stute Fish, 'This man is very nubbly, and besides
he is making me hiccough. What shall I do?'
'Tell him to come out,' said the 'Stute Fish.
So the Whale called down his own throat to the shipwrecked Mariner,
'Come out and behave yourself. I've got the hiccoughs.'
'Nay, nay!' said the Mariner. 'Not so, but far otherwise. Take me to my
natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and I'll think about it.'
And he began to dance more than ever.
'You had better take him home,' said the 'Stute Fish to the Whale. 'I
ought to have warned you that he is a man of
is hiding under the Door-sills of the Equator. The little 'Stute Fish's
name was Pingle. He is hiding among the roots of the big seaweed that
grows in front of the Doors of the Equator. I have drawn the Doors of
the Equator. They are shut. They are always kept shut, because a door
ought always to be kept shut. The ropy-thing right across is the Equator
itself; and the things that look like rocks are the two giants Moar and
Koar, that keep the Equator in order. They drew the shadow-pictures on
the doors of the Equator, and they carved all those twisty fishes under
the Doors. The beaky-fish are called beaked Dolphins, and the other fish
with the queer heads are called Hammer-headed Sharks. The Whale never
found the little 'Stute Fish till he got over his temper, and then they
became good friends again.]
So the Whale swam and swam and swam, with both flippers and his
tail, as hard as he could for the hiccoughs; and at last he saw the
Mariner's natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and he rushed
half-way up the beach, and opened his mouth wide and wide and wide, and
said, 'Change here for Winchester, Ashuelot, Nashua, Keene, and stations
on the Fitchburg Road;' and just as he said 'Fitch' the Mariner walked
out of his mouth. But while the Whale had been swimming, the Mariner,
who was indeed a person of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, had taken his
jack-knife and cut up the raft into a little square grating all running
criss-cross, and he had tied it firm with his suspenders (now you know
why you were not to forget the suspenders!), and he dragged that grating
good and tight into the Whale's throat, and there it stuck! Then he
recited the following Sloka, which, as you have not heard it, I will
now proceed to relate--
By means of a grating
I have stopped your ating.
For the Mariner he was also an Hi-ber-ni-an. And he stepped out on the
shingle, and went home to his mother, who had given him leave to trail
his toes in the water; and he married and lived happily ever afterward.
So did the Whale. But from that day on, the grating in his throat, which
he could neither cough up nor swallow down, prevented him eating
anything except very, very small fish; and that is the reason why whales
nowadays never eat men or boys or little girls.
The small 'Stute Fish went and hid himself in the mud under the
Door-sills of the Equator. He was afraid that the Whale might be angry
The Sailor took the jack-knife home. He was wearing the blue canvas
breeches when he walked out on the shingle. The suspenders were left
behind, you see, to tie the grating with; and that is the end of that
WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
You're 'Fifty North and Forty West!'