Visstad is a fishing village as any other in northern Scandinavia but it is the only one to have a choir singing whale songs. Nobody knows for sure why the people of Visstad sing these songs or how they learnt Whalish but the legend goes that it all started with a boy called Ole.
Ole was the youngest son of a fisherman. He was a rather shy boy and people said that he also was not the cleverest one. During the day he helped his father and brothers with the nets and the fish but in the evening he enjoyed sitting in his father’s boat listening to the waves, the wind and the seagulls and – if he could catch the sound – the singing of the whales.
One evening the boat he sat in was not moored properly at the quay and was driven to the open sea. Ole was busy listening to the waves and the wind, so he did not notice that the boat was moving. Only when the coast was so far away that it could not be seen at the horizon did Ole realize that something must have gone wrong. He panicked. He looked around to find the oars but the must have stayed at the quay in Visstad. Terror overwhelmed Ole. How was he supposed to come back?
Huge dark patches floated under the boat. Whales! They could become dangerous for him. The boat was so small that even a tiny stroke with the whales’ tail fins could turn it over easily. Their presence, however, did not make any difference Ole realised. He was going to die anyway. This realisation did not comfort him at all. He clutched the rail and starred into the water with tears in his eyes. To calm himself down he began to sing. At first, he sang nursery songs and lullabies his mother had sung to him when he was little. Then he turned to the traditional fishing songs of his village.
After three or four hours someone seemed to join his songs. When Ole listened closely, he heard the deep whale tunes that seemed to carry through everything and making the water, the boat and Ole’s body vibrate. The whales’ singing had a soothing effect on Ole and he tried to join their song. His eyes fixed on the dark patches underneath him Ole modulated his voice trying to imitate the sounds and find syllables that matched them. The whales seemed to acknowledge his effort. More and more dark patched gathered around Ole’s boat and the singing grew louder. The boat moved gently with the waves the fins produced.
When the sun rose, the boat hit against something. Ole looked up. He was back at Visstad. The whales had brought him home.
It is said that since then people in Visstad learnt to sing with the whales and every time a fisherman gets lost on the sea, people gather and sing a whale song. They hope that then whales will return the man to them.
What were your prompts?: whale sounds, terror
by Rut Neuschäfer