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The Animal-Lore of Shakespeare's Time, ch. VEdit

English originalEdit

The Narwhal, or Sea-Unicorn, another semi-mythical beast of the sea, was the object of much speculation, and his horn was supposed to have the same virtue as an antidote to poison as that of the land unicorn. It is described in a letter quoted from Mr. Wormen, a Danish gentleman, as having the head of a whale, with a long pointed horn, fixed to the upper part of the left jawbone. The creature is called by the Icelanders narwhall, which implies a whale living upon a dead carcase—wall signifying a whale and nar the carcase (Churchill's Voyages, vol. i.).

Baffin, the discoverer, writes to Sir John Wostenholme:—

"As for the sea unicorne, it being a great fish, having a long horn or bone growing forth of his forehead or nostrill, such as Sir Martin Fribisher in his second voyage found one, in divers places we saw them, which if the horne be of any good value, no doubt but many of them may be killed." (Purchas, vol. iii. p. 843.)

The specimen found by Frobisher is described by him in Hakluyt's Travels. It is a pity that the experiment recorded was not tried also on some non-poisonous insect.

"On this west shore," he writes, "we found a dead fish floating, which had in his nose a horne streight and torquet, of length two yards lacking two ynches. Being broken in the top, here we might perceive it hollow, into the which some of our sailors, putting spiders, they presently died. I saw not the triall hereof, but it was reported unto me of a truth: by the vertue whereof we supposed it to be the sea unicorne." (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 59.)

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