Once Upon a Time Once upon a time, an author invented a universe, a planet, and a God. The world wasn’t real, of course, but it bore a few remarkable similarities to our own. It shared our world’s great beauty, and it shared our world’s almost incomprehensible cruelty. The inhabitants, man and animal, were similar to ours; The animals acted very much as our animals do, except they could talk, and the people were every bit as heroic and flawed as we are. The God of this world commanded a man, Noah, to build an ark and load it with animals. Two by two. In the Beginning... No other humans were to live on the ark, except for Noah and his wife, and his 3 three sons and their wives. The ship was built, and God sent rain, and all that was once beautiful and horrible about this fictional world was submerged, perhaps never to be seen again. There were no survivors, save those on the ark. It was this family who would begin the world anew when the flood waters abated, if they ever did. The principles, strengths, weaknesses, faults, philosophies and wisdom of this family would be the gift passed on by this Noah to the world. In the Beginning, Cont’d The God of this world, Yahweh, consented to his own death, but no one knew this. Not even Noah. There were many things Noah did not know, and when confronted by those things that were beyond his understanding, he did what many men have done. He panicked, made mistakes, and tried to find a way to justify them. It was this Noah’s tragedy that he believed he must remain blameless in the eyes of the Lord, and so he sought to blame others for his mistakes, and his family loathed him for it. And in the end..... When he realized, at last, that his God had forsaken him, he stole a branch from a bird cage, gave it to one of his trained doves, and proclaimed a miracle! And there was much rejoicing. By some. Others saw through the stunt, but said nothing. The writer chose to end his story before the waters receded, and we can only wonder what became of those doomed souls aboard that rotting ship, and the world that waited to be born. Findley on Writing Writing is... “The articulation of things that must be said.” Findley said that some of what seem like contemporary issues in the novel are also found in the Bible: “The issues of power, of the power structure; women and their place in society; animals and their place in our consciousness; the environment and our responsibility for it.” “We have destroyed nature...we are destroying ourselves, the human experiment is ending. (1971) Why This Novel? “The prevailing opinions of the times, whether Noah’s or ours or any in between, must always be interrogated, and for that reason, books like Not Wanted on the Voyage are important for us, as Swift’s Modest Proposal was for the eighteenth century, or Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress for the seventeenth, or More’s Utopia for the sixteenth.” –Donna Pennee Mrs. Noyes learns to speak louder than in whispers, and dares to articulate what must be articulated. Through her in particular, but others also, readers are prompted to consider- or maybe even join- the on going revolt of the lower orders. Novel as Parable? “The novel may be read as a parable challenging the imperialist version of colonization as well as a warning against fascist eugenics and the impossible fascist quest for purity of any kind. Indeed, it suggests that such quests are related, sharing fundamental assumptions that are dangerous to our continued survival on earth as a humane civilization.” - Diana Brydon An Apocalyptic Fable? “Not Wanted on the Voyage, by revivifying the myth of the flood so extravagantly, turns the deliberate destruction, by Yahweh, of that ancient death-wish world into an illuminating metaphor for the likely accidental but all too imaginable destruction, by all of us, of this present one.” -Douglas Hill A Greenpeace Epic? a critic, whose name I have now lost, said of the book, “It is a beast fable emerging as Greenpeace epic in the Nuclear Age.” A Timeless/Timely Tale? “several messages...that have contemporary significance- equality for women, the need for conservation... the threat posed by fundamentalists, and anti-evolutionists, the danger of obsessive beliefs and blind, unquestioning faith. And there seems to be an animal rights, anti-vivisectionist message message in... Noah’s experiments on cats.” -William French “Everyone knows it wasn’t like that.” Genesis 1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. Genesis 4 There were giants Num. 13.33 in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5 ¶ And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Genesis 9 ¶ These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man 2 Pet. 2.5 and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 ¶ The earth also was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Genesis 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind; two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. 21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. 22 Thus did Noah Heb. 11.7 according to all that God commanded him, so did he. Genesis 1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. 2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. Genesis 6 ¶ And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. 