Sunday, July 8, 2007
Fit the First, Page Three, Panel Three
There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.
All aboard! At one and the same time, the Bellman delivers himself from an impending watery grave, snatches a coveted berth aboard the H.M.S. Snark, tingles his bell to signal our departure and introduces the Beaver, who is busily engaged upon her salubrious lace-making.
I am aware that readers assume the Beaver to be a He. Carroll's text is ambiguous on the point, only using the masculine (possessive) pronoun in the plural to refer to the Beaver and another (usually the Butcher). In his Annotated Snark, Martin Gardner concurs on this important grammatical point, which is reinforced in my mind by its aesthetic rightness.
Inasmuch as the Snark is an imaginary animal and thus its clochetic pursuer triply so, inasmuch as the creator of these drawings is rumored to be imaginary by the good people of the The Comics Journal message boards, and inasmuch as Castor canadensis, AKA the Beaver, is riparian, sedentary and unimaginably disinterested in travel and the needletrade, be it resolved: No man — for such is the Bellman's essence — can, strictly speaking, step into the same river twice, especially when there is no river (for any body of water delineated by an artist, however vaguely — touché! — unreal himself, is rendered null and void). Any riparian fauna must, ipso facto hey-nonny-nonny and a-hey-diddle-diddle, be contrary to any popular expectations held of them.
QED, the Beaver's a She and not a He and any other arguments I cordially defer as yet, for nothing will come of nothing. Speak again of this matter and I will invoke my Aristotelian rights: nature abhors a void, especially a kingly third portion (AKA the artists' Law of Thirds). Now stop learing at this nice drawing and get busy googling Heraclitus and Shakespeare, the bookends of occidental thinkery.