Short Film

Or, The Whale

The not entirely true story of how the American edition of Herman Melville’s famous epic got its unusually awkward, and ridiculously over punctuated, full title.

Melville’s famous tome was first published in London in 1851 under the title “The Whale.”  Just a month later it would be published in New York by Harpers (the famed publishing house) under the much more curious title “Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale.”  The details of how exactly that change happened have evidently been lost to history – as with all things Melville there has been much speculation – but it seems clear that something, or someone, must have intervened.

The new title sounds like something arrived at by committee, or perhaps as a result of an argument that was never fully resolved.  Or, the Whale imagines just such an argument between Melville and his publisher (James Harper), set against the backdrop of what would have been the famously prudish Victorian America of the nineteenth century.

The film was shot on location on Nantucket Island (home port of the Pequod in Moby Dick), with the gracious assistance of the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket. Music was provided by the Nantucket Cobbletones, a local a cappella group of island residents.