The Little Figurehead – With Thanks to Tasmania

I would first like to apologise for not posting a Disneyfied travel update upon my blog in a month. Myself and two other exchange students made the poor decision of visiting Tasmania during the build up to our essay deadlines and exams (well, not such a terrible idea really. Everything got done and Tazzie was incredible. Wouldn’t have changed a thing), then I had to hit the ground running essaywise and examwise while simultaneously soaking up time with my fabulous Fenner family, knowing all the while that I would be leaving for China two days after my last exam. Then two weeks travelling China with my boyfriend, in each other’s pockets 24/7, and now here I am, in a hotel room in Suzhou using James’ teachingguitartochinesechildren time as my writing time ūüėČ

The plan shall be:

  • Write a Tasmania post
  • Write a LastDayInCanberra post
  • Write several China posts
  • Continue blog in Oz and NZ as if no interruptions occurred ūüėČ

So this post is the Tasmanian one. We spent our long weekend in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, with a day trip to Port Arthur the day after our first arrival. Hobart was a fairytale in itself, I could easily imagine it as a section in Disneyland what with its unique preservation of the Australian colonial town vibe (it’s the 2nd oldest city in Australia after Sydney, but that particular city is pretty much fully modernised at this stage, as you can imagine). Port Arthur also had its Disney elements, albeit the darker themes… one could easily imagine each Disney villain chained up in the place, the only form of escape being to skin a kangaroo and attempt to bounce out of captivity (yes that did happen in real life [about 170 years ago] and no he did not get away with it).¬†

However, what really swept Disney into the front of my mind was rather unexpected… this being an exhibition in the Maritime Museum of Tasmania. It was our last day, the day we had promised ourselves we would hit up some of Hobart’s finest museums… but apparently they tend to close on Mondays? So yah, we were pretty much clutching at straws, but it turned out to be quite interesting, plus I am in its debt for giving me some blog inspiration:

IMG_8468IMG_8469

The notion of them protecting their ship made me wonder what figureheads would think of mermaid interference … or at least what one¬†particular¬†figurehead would think of one¬†particular¬†mermaid’s interference…

I hope you enjoy!

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“HURRICANE A-COMIN’! STAND FAST! SECURE THE RIGGING!”

Lightning lit up the face of the figurehead of The Edvard, but¬†by then its consciousness¬†was already¬†darting around to different parts of the ship. The figurehead noted with approval the crew’s quick reaction to the sudden storm.Yes, they knew what they were doing, the prince had chosen well… the figurehead would not have to worry about the adjustment of the sails at least. It also remembered how bottom-heavy the ship was, for hadn’t Grimsby loaded the vessel with gifts on the assumption that their voyage would result in the prince’s engagement to the princess of Glowerhaven? Thankfully Grim’s idyllic outcome had not come to fruition, otherwise the significantly lighter ship would have been tossed about the sea mercilessly…

With these facts drizzling like soothing ointment over the intensity of the figurehead’s initial panic, it allowed itself to think back to before the hurricane was announced from the crow’s nest. The party, the unveiling of the statue, Prince Eric and Grimsby’s chat about wife-finding difficulties… “Perhaps you aren’t looking hard enough” “Ah believe me Grim, when I find her I’ll know. Without a doubt, it’ll just BAM hit me… like lightning!…”

CRASH

The figurehead remembered the pressure of her shells and soft, slippery skin against the side of the ship during those moments. That mermaid.

Unfortunately there was no time to cast its eyes around for the creature, since the steersman had lost his grip of the steering wheel. The figurehead shot its consciousness into said wheel and ensured the ship was at an angle to the suffocating gusts of wind and the prow was facing the waves as much as possible. After all, most of the sailors were scurrying about the main deck and the stern, and the figurehead knew that the section of the ship upon which its body was attached was strong enough to deal with the impact of the water.

It was not long before Prince Eric’s fingers wrapped around two wooden wheel handles, and the figurehead yielded its control to him, comforted in the knowledge that he had mastered the use of a ship to tame all the sea from a young age. The figurehead returned to its wooden, feminine body once more and stretched its stiff neck in order to continue its search for the similarly shaped red-head. There she was, still attached to the vessel, albeit solely by a piece of rope.

Oh no you don’t.

The figurehead watched with satisfaction as its quick nudge to Prince Eric’s steering caused the mermaid to lose her grip. It then became aware that all of the lifeboats were now dangling along the edges of the ship, some crew members clearly having presumed that all was lost. The figurehead retracted some of its previous praise for the current sailors of¬†The Edvard¬†and instead used these unneeded resources to ensure the mermaid, who was now swimming along the perimeter of the ship, did not manage to cause any more trouble.

