Discovering the Dodo

dodo illustration for children

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) has been the object of curiosity and ridicule ever since its discovery in Mauritius by Europeans around the end of the 16th century. Regretfully, it was brought to extinction in the late 17th century by island settlers, but lived on through establishing its own particular mythical status.

It was during September 1865 that the first dodo fossilised bones were discovered in the Mare aux Songes marsh, Mauritius. Not only was this important to the advancement of Victorian natural history, but the discoverer realised it would also be equally important in advancing his finances. The abundance of bird skeletons found was downplayed as it would help keep the market price inflated when sold to collectors and museum collections.

The poor dodo not only became an emblem of the carelessness that leads to the extinction of a living species, but also a powerful symbol fuelling our collective imaginations ever since. Perhaps, the most celebrated dodo in fiction comes from the pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, which was wonderfully illustrated by John Tenniel.

The dodo continues to be drawn upon in literary works up to the present day. It is one of many rare and strange creatures encountered in Veronica Cossanteli’s delightful children’s novel, The Extincts (Extincts webpage at The Chicken House). I created a black and white dodo colouring sheet for Veronica a while ago, but couldn’t resist colouring it up myself (as seen above).

 

Recommended further reading on the controversy of the discovery of dodo fossils in the 19th century:

J.P. Hume, A.S. Cheke and A. McOran-Campbell 2009. How Owen ‘stole’ the Dodo: Academic rivalry and disputed rights to a newly-discovered subfossil deposit in nineteenth century Mauritius. Historical Biology, vol. 21, Nos. 1–2, pp. 33–49. Pdf version

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Steampunk Alice in Wonderland

Steampunk Alice in Wonderland

To mark the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland last year (2015), I wrote a steampunk short-story entitled ‘With My Every Breath’ that was inspired by some of its celebrated characters.

My tale is in fact a gaslight fantasy that is set in the city of Torontopolis during neo-Victorian times. It follows the trials and tribulations of a 16 year old girl by the name of Alice, who had just been resurrected from the dead by her father to carry out sinister deeds at his bequest. Alice becomes drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue involving a mad hatter, a ninja assassin and the mysterious Red Queen. But in order to thwart the machinations of the Red Queen, Alice must confront the horrifying truth about who she really is …

My drawing for this blogpost illustrates a scene where Alice attempts to break into the upper storey of the hatter’s headquarters by flying with the assistance of mechanical wings fashioned from jabberwocky bones.

My ripping yarn ‘With My Every Breath‘ has just been published in a new sci-fi/fantasy/horror anthology entitled Beyond Realities 2015 and is available from the publisher, Luna Press of Edinburgh (follow the link below)

http://www.lunapresspublishing.com/#!product/prd18/4389647615/beyond-realities-2015