Land Whale

I’m thinking up a new creature for the world in which my stories take place.

Yesterday, a friend of mine linked me this page (check out the pictures). It got me inspired to write a story involving a house built in a tree growing on the back of some big animal. This in turn got me thinking about what such an animal could be.

Since earlier, I’ve got a creature called land whale. It’s a hairy beast the size of a blue whale, but living on land. I imagine it’s shaped similarly to a whale, except with legs sticking out on the side, kind of like on a komodo dragon, or a crocodile. The land whale will probably have at least six legs though, to carry it’s massive bulk – probably even more.

So I already have a creature that’s reasonably well figured out and that would easily be able to carry the weight of a tree and a tree house on it’s back. It’s just, trees don’t really grow on animals, right? Then again, certain types of barnacles can grow on whales, don’t they? They can probably grow on turtles as well, so it may not be too far fetched to assume that there can be plants that grow on animals too – especially in a fantasy world that I’m making up myself.

That works, but it’s not good enough

I don’t want this to be just a single individual land whale on top of which a tree took root and grew. I want the tree to be an integral part of the animal, so that every member of the species has it.

Let’s say the land whale and the tree have a symbiotic relationship where they’re so integrated they can’t survive on their own. The tree provides something the land whale needs to survive, and the tree is only ever able to take root and grow on top of the land whale. Exactly what the two provide each other is something I’ll have to muse on, but for now I have two ideas:

  • Instead of water, the tree makes use of the blood of the land whale (this might mean the tree has red leafs).
  • The tree transforms sunlight into energy for the land whale, reducing its need for solid food.

The idea for this kind of symbiotic relationship came from the Portugues man o’war, which is made up of a several different beings that can’t survive without each other (I may not have the facts right, but it’s what triggered the idea). If something like that exists in the real world, imagine what you could get if you added a little bit of magic and imagination.

So, let’s add a third being to the mix.

To start with we had the land whale and the tree. What else do we need? What else is cool?

I mentioned crocodiles earlier, right? Crocodiles sometimes let little birds walk among their teeth and pick them clean. The same thing happens under the sea, in coral reefs – smaller fish feed off of the dirt and leftovers that get stuck on the bigger fish. That works. Let’s add that.

At first I figured I’d add something like a rider or a driver. A roughly human-sized and human-shaped being that lived in the tree house and which handled the social interactions between the rest of the world and the land whale – or something like that. It seemed good, but I changed my mind…

Let’s add a small army of tenders.

The tenders aren’t physiologically integrated with the beast, but they’re still integral to its survival – and they can’t survive for long without it. I imagine they look a bit like little monkeys. They’re probably white, possibly even fluorescent .

I mentioned earlier that the land whale was hairy. It’s covered with long coarse fur, dragging all the way to the ground – kind of like on a musk ox. The tenders help keep that clean. Among other things, the fur of the land whale provides ideal conditions for certain kinds of fungi to grow in. If left unchecked, these fungi (and other things) would overrun the land whale, draining it of energy and choking the life out of it. Fortunately, the fungi is a great source of food for the tenders, who make sure to keep it at a manageable level.

The relationship between the tenders and the tree will need some work, but I’m pondering the idea of having the queen tender come from the fruit of the tree in some way – or she could come from the first flower to grow on it.

There we have it – or at least the start.

We’ve got the big lumbering creature. We’ve got the big tree that grows on top of it. We’ve got a colony of little helpers that look after the other two. The idea of building a house in the top of the tree and live in it while the beast makes its way across the Green Sea or the (still unnamed) plains of the north wouldn’t be that hard to come up with. Elves would definitely do it. Humans would want to do it too, but they’d have a hard time finding a land whale that isn’t already occupied.

I haven’t yet figured out how the land whale would breed, but it’s probably more likely done via the tenders or the tree, than via the big beast itself. Maybe if one land whale meets another, the tenders of both would exchange flowers or fruits.

Will have to muse on that…

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Land Whale

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