Moby Dick Chapter 88 - 90
Chapter 88 - 90
Schools and Schoolmasters/Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish/Heads or Tails
While herds, as described in the previous chapter, are common, groups of twenty to fifty, called schools, are even more frequent. There are two kinds of schools, one comprised of mostly females, and the other, mostly males. The female school always has a single male swimming with them, called the schoolmaster; it is he who protects them from attack by whaling ships. A school of males is far more boisterous, and the most dangerous to encounter.
There are two essential laws in whaling:
1. A Fast-Fish is owned by the party to which it is held fast.
2. A Loose-Fish is open game.
A Fast-Fish is any whale that is connected by any controllable medium to a ship. A Loose-Fish is one with no such connection. Like on land, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
"What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?" Chapter 89, pg. 336
There is a law in England that states the following: when a whale is captured off the coast of England, the head must go to the King, and the tail to the Queen. There is a story of a group of men capturing a whale off of Dover. Instead of profiting from their catch, the dead whale went to the Duke of the town as a Fast-Fish, and he sold it for his own profit.