Top 10 Moby Dick Trivia

This classic novel from author Herman Melville was first published in 1851. Since its release the tale has become considered one of the greatest American Novels of all time. It tells the story of an obsessive whaling ship captain and his journey to kill a ferocious sperm whale. Over the years this plot has inspired popular culture and several movie adaptations. Each of these has an equally interesting backstory and many incredible facts to discover! Join as we explore ten pieces of entertaining Moby-Dick trivia.

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Top 10 Moby Dick Trivia

“Thar she blows!” Welcome to, and today we’ll be exploring ten pieces of trivia you should know about “Moby-Dick.”

#10 – Based on a True Story

Kicking off our “Moby-Dick” trivia list is a factoid about the origins of Herman Melville’s 1851 novel. For his epic work, the author combined his own boating experiences with other real-world events: the plot of his tale was based both on the story of a ship called the Essex, which sank in 1820 when it was attacked by a whale, and on the 1830 slaughter of an albino sperm whale called “Mocha Dick.”

#9 – A Metaphorical Tale of Evil

“Moby-Dick” is a literary tragedy, wherein Ahab ignores his own limitations while foolishly dedicating his life to vanquishing a living embodiment of pure evil. The novel’s foreboding atmosphere suggests the certain doom that lies ahead of the captain and his crew aboard Pequod, as evidenced by such small details as the strange behavior of fish and birds.

#8 – A Coffin for a Bed

In the 1956 film adaptation of the novel, the obsessed captain Ahab is told to get some sleep by his chief mate Starbuck. However, Ahab refuses and calls his berth a coffin, and ironically that’s exactly what it was! Officers used to sleep in a box so that upon their untimely death they could be buried at sea. The rest of the crew slept in hammocks, which also served as burial shrouds.

#7 – A Fake Prop Whale

A longstanding misconception is that the crew of the 1956 film built complete 60-foot prop whales from head to tail fin. In reality, they used specific sections of the whale’s body as needed while on location. The only complete whale props used were miniatures shot in a special tank back at the film studio, where they simultaneously recorded all of the whale’s headshots.

#6 – Shot on Location

It was insisted that the 1956 film was “shot on location” in the Canary Islands and around Ireland. However, only a third of it actually was: the rest was filmed in an English studio. Location shooting was impacted by stormy conditions, which made the crew sick, and resulted in two years of production delays plus a bloated $4.5 million budget that was four times the average of the time.

#5 – Hollywood’s Romanticized Vision

In 1930, a very loose adaptation of Melville’s classic novel was produced, which turned the source material into a standard Hollywood romance. Rather than portraying Ahab as the vengeful madman, he was depicted as a lovable scoundrel whose hatred for the whale was rooted in his fear that a missing leg would cost him his sex appeal. This was the first adaptation of the story that featured a leading female character, which didn’t happen again until 2010.

#4 – A True Adaptation

There have been several adaptations of Melville’s opus, but the screenplay of the 1956 film remained the truest to its source material. However, due to its generally dark and depressing vibe, plus its lack of romance, female actors or a happy ending, that version was shunned. After the script circulated Hollywood for a few years, it was finally put into production when A-lister Gregory Peck accepted the role of Ahab.

#3 – The A-List Actor

Unfortunately, Peck was widely considered to be terribly miscast as the domineering captain, since he was only 38-years-old and Ahab was written as an old man at the end of his career. He also struggled to recite prose, and almost drowned during the sea and whale-hunting scenes, so you’d think Peck would never want to be involved with “Moby-Dick” again. However, the final acting role of his career was as Father Maple in the 1998 made-for-TV movie.

#2 – The Star Trek Connection

This same 1998 film starred Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab, and it was not the first time this British actor quoted Melville while portraying a ship’s captain. Not that “Star Trek” has ever been a stranger to whale-speak…

#1 – Moby Dick’s Legacy

Rounding out our trivia list is the fact that the entire sci-fi genre seems to love this novel. The folks at “Battlestar Galactica” nicknamed their character Starbuck after Ahab’s young chief mate. Scully from “The X-Files” was such a fan of the book; she called her dad Ahab, while she was dubbed Starbuck. And, while it’s not a sci-fi franchise, the Starbucks coffee chain was named for this character, as well. Think about that next time you’re waiting in line…

What’s your favorite piece of “Moby-Dick” Trivia? For more entertaining trivia lists, be sure to subscribe to

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