purpose of “Jónas Blondal” is not just to entertain.
True, to be entertaining is an important element of a comic but
this story goes further than that. It has a message. A serious message.
This is made very clear by the summary on the cover: “Confronted
for the first time with the harsh reality of the whaling business,”,
it says about the boy Jónas, “his excitement gives
way to thoughtfulness, and his thirst for adventure turns into compassion
for the helpless creatures …”
This is what it’s all about. It’s not just about whaling
but about care and responsibility in dealing with creation. Historical
whaling may be the frame for this story but conditions at the time,
now over a hundred years ago, are not the main focus in this story.
Rather to question the consequences of whaling. This subject is
certainly of topical interest – probably more now than ever
The story about Jónas Blondal is not trying to politicise
but to sensitise. The aim is to sharpen the mind against senseless
behaviour – in a subtle way.
The Blondal family plays the central role in this regard. After
the death of his two brothers Sigurð and Grímur, Jónas
is the only remaining child of Amalie and Ivar Blondal. Therefore
his mother reacts strongly, when she hears about her husband’s
plan to take her youngest on one of the forthcoming trips on a Norwegian
whaler. She is aware of the danger of losing her last child due
to such irresponsible actions. Ivar Blondal meets these concerns
with a rationality that borders on indifference. He lectures
Amalie about 380 whales that once stranded and died near Scheveningen.
“That’s the way things go.”, he remarks laconically,
“Disasters happen … why should it be different
for humans?” Amalie’s objection that it would be wrong
to accelerate the process, falls on deaf ears.
This is a key passage: It becomes clear that the Blondal family
with its past and future stands for something much larger. Their
personal story is a kind of analogy: Due to a lack of responsibility
(and the whaling itself), the life of their child and therefore
the preservation of their family is threatened. Similarly an irrational
and careless attitude threatens the survival of the whale population
This “parallel of fate” appears again in a different
part of the story: After the catch of a humpback whale cow, the
orphaned calf follows the whaling ship*. Jónas names the
calf – and worries about it: “Is Finn all by himself
now, just like me?”, he asks his father the morning after
the “successful” catch. And again Ivar Blondal reassures
him with a mixture of carelessness and inappropriate joviality:
“Listen, Jónas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking
about the whales too much. There have always been whales and there
will be in the future. Finn will have a large family … just
Here the questionable naivety of the child triumphs over the questionable
learning of the adult.
Would it be different today? How do you make a child understand,
why people continuously kill so many animals of one species until
it is extinct? Which animal breeder would not at least save one
pair from the slaughter for further breeding? Are the children in
need of more understanding, or are they the ones that sometimes
ask the better questions?
Two questions are raised in the appendix of the comic: “What
is the future for the whales? Will they share the fate of Jónas,
the last remaining child in his family?”
According to the story Ivar Blondal stubbornly works as a whaler
for the rest of this life – unreasonable and unwilling to
learn. He dies in August 1913. His wife follows him the year after.
On the last page of the comic it reads: “The Blondals did
not leave any descendants.”
Jónas Blondal and his family did not exist. The story is
not authentic. But it could be – and possibly will be. Should
some states persist in their decision to ignore international whaling
regulations there could soon be a time when only pictures will remind
us of these fascinating animals, the giants of the sea …
* Such tragic scenes have occurred several times, when whale calves
mistook the hull of the whaler for the body of their mother.