Mocha Dick

Old Stormalong coverHow Old Stormalong Captured Mocha Dick

Submitter: Herman Melville and his relatives may have been robbed by this offshoot of Moby Dick. How Old Stormalong Captured Mocha Dick was on our elementary school library shelves in the tall tale section. The book itself is not all bad, but gracious, that title!! It certainly grabbed our attention. The book was hidden in between so many other tall tales that it wasn’t noticed until we started pulling for discards.

Holly: I used my librarian powers for good and Googled the title. It was reviewed in the New York Times and Kirkus Reviews when it was published in 1942. Old Stormalong is compared to Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. Moby Dick was a novel, though, not based on legend or tall tale. I get that authors can maybe take some liberties with characters and stories of legend, but what does that make this? Kind of a blatant rip-off, no? Is there a copyright lawyer out there who can explain this?

Old Stormalong excerpt

Old Stormalong excerpt

Old Stormalong excerpt




  1. I actually live near Isla Mocha in Chile, and yes, Moby Dick is loosely based on a famous whale near the island. Another Melville story/novella, Benito Cereno, is set on the neighboring island, Isla Santa Maria, closely based on a documented slave ship revolt.

  2. In the heart of the sea, the tragedy of the whale ship Essex, is based on a true event Melville also wove in to Moby Dick. If you have not read this book I highly recommend it, I no longer loan out my copy as I’ve had to replace it 4 times as it keeps getting passed on.

    1. Never loan out your books! For some reason thats one item that never gets returned,as you have learned the hard way!

  3. Not an attorney by trade, but as far as I can tell, Moby Dick was published in November 1851 in the US, when the Copyright Act of 1831 held: 28 years after mandatory registration (which Melville did) with an optional renewal for an additional 14 years if the rights holder formally requested. So the novel should have been fair game for derivative works by 1894 at the latest.

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