Beast of Myth and Fancy
21 February 2012
The Serpent of Purity
Los Angeles is known to have one of the most, if not the most polluted water in all of America. There have been many ongoing issues of water pollution in the Los Angeles area, as well as most of California. As a Vietnamese child, born in Hawaii, I was gifted with living in one of the most pure and clean waters there are. With clean beaches, streams, and rivers, I have never personally faced any real pollution of any sorts until leaving my humble island. I have gone to California beaches and know how disgusting they can be. This is why I truly support the Heal the Bay movement, by the Santa Monica Aquarium, to end the pollution that enters our beautiful ocean which we all share. However, I feel that the emblem of the Heal the Bay movement does not fit with the statement to end the pollution. An image of death does not convey the idea of rejuvenation and recovery but an untimely yet ultimately inevitable death. This is why I created my own logo and own mythical creature as a new logo for the Heal the Bay movement. I have done much research on various myths, as well as utilizing fascinating aquatic specimen I’ve observed at the Aquarium. I plan to look into the problem of LA’s polluted waters and address them in my newly designed logo for the Heal the Bay movement and explain why it is more appropriate than that of the current logo.
It’s not a mystery that Los Angeles has some fairly polluted water, however, for such a beautiful area such as Los Angeles to have the title of one of the most polluted US City is almost mind boggling. People go through the extra effort to make their homes, lawns, gardens, and even the extra effort to clean their own toilets, however, we cannot seem to take care of our rivers, streams, and oceans. So when I was informed about the Heal the Bay movement, I was excited to learn more about this and what they are doing for our oceans. However, I did not agree with the logo. The idea of a dead fish being the logo to “Heal the Bay” seem sort of ironic to me. We are conveying the idea of death when we are trying to promote life. So I started researching on various mythical creatures. The creature that fascinated me most was the Kappa.
The Kappa is a green water goblin in the country of Japan. It is described as a humanoid amphibiotic turtle with a set of leaves that encompass his head in a bowl shape. My initial connotation of this creature was that it was a deity of sorts to the Japanese culture. I believed that this was a water god that would assist humans in various ways and when people were to pray to them and give them offerings, the Kappa would assist them in purifying the waters or blessing their homes. I also believed that the water on the Kappa’s head was the purest water in all of Japan. However, upon further research I learned the true nature of the Kappa in the Japanese culture. It turns out that the Kappa was not a benevolent deity, but a mischievous creature that would play pranks on people and even go so far as to perform lewd acts and even sinful acts towards people, especially women. When confronted, the Kappa has been known to injure and even kill people. Also, the water on top of his head was not the purest water in Japan, but the water from the river they live, and used the water as a power source for when they were to ever exit their water dwellings. After this, I was baffled by the idea of using the Kappa in any means of representation to my iconography for the Heal the Bay. However, I learned another interesting fact that brought faith back into the Kappa. The Kappa is known to be a very dignified and grateful creature. If ever confronted by the Kappa, you are to take a bow in their presence, and the Kappa will do the same. By doing this, the Kappa will spill the water on his head and will remained frozen for all eternity if their power source is not refilled. If the human were to fill the top of their head, the Kappa, in his gratitude, would forever assist you in all that you do. There are also instances where, when a human were to assist a Kappa, the Kappa would repay his debt to the human. There are various temples in Japan that are dedicated to these kind hearted Kappas. The next creature I was fascinated by was at the Santa Monica Aquarium.
I noticed a moray eel that was scaling the walls of the tank it was confined in. This was truly amazing to me because I was always familiar with the stereotype that eels were very dormant creatures that would remain in the coral crevices that they call home. However, this energetic moray eel shattered that stereotype. This was the first time I ever saw a moray eel out and about, freely swimming through its tank to finally return back to where it stayed. Then it hit me, the idea of a moray eel, it’s freely moving body that is not bound by the normal fish vertebrae, but has the ability to bend its body as it pleases and manipulate its movement as it wishes. I then amalgamated the idea of the more benevolent Kappa with this free moving moray eel. I then created this creature know as the Eel god.
The color scheme of the Eel god reflected that of the amphibiotic Kappa, a generally pale green exterior with a dark green mane that scales the body of the eel. He would also have the same courteous formalities as the Kappa, repaying his debt to those who help him. The water that his body is coiling reflects my initial idea of the Kappa holding the purest water on top of his head.
