Superstitions and legends have always been a part of human life and history. They were invented to explain the unexplained.
For centuries the albatross, a big sea bird with a 9.5 – 11 ft. wingspan was a sign of good luck to sailors. To see one was a sign of good omen. Sailors around the world from as far back as the Phoenicians to the Vikings saw them as good luck. For centuries sailors were very superstitious people, so they look signs their journey would be safe. In the poem:
” The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner” however, the albatross is the symbol of the curse, and the origin of the popular saying “hang an albatross around his neck”.
In “The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner” Coleridge rights:
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
Modern translation: “OMG, we’re so screwed!”
I have often wondered about this one. I can understand before the age of technology one shouldn’t be too particular about where they help came from when idle out at sea. Mermaids, krakens, sea monsters, giant squids, you name it. As long as it helped you, you couldn’t be too picky..
The albatross is one of the few bird who can survive by drinking salt water. So I can see where the mystic surrounding the bird came from. But hanging one around your neck is another story. It always sounded like a very good way for a big bird with a sharp beak to peck your eyes out. He was only good luck if alive. Therefore he had to be alive to bring good luck. And if he’s alive around your neck, he’s gonna bite, peck and scratch. His talons looks awful sharp.
After he shot the big bird with a crossbow, (See! This is exactly why people don’t need things to shoot with. They usually ends up shooting their own good fortune), the men all die and the young mariner lives on in agony. After the Mariner shoots and kills the albatross, the rest of the crew hang the albatross around the Mariner’s neck before they died to symbolize and punish the sailor for his crime, which they believe is responsible for their declining fortunes on the windless sea. He start seeing all kinds of peculiar things like life and death gambling for him.
No, the wind just wasn’t blowing. It depend on what time of the year they were sailing through where ever in the ocean. The current was still. Even a bird as big as an condor can’t control the wind. He can’t flap his wings and end enough wind to inflate shipmasts. An albatross isn’t a giant Roc.
Yes, I know it’s all metaphorical speaking, describing the psychological and physically burden, agony of being idle at sea and facing a certain death alone. That it feels like a curse. I know it doesn’t mean to literally hang this big bird around your neck.
But does he really lives on or what? I think the interesting question is no one seems to know where this quaint guest comes from? I think I would be leery of listening to a story from someone I simply looked in a corner in my house and he’s sitting there. Party guest or not. Hypnotic voice or he would’ve had to go.
No one stopped to think, “Mmm… it’s impossible for one man to sail a ship alone. So that means he didn’t make it back to dry land alive. HE’S A GHOST!”
By the way: Rhime isn’t misspelled. I used the original spelling of the word. In the original copies it’s written Rhime of the Ancient Mariner, not Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I doubt the word rime existed when this poem was written.