Dear Dr. Boli: I find your Allegorical Bestiary columns most edifying. I’ve always wondered: is there any allegorical significance attached to the Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama), the common garden slug or Madonna (the performer, not the Blessed Virgin)? —Thanks in advance, A Curious Reader.
Dear Sir or Madam: Allegorically, the Giant Cuttlefish represents Nostalgia. All members of the genus Sepia produce copious amounts of a very useful brown ink, which until recent times was favored both by writers and by artists. Indeed, Dr. Boli still makes use of it for his own writings, as it seems to adapt best to his rather florid pre-Victorian hand. In former times the demand for this ink was so great that gigantic workshops were kept busy night and day expelling ink from cuttlefish. The vast scale of these ink-mills created a fine mist of sepia ink that settled on everything for miles around, tinting it a uniform rich brownish color, as you may see in old drawings and photographs. It is only natural that many people of Dr. Boli’s age should look back with a mixture of fondness and sadness upon this simpler time, now lost forever in our age of mechanical typewriters and synthetic dyes; and it is equally natural that the cuttlefish, whose ink gave that lost world its characteristic tint, should represent that longing, which is the very definition of the word “nostalgia.”
The garden slug, whose genera and species are too numerous to catalogue here, represents the virtue of Resolution, which like the slug flourishes in the dark under the shelter of a strong rock, but when exposed to the harsh light of day, which is to say the reality of human existence, tends to wither and blow away in the first puff of wind.
Dr. Boli was not familiar with this Madonna-the-performer you mention. Having indulged in a bit of Web research, he was struck by a certain similarity, and is therefore inclined to assign her the same allegorical significance as the garden slug.