7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, Mt. 24.38, 39 · Lk. 17.27 because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9 there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11 ¶ In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 2 Pet. 3.6 Genesis 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14 they, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. 17 ¶ And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth. Genesis 18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. Genesis 23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days. Why Genesis? The Bible is presented as an unquestionable text, its ageless authority bound in its pages. It is gospel. It is true, and the truth is. Findley suggests an alternative version of the coming of the flood, and in doing so, challenges readers to consider the other versions of the story they have heard, and question their authenticity. By extension, readers are asked to consider what they really believe. No one text bears the mark of truth for all time, but texts have power, force and signification in the world. Questioning Genesis We are given a relatively familiar reference to Noah and the story of the Flood. That account is called to question immediately by Findley: “ Everyone knows it wasn’t like that.” This positions us to hear a new account, or different account of the Flood, but with the likely understanding that this new account may be no more truthful than the old. Findley’s account compels us to consider all those aspects of the Flood that we have not read about before, even in Genesis. Why an Ark Story? The Ark Story has a wonderful duality: it recounts both the end of the world and the start of a new one; it is a tale of life and death, loss and salvation; God’s wrath but also God’s forgiveness. The ark functions as the central metaphor for the novel; our planet is an ark in a deep blue sea. It’s preservation is our only hope. We of the lower orders are compelled- for the sake of our own survival- to question the intellect, integrity, the competence and true intentions of those in charge, the captains. We must find room for all: for man and woman, adult and child. Animals of all kinds. and apes. and demons and dragons and fairies and unicorns. The book suggests that every life is sacred, and deserving to be saved. Even the wicked, the lost, the fallen. This is a novel of many arks; the one Noah builds is only one. Of Doves and Peacocks: Noah’s Reading of Truth The arrival of the dove signals the sense of doom and dread associated with the Patriarchy throughout the novel: Yahweh’s messenger- his sign to the faithful- is a dead dove. Noah insists upon controlling and interpreting communications. He decrees that Yahweh is coming and declares the dove a sign. Yahweh’s second sign is only interpreted as such by Noah. Not surprisingly, it is a peacock- traditional symbol of male pride and vanity. Noah insists that the fanning of the peacock’s tale is a sign, and uses this as a pretext for calling for a sacrifice that very evening. “A sacrifice is called for and decreed,” says Noah. He does not say by whom. The peasants are to be denied an explanation. They don’t deserve one. “The only principles that matter here, Madam, are the principles of ritual and tradition.” The only principles that matter here are yours! Ritual and Tradition Mrs. Noyes speaks of fairness, and justice, and of Ham’s scientific principles. All of these are compelling reasons to excuse Ham from the sacrifice, but Noah will have none of it. He invokes a son’s right, and privilege to take part, and then invokes the law. By adhering to ritual and tradition (the basis of law) Noah denies evolution of any sort. There can be no change unless he- the keeper of methodology-dictates it. The patriarchy thus assures that the patriarchy remains strong and unshaken. It is as fixed as God in the sky, and as timeless and enduring. “He’s only calling to his mate, for God’s sake!” How dare you? how dare you? “You see, by every sign and signal my decision is confirmed.” This is typical of Noah, who alone asserts the right to interpret and decree signs. Noah uses rage as another method for keeping people- particularly his wife and the other women-in their place. So let it be written, so let it be done! On all occasions, Noah insists that things be written down. He recognizes that there is power in the written word. All of his pronouncements are recorded. perhaps Noah wants to ensure his importance in history The written word cannot be questioned. It has the force of Holy Writ. He is extremely fond of recording miracles, even fraudulent ones. when ash falls from the sky, Noah calls it snow, so snow it shall be for all time, recorded by the dutiful sister Hannah. This represents the power of text, of the written word, and of the masculine ownership of that domain. Certain learning only exists in books and these are to be the domain of men only. Men write. Men read. Men go to university. As such, men retain power in the church as well as in the secular fields of learning. Women are to be denied learning (the orchard and the apple tree) Rules and Borders Yahweh’s missives to Noah read as a rulebook to be followed exactly. The size of the retinue, the specifics of the menu, etc. Rules and borders are essential to a system in which places are fixed and everyone must know theirs. Noah’s world functions by a system of divisions and boundaries and these require order and obedience. Mrs. Noyes breaks