Monster of the Week: Clark (Dr. Seuss)

What are you, Clark? Dr. Seuss/Random House

What are we to make of the mysterious Clark from Dr. Seuss' 1960 classic "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish?"

For now, we'll ignore why such a large, aquatic mammal might be found at the local park enclosed in a giant jar. We'll avoid the obvious comparisons to the Guild navigators of "Dune."

The Science of Clark

Because Clark is clearly a member of the Odobenidae family, much like the modern walrus (Odobenus rosmarus). Obviously Clark boasts a few distinct morphological differences:

  • Upturned tusks like those of a warthog instead of a walrus' downward tusks
  • Furrier skin
  • Hands instead of flippers
  • A double elongated tail

While our modern walrus is the only surviving member of the Odobenidae family, the fossil record reveals a number of diverse cousins -- and there's even more diversity when you draw in the Desmostyla order of "seahorses" and the Sirenia order of sea cows.

Clark the Bunyip?

No known, natural-world organism (living or extinct) matches Clark exactly, but it is worth noting that a long-tailed, tusked creature DOES reside in the world of Aboriginal mythology and cryptozoology: the dreaded bunyip.

The bunyip interpretation is particularly terrifying, especially since the children of "Red Fish Blue Fish" imply that Clark is but a juvenile destined to "grow and grow." According to folk historian Carol Rose in "Giants, Monsters and Dragons," the mother of an abducted bunyip will unleash a terrible howl that causes the waters to rise and pour into the kidnappers' dwelling to retrieve her young. Any human touched by this magical flood will instantly transform into a black swan.

Be sure to grab a copy of "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" over at Random House or on Amazon. Because you need to meet the other creatures.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. Sometimes we'll focus on the cultural aspects, but mostly we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.