Down they dropped, each being released just as the spawn of the sea narrowly escaped the previous one. The last boat was shrouded in the shadow of that atrocious statue of Prince Eric, so perhaps the figurehead could catch the mermaid off guard…

Another flash of lightning struck one of the sails, distracting the figurehead before it could launch its trap. It cursed the mermaid’s intuition. Could they read minds too?¬†

The lightning, now taking the destructive form of flames licking their way up the mainsail, served as a torch to draw Prince Eric’s attention to another danger: the razor-edged bouquet of rocks looming right before the ship.¬†Curse the inadequacy of human night-vision.

The figurehead despaired as Eric climbed aboard the last remaining lifeboat and abandoned¬†The Edvard with whatever crew members he could get a hold of.¬†No. It couldn’t be over.¬†

What was the point of keeping The Edvard¬†afloat now? The figurehead’s¬†mind numbed as it searched in vain for some saving grace, but its attention was then seized by the reappearance of the little mermaid, now weaving her way through the waves towards the little boat. Towards the prince. A flick of the wheel and the ship was blocking her way.

You did this” the figurehead forcefully parted its splintered lips to howl over the screaming winds, “I KNOW you summoned this storm!”. This caught the creature’s attention, and she struggled to keep above the surface of the water in order to yell a reply: “ME? How could you THINK that?”

The blank eyes narrowed. “I know the legends of the sea, child! I’ve been sailing over Atlantica for decades. I was once attached to¬†The Anderson, you know, before I was cut off and reattached as a gift to the prince. I¬†know everything about the power of your kind, over the elements of the air as well as the sea…”

The mermaid looked up in disbelief. “You think¬†I¬†can do that? That’s only my father! He has a trident you see, even if I managed to take it I wouldn’t know-”

“Enough of your lies!” the figurehead interjected, “I¬†know¬†you were watching the prince. He said he wanted his ‘right girl’ to hit him like lightning, so you got the idea to wreck the ship and save him, thereby earning his affections. No. There will be none of that. I¬†protect this ship, its crew, its captain. It is my job to get the prince through such disasters, but you just couldn’t accept that, could you? You pushed him to the point of abandoning his ship although I could have saved him, saved them all. The least I can do is ensure you don’t get the satisfaction of finishing off your plan.”

The mermaid’s perplexed expression then subsided into one etched with¬†Eureka: “You are in¬†love with him too.”

If anything could have made the figurehead laugh during this tragic time (or in general), this would have been it. Oh come on. What¬†I am is bloody¬†PISSED¬†off that my years of success have been dashed by a lovesick mermaid.¬†Ah love, the emotion humans, whether full or half, always believe is the grand explanation to everyone’s actions.¬†Why do they give such weight to it over far more satisfactory pursuits… they will never know the pleasure of having a singular purpose and fulfilling it… nor will they know the grief one experiences when failing to do so… ¬†¬†

There was no explaining this to the young girl, especially as she attempted to catch sight of the prince as she awaited the figurehead’s response, so it dumbed it down: “He is the captain of the ship I am bound to, and now he’s gone. No captain, no crew, nothing for me to protect.”

However, it was at that moment that the figurehead noticed the familiar pressure of the prince’s boots upon the deck. A smile.

“Never mind” it said, “He has not given up hope. The voyage continues, mermaid. I suggest you get out of the way.”

“No, he’s just come back to get his other four-legged hairy human” the mermaid replied indignantly, and swam towards the side of the ship which Prince Eric had boarded.

Sure enough, the dog, Max, was thrown over-board just as the figurehead felt the prince’s leg burst through the floorboards of the burning deck. The figurehead cast its consciousness into said floorboards, spotting the nearby mermaid as it did so.

No. He was staying right here. It could only save him if he stayed right here.

***

Grimsby pulled the sopping sheepdog out of the ocean and was horrified by the realisation that the owner was not following close behind.

“Eric!” he called out, he and Max both fixing the ship with similar pleading looks. Grimsby thought he saw him struggling to get over the side of the vessel… or.. no… was that him swimming in the water nearby? Perhaps the fire was giving his raven locks that coppery tinge…

His speculations were blown out of his mind by the explosion on board the ship. A gasp erupted from himself, the remaining crew, and Max (presumably inwardly) as they floated uselessly, watching the sparkling mushroom cloud rise to reveal a ruined ship, burned to a crisp.

Fragments of¬†The Edvard had shot across the water during the explosion, the closest piece he could see being a wooden torso.¬†Grimsby gave it only a passing thought as he searched the sea for his prince: “A pity. Such a pretty figurehead. Such a pretty ship.”

 

 

 

 

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