Synopses & Reviews
From Lewis Carrolls poem The Walrus and the Carpenter” to the Beatless I am the Walrus,” walruses have played an enigmatic role in popular culture. With their prominent tusks and distinctive whiskers, these odd-looking but charismatic animals have long held a crucial place in the lives and folklore of Arctic indigenous cultures, both as a vital food source and as a part of traditional oral literature. However, commercial trade of walrus products has caused the creatures to be hunted to the brink of extinction, with disastrous effects on human populations in the Arctic.
Combining natural, cultural, and environmental history, Walrus explores the intriguing story of an animal that today is on the front lines of conservation debates. John Miller and Louise Miller describe the problems facing walruses even after the twentieth-century bans on nonindigenous walrus huntingshrinking pack-ice caused by global warming and the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas resources are destroying the animals habitat. Wonderfully illustrated with images of walruses in the wild and from art and popular culture, Walrus offers a refreshing account of these large-flippered mammals while also illustrating the ethical dilemmas they embody, from the intensifying conflict between the developed world and indigenous interests to the impact of global warming on arctic animals.
Known for their prominent tusks and distinctive whiskers, the walrus has often cropped up in contemporary culture: from its role as the majestic protagonist walking along the briny beach in Lewis Carrolls poem The Walrus and the Carpenter,” to the Beatles enigmatic pronouncement I am the Walrus.” Walruses have long played a significant role in Arctic indigenous communities, where they have held a crucial place in traditional mythologies. European and American interest in the Arctic increased in the nineteenth century with the burgeoning trade of walrus ivory. Hunting brought the creatures near to the brink of extinction, with disastrous effects on indigenous human populations.
Walrus explores the intriguing and affecting history of an animal that remains on the frontline of contemporary conservation debates. Commercial walrus hunting was banned in the 1930s, and today only subsistence hunting is permitted, yet the mammal still faces an uncertain future. Shrinking pack-ice caused by global warming is causing serious problems for walrus herds, while the exploitation of arctic oil and gas resources puts further pressure on the animals, whose remote habitats and nomadic behavior make it difficult to determine the exact number of animals that remain in the wild.
About the Author
John Miller is a lecturer in nineteenth-century literature at the University of Sheffield, UK, and the author of Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Identity and Ecology in Victorian Adventure Fiction.Louise Miller is an independent scholar based in Kent, UK.