NIELS GUDMOND AND THE KRAKEN*
The darkened sky, the rolling ocean, the wind whipping white the foam foretold a dark and vile task appointed to yon shipmate, Niels Gudmond.
He was sent out from a mighty vessel in a small and leaking boat, with but only a hand spear to rouse the evil Kraken from his sleep amidst the depths of this stygian sea.
The Kraken had done some works of late. And many lives and many ships had gone down to hell because of them. His many tentacles reached up to crush the men who, out in the cold and danger, spent themselves to make a living. And, yes, they lost their ships too, for the Kraken was a mighty force.
The tales were true, as Niels Gudmond had now seen for himself, for he was the last survivor of his fine ship’s crew, the sturdy trawler, “Intent”. “Intent” had been his home for the last year. “Intent” had been his family. “Intent” was well built according to all the best designs. It held hope, and love and life. The best Niels Gudmond knew was now gone. And so with little left, he gladly volunteered to do whatever fearful men had gladly given to him to do.
For not with any numbers had this battle ever been fought. All were family men, yet trusting not, nor with any real hope, full of loud and boisterous prayer, they gave Niels Gudmond full charter upon such a sea with their promise to wait for his victorious return. He noticed, and cared not that they had given him the oldest and broken dingy and rusted spear. All their cheering
and assurance did not sway their secret pact which caused their mighty ship to raise its sails amidst the pouring rain, to turn and start back for land the moment Niels Gudmond was out of sight.
Though he could not see their ship, Niels Gudmond knew he was now alone. His life meant nothing, but what lived in him was all, and that would live with or without dinghy and spear, body, mind, sea or darkened sky. He was with his purpose to end a thing that ate within himself. Truly, he thought the Kraken’s tentacles reached much further than anyone knew. Was not the ship he had just left strong and safe, and had not all, in spite of their bragging and prayers been completely consumed in the belly of the Kraken’s fear? Was not even the ship “Intent” with all his recent family too, with their cries, proof they’d lived only in a temporary and false shelter from dread, a dread that lived within them every day upon that ship, a dread which colored their every laugh, opinion and prayer?
This day, dark as night with black clouds descending downward, like drops of ink billowing in the water, the rain slapping leagues of liquid night, the wind, the beaten ocean and all its angry swelling, tearing itself to pieces, annihilating itself, devouring itself again, were these not always here whether he was safe upon ship or not? And was not the Kraken and every beast within the deep a part of all this, too?
Then every day, apart from that beast from this sea and death itself, however it may be, are not these all a false and momentary escape? Niels Gudmond’s heart burned to sever every part of the Kraken, yet now saw in every friend, a tentacle of fear, in every gentle embrace, the
first part of the Kraken’s crushing squeeze.
He was, in his heart, finally in the sun of truth. He was in the real, he was here and it was now. This was the awful day, the darkest and the brightest for Niels Gudmond, for here he was not hiding, he was not acting on his fear of the stygian thing he met today. Was not this world holding him in a grip firmer than a vice in this very place? And was it not still denying there was any such thing at all? And when mention was made, did not the people around him cling tighter still to crush into oblivion that which was griping them, rushing them ever more into oblivion; so completely devouring them, men, women children and all, that no single glint of humanity could escape? So surely had the Kraken dined.
Neils looked to sky and sea, and rain, and boat, and trembling spear in his trembling hands which held it; the rain splashing upon them, the roaring wind blowing his little vessel about, the rollers splashing down, the water filling the dinghy. God was the only one thing he knew
was still. God was there with him, God the sky, God the clouds, God the sea, all active, all in His mighty design. God in every living thing, the only living thing. He spoke gently to His Captain, now living within him. He looked to His Captain, who had taught him about this monster
and his tentacles of fear and violence, and the confidence of His Captain, as always, touched him. The stage was set for this great play, this great battle.
The boy’s heart pounded in his chest harder and more painfully than he’d ever known when he saw a black spear rising up from the water, rough from its cups upon
one edge. The Kraken rose. Niels Gudmond shed a tear, eyes intent. He knew that He alone had been chosen for this moment, to be God’s partner in this battle where God was every part and every player. Indeed this was Niels Gudmond’s first true conversation directly with His Creator.
And so Niels Gudmond gave Himself to his Captain, to his God, as the Kraken’s tentacles surrounded his small boat. He speared at it, at each part. But now with his leg, his shoulder in the Kraken’s grip, and tightening, Niels Gudmond finally saw the Kraken’s head and mouth and struck, his spear going completely through, while he, by the Kraken’s shear weight, was pulled down under the chilling waves into the icy depths. Down, down both went, neither for this world ever more, into the pitch black, into the night of the sea.
Niels Gudmond struggled, but could not get free, until this body was no longer his. He heard his mighty Captain’s bell toll the changing ship’s watch, announcing the end of night and the arrival of dawn; it was his entry into the sunny day within.
With no further struggle, at peace, bathed in warmth and light, Niels Gudmond held dear the one real gift few very truly had: He saw in blazing light the smiling visage of his Beloved Captain, the only true father Niels ever knew, and soaring from within his heart, Niels Gudmond felt what long had been a distant memory: he felt joy, and was glad.
I was bound and flung down;
Banished from heaven,
dumped on earth.
Bound by the dictates of my destiny,
I was exiled into this alien land.
Off with you, sly world,
Aggravate me no more.
I am already in anguish.
I am a stranger; my home is far away,
And my situation worsens
With every breath I draw here.
Sultan Bahu (Bait 27)
Like a piece of iron
That is to be forged into a fine sword,
You must bear the Blacksmith’s
Unrelenting hammer blows.
Like a comb you must be finely sawn
Before you can caress
The Beloved’s locks.
Like henna leaves
You must be ground into powder
Before you can adorn
The Beloved’s palms.
Like cotton you must endure
Before you are woven
Into a turban for his head.
You will only taste the nectar
Of divine love
When you become a true lover of God, O Bahu.
Sultan Bahu, Bait 162
When I became a lover,
I thought I would secure the pearl
That was my aim.
I did not know how immense
The waves of the ocean were.
The night is dark,
the waves are terrible,
And the whirlwind
has engulfed us.
How can those
standing safely on the shore
Know our plight?
*The Kraken is a legendary sea creature which would attack a ship by grabbing it with its many arms and capsizing it. The crew would drown or be devoured by the monster. The arms of the Kraken were said to reach as high as the top of a sailing ship's mast.