Children are inherently magical creatures. What sorcerers, witches and necromancers have always laboured to recapture at the expense of their own souls children have been able to accomplish with no more effort than an irreverent giggle at the dinner table. The veil between the possible and the impossible is very thin for children, and it offers no resistance their exuberance cannot tear asunder. For reasons both many and tragic, most of us lose that ability by adulthood.
As children we were content to sit for hours piling up mud and sticks or packing the latest snowfall into an embankment in the yard. And, as far as our parents could tell, all we had for our trouble was a ruined pair of sneakers and a dirty pair of overalls. But we knew better. We knew the truth of our efforts; that we had populated our mud kingdom with all manner of wonderful denizens. In our kingdoms dwelt that which had once been — kings, princesses and warriors; that which might one day be — aliens, spaceships and newly inhabited planets; and that which would never be — griffins, unicorns, goblins and elves. We knew that our grass was in fact lava and that our lawn must be crossed by climbing the picnic table and deftly swinging onto the lower branches of the nearby tree, shimmying across to the rope swing and flying onto the wagon where we could just manage to jump to the safety of the porch.
But then as we grew, we watched each of our flights of fancy die one by one. The most tragic part of it all is that for many of us our disillusionment was engineered. In a painful and untimely lesson in betrayal, our own parents taught us to believe in the reality of the impossible — in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the bogeyman — and then taught us not to believe in them anymore. Unwilling to be hurt again, most children have chosen to put to death their own imaginations in order to become adults.
As adults we know — as surely as we knew before that magic swords could be pulled from stones — that there can be no such thing as magic. There are no dragons nor were there ever. There are no perilous quests for heroes to set out on because there is no real evil to be vanquished. There can be no such creatures as pixies and trolls because scientific taxonomy has no place for them.
That is, until one discovers the Narwhal, the very existence of which confounds the skepticism of the most hard-hearted naturalist. The reality of the narwhal’s existence must be measured, studied and found to live up to scientific scrutiny. It is, in fact, a real creature, Latin name and all (Monodon monoceros). Yet it cannot be explained away as just another animal. It is undeniably and uncompromisingly magical.
Actually, the Narwhal is more than just magical. It’s a blitz; an attack from the realm of the impossible on the realm of the possible. While every creature we believed to be real as a child — unicorns, centaurs, nymphs — all turned out not to be in spite of all our youthful expectation, the narwhal is a magical creature that turns out to be real in spite of the fact that none of us expected it to exist at all. In any realm. The narwhal blindsided us with its existence by being even stranger than we could have imagined, and suddenly everything has changed.
Those kingdoms we populated with the inklings of our childish imaginations crumbled into the sand and mud we made them with when we were taught not to believe, and were scattered by the wind. The narwhal is the last glittering fragment of those lost kingdoms. And as long as it survives, the whole world of our imagination can be restored. When a grown man or woman sees a whale with a unicorn horn — an honest to goodness, spirally unicorn horn — sticking out of its face, it becomes more and more difficult to deny the impossible. Simply because the narwhal is even weirder than the things we’ve learned to think are impossible. If the narwhal exists,what other impossible creatures could be out there? A unicorn isn’t that strange come to think of it, not now that we’ve discovered there are actual sea unicorns in the world.
The narwhal is an invitation to wonder again. It is a harbinger of magic breaking in on our dull little world. It is a messenger that seems to shout to our former child selves, “Hold fast the hope ye profess! A new dawn is breaking!” And would we but heed the narwhal’s call, we might yet live to see a day when animals talk, when rings are magical, when mirrors are doors to other worlds. A day when air pirates sail the skies and battle the cloud ninja clans. A day when people live side by side with elves, dryads and gnomes and when Santa Claus never fails to polish off the plate of cookies we leave out for him, no matter how many millions of homes he visits that wonderful night.
[i] If you don’t know what Freakazoid has to do with this post, I strongly recommend you educate yourself.