these rules when she rushes to help Yahweh, who has stumbled. Her mother’s instinct is stronger than her her dogmatical knowledge of place. As such, she almost loses her arms, before Yahweh himself decrees that “it is enough that she has been shamed.” Yahweh also travels with soldiers (Angels like Michael Archangelis) who likewise assure order and obediance. A Place for Everything... As mentioned, women must know their place, and Yahweh and Noah ensure this through humiliation, intimidation, wrath, and the assumption that a show of power like Noah’s will be sufficient to maintain order. “The World Cannot Function without Your Participation” is one of Noah’s favourite precepts, likely because it gives everyone a job to do while liberating him from them. Of course, his job is to oversee preparations. Order is reflected in the banquet as well. Everyone knows their place, the powerful and the powerless. It is a hierarchical organization. Hierarchy in the Blue Pavilion God and His Angels God and Man (Man and Woman) (Man and Animal) King and Subject Lord and Vassal Master and Slave A Binary World Us and Them We and They Rationalism and Madness (a necessary corrective) Wanted and Not Wanted Order and Anarchy Yes and No (No and Yes) (Noyes) apes The Flood The flood is to be that necessary corrective referred to earlier. It is to restore order, and sanity, and poer to the powerful. The pre-flood world is a broken place, a world of cannibals (communion corrupted?) and men who would kill their God. The flood is to fix this. The flood is man’s work; Noah is implicated through his magic trick. Like a miracle...Yahweh almost whispered now, as the final flow of the liquid spilled from the mouth of the silver jug...filling the bottle and, to all intents and purposes, obliterating the mage of the penny, still in its place beneath the bottle. “By the sheer application of water...it disappears” But it doesn’t disappear; like all those second items on the list, the penny is still there. After the flood, they will still be there, still opposing the patriarchal world. Noah and his Wife Dogma vs. Instinct Unlike Noah, who always relies on dogma as his guide, Mrs. Noyes regularly consults her own feelings as the highest guide to what is right and proper and fair. She resists, at least silently, Noah’s imposition of dogma upon her and her sons. Not surprisingly, she is closest to Ham, who likewise, with his science, resists Noah’s teachings. She knows the peacock is not a sign. It is her peacock! Likewise, she sees his many miracles as “sinister events: unpleasant and stomach churning. Awful.” Noah and his Wife Law, Order, Containment vs. Freedom Noah insists on the above as a means of maintaining power and control. Mrs. Noyes, however, looks forward to chances to loosen her clothes and her demeanour. At such times, she looks upon the world with her own eyes and thinks her own thoughts. The people of her church sing songs and are connected by fellowship, no higher bonds. Their relationships are organic rather than imposed. For her, sanctuary is not a church, but rather her garden, her porch, a place of quiet contemplation and rest, not the strictures of religion. A Woman’s World? Mrs. Noyes Emma Mottyl Hannah Lucy? Hierarchies An interesting juxtaposition in the novel is that between the human world and the animal one. The human world is governed by a top down hierarchy of power which seeks to limit and define artificially the places of those within it. Yahweh, of course, is the top, and then Noah, and then the rest. The hierarchy justifies itself. It is necessary or chaos will ensue. The greatest enemy is anarchy, or a tearing down of the established order. Of course, the established order serves its own purpose. Relationships In the forest world, no such hierarchies exist, or if they do, they are organic and natural. Predators still prey, as they must, but the logic behind this exists in the natural world. It is not artificial. All the animals are united by a common experience of birth, life and death. There is reverence for birth, and the young are seen as holy here. There is also respect for death. It is understood that the world is not safe and so they need to look out for each other. This is a trait shared by all in the book- human and animal- who stand outside Noah’s patriarchy. The woods house a genuine community, where everyone takes interest in others because it is mutually beneficial to do so. “Leave it for the Unicorn” is a universally accepted axiom. It is a world of reciprocation. Lucy and Michael 2 loving brothers, one sworn to kill the other one representing obedience, the other rebellion one guarding Heaven, the other cast out “Why? All you ever said was Why? Why this and why that and why everything! How dare you. How dare you.” Interesting that Lucy should, having come to Earth, take the form of a woman. Michael, meanwhile, represents the masculine ideal. Particularly for Japeth. Note that there are no women in Yahweh’s retinue. Heaven itself is a masculine domain. The Crown of Flies More from Findley “It’s to do with the covenant and the idea we’re faced with the growing consequences of having chosen one god to the exclusion of the holiness of each thing...” “The world is a very spiritual place for me. When you remember that the rocks and the trees and the whales are holy, then you treat them differently... and you treat people differently as well.