The mythical story of the Eel god is that it loved at the point where the river meets the ocean. He lives in his underwater dwelling, in his cave, dormant, and angry and the human race. Throughout the recent years, his waters have been polluted by us humans, day in and day out, with no end in sight. He could not stand it no more and disappeared from the human sight for many years. He believed that with him gone, humans will see the error of their ways and attempt to right that which they have wronged. However, it did not go as he planned. As the years went on, the memory of the Eel god was lost in time, as well as the care for the oceans and its wonders. Day by day, month by month, year by year, the Eel gods anger and hatred grew greater and greater, but refused to leave his home, the only pure sanctum in these polluted waters. All he could see is the peak of the shores where humans would gather to throw their cans and trash into the water. Finally, humans stopped gathering near his home; the water had become so polluted that no one dared enter the region. Angry at the world, the Eel god was finally at ease from the noise of humans; though it was due to the pollution he hated most. Ironic, wouldn’t you say? More years went by, with no sign of humans, yet greater pollution building up in his waters, he caught a glimpse of a man. The Eel god’s anger stirred up again, imagining the vile things that he might be doing to further pollute his natural home. However, he noticed something. The man had brought with him four empty buckets, each of which he used to fill up with the polluted water. He then took the water with him and the next day, return with pure, clean water, and dumped it into the river. He continued this daily, filling up his bucket and returning with clean water, in attempt to purify the river. The Eel gods angry heart began to soften, realizing the pure intents of this humans kindness. However, alone, this man could do nothing. One day, the man only returned with a single bucket. In his heart, the man knew he would not be able to do this on his own and was on the verge of losing all hope. He threw the last bit of clean water he had and returned home. The Eel realized the man was just like himself, someone who was on the verge of giving up, but unlike the man, the Eel god had already given up. In a burst of speed, the Eel god shot out of his dwelling to the purified water that was slowly dissipating into the polluted river. He began to swim around the purified water, using his body to accumulate all of the pollution onto its own body to preserve the water’s purity. He then formed his body into a bowl to keep any more toxins from reaching into the water he held with his body. The Eel god then rose above the water, with the pure water coiled around his body. He then opened an aperture for the water to drip from. With each drip, a large portion of the river was purified. Drop by drop, the water droplets purified all parts of the river and surrounding ocean. However, the eel’s body had observed too much of the toxins and new that it’s body had become polluted itself. In an attempt to save the water he sought to protect, he turned his body into stone, holding the water in his now stone like bowl of a body. The next day, when the man returned with the bucket of purified water, he saw the statue of the once powerful Eel god, as well as a completely clean river. The man saw that with each drop of water, the river remained clean and pure. He also saw that the water in the Eels bowl like body was running out. So day by day, the man would return to fill the bowl with pure water in hopes of preserving this now pristine river.
This story is a representation of human nature. The idea of the Eel God is our own natural actions of doing nothing, in hopes of someone else to do things for us. However, we will only see our waters get worse and worse because we are doing nothing to stop it. We just see these things happen in our peripheral vision, doing nothing to stop it. Then the man, representing various movements to heal our oceans and waters like the Heal the Bay movement come in to help heal the ocean and end the pollution. Like the Eel, we take notice of these actions; we are overjoyed by these actions and hope they succeed. However, they cannot succeed without our help. That’s why we, as a society, must put all our effort into healing our oceans; we must pull our efforts together to keep our water clean. If we can keep our part clean, Mother Nature can clean out theirs. The end of the mythological story where the man pours pure water into the Eel’s bowl represents an after effect of what could happen when we finally purify our water. The idea that once we have cleaned all there is, we must continue to make the active effort to preserve it. If we were you let it get polluted again, who knows if we can recover. There is another reason why I chose the moray eel as my creature for the logo. I like the idea of the snake, not the evil serpent that tricked Adam and Eve, but the idea of rejuvenation; the idea that when the serpent sheds its skin, he is brand new, clean, and rejuvenated. Throughout the world, we are actively working to heal our oceans. Movements like Heal the Bay are showing what we are doing to our planet and actively trying to show us ways to prevent it. However, we must collectively do these things, not just one or two people, but all of us must do these things. They are not even big things, we can use a reusable bottle instead of bottled water, toss a can in the recycle instead of on the street, toss a plastic bag into the trash as oppose to the floor. These little things might seem significant, but with 50 billion people actively doing these little things can make all the difference.