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Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to
the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places
never are.

When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native
woodlands in a grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if
he were a green sampling; even then, in Queequeg's ambitious
soul, lurked a strong desire to see something more of Christendom
than a specimen whaler or two. His father was a High Chief,
a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the maternal side he
boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable warriors.
There was excellent blood in his veins—royal stuff; though
sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished
in his untutored youth.

A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg
sought a passage to Christian lands. But the ship, having her
full complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the
King his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg
vowed a vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a distant
strait, which he knew the ship must pass through when she
quitted the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other
a low tongue of land, covered with mangrove thickets that
grew out into the water. Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among
these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat down in the stern,
paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by, like a
flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash
of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains;
and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a


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ring-bolt there, and swore not to let it go, though hacked in

In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard;
suspended a cutlass over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the
son of a King, and Queequeg budged not. Struck by his
desperate dauntlessness, and his wild desire to visit Christendom,
the captain at last relented, and told him he might make himself
at home. But this fine young savage—this sea Prince of
Wales, never saw the captain's cabin. They put him down
among the sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like
Czar Peter content to toil in the shipyards of foreign cities,
Queequeg disdained no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might
happily gain the power of enlightening his untutored countrymen.
For at bottom—so he told me—he was actuated by a
profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby
to make his people still happier than they were; and more than
that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of
whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be
both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his
father's heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing
what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket,
and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor
Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world
in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.

And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these
Christians, wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish.
Hence the queer ways about him, though now some time from

By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going
back, and having a coronation; since he might now consider
his father dead and gone, he being very old and feeble at the
last accounts. He answered no, not yet; and added that he
was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had unfitted him
for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan


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Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,—as
soon as he felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however,
he proposed to sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four
oceans. They had made a harpooneer of him, and that barbed
iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.

I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching
his future movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his
old vocation. Upon this, I told him that whaling was my own
design, and informed him of my intention to sail out of
Nantucket, as being the most promising port for an adventurous
whaleman to embark from. He at once resolved to accompany
me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same
watch, the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share
my every hap; with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the
Potluck of both worlds. To all this I joyously assented; for
besides the affection I new felt for Queequeg, he was an
experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to be of
great usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant of
the mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea,
as known to merchant seamen.

His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff,
Queequeg embraced me, pressed his forehead against mine, and
blowing out the light, we rolled over from each other, this way
and that, and very soon were sleeping.