There are many traditional myths and folktales about whales from all over the world. Here is one of my favorites:
The Chukchi of Siberia speak of a woman who fell in love with a bowhead whale. This bowhead saw her walking along the rocky shore and turned himself into a young man. He would stay for a while, then return to the sea, disappear for a time, and always come back. This species, like the humpback, sings a plaintive song, one phrase up, one down. Whooop, Eroop, Whoop, Eroop. The woman was entranced by this melody and could not forget it.
The woman who married a whale gave birth to human children and whale children. The boys and girls played on the rocky beach in the sun. The baby whales swam in the lagoon by the village, but when they grew too big, they would disappear out to sea and join the pods that swam by the village a few times a year.
She would always tell her human children, “The sea gives us our food, but remember your brothers the whales and your cousins the porpoises live there. Never hunt them, but watch over them. Sing to them.”
Her children grew up, then they had children of their own, all human. The village prospered until one very tough winter. There was little to eat. One grandson told another, “Why don’t we kill a whale? There’s certainly enough meat and fat on even one to get us through this season.”
“Remember what Grandma said,” replied his human brother. “Those whales are part of our family. We must leave them alone.”
“What kind of brothers are they?” said the other. “They are long and huge, they live under the sea, and they don’t know a word of human speech.”
“But we can sing to them, and they listen.”
“You sing. I’m not going to die of starvation.” With that he paddled out into the sea. Soon one whale swam slowly up to his boat, as they were used to doing. It wasn’t very hard to spear him.
When they dragged the dead bowhead back to shore the killer went to his grandmother, proud he had found food to save his people. “I killed a whale, grandmother. There is meat and blubber for all to eat.” The woman who married a whale already knew what had happened. Then she cried. “You killed your brother, just because he doesn’t look like you.”
She closed her eyes and died.
The Chukchi sigh. It all went downhill from there. Now even when a human kills another human, no one is really surprised.