I loved Yann Martel's Life of Pi. Absolutely one of the best books I've read over the last few years. And I can also support a little Edgar Allen Poe stint on occasion. So I was trebly pleased when I randomly came across an eerie connection between them. And so it goes:
If you've read Martel's masterpiece you will certainly remember Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger and raft-mate of the title character. You may also remember that the tiger received his unusual name through a clerical error: caught as a cub and initially named Thirsty, the customs clerk accidentally swapped the names of the tiger and the hunter who caught it, Richard Parker. The name stuck.
What you may not know, however, is why Martel chose that particular name to begin with: as a homage to a certain be-ravened poet. Poe wrote exactly one full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the story of a whaling ship cast adrift after a terrible storm. Among the book's several gruesome adventures, the four surviving (and increasingly starved) crew members draw lots to see who will be sacrificed in order to feed the others. The man selected to feed his cannibalistic comrades--none other than Richard Parker. And so we have a namesake. (Poe's protagonist also had a stowaway dog named Tiger. Coincidence? I think not.)
But this is when things get really weird. Forty-six years after Poe publishes his novel, a whaler is shipwrecked and cast adrift off the Cape of Good Hope. This time... the four surviving (and increasingly starved) crew members draw lots to see who will be sacrificed in order to feed the others. The man selected to feed his cannibalistic comrades--none other than Richard Parker.
And yes, I copied those last sentences--because the same thing happened! But in real life! That alone has to make Poe the king of all freaky authors! It also makes Martel's choice of Richard Parker that much cooler.
(As an aside, this bizarre case formed the basis of a famous maritime trial, R. vs Dudley and Stephens--which I vaguely remember studying in some ethics class--and which has formed a legal basis for cannibalism as a key part of the "Custom of the Sea.")