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From: "Nigel Price" 
Subject: (urth) Flying fish
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 02:05:10 +0100

Thanks to Che Monro, Fernando Gouvea and John Barach for the alternative
takes on the ending to "The Tree is My Hat" and the meaning of the story's

Intrigued, I listened again to end of the story in the audio version. It
goes like this:

>>An engine has quit. Pilot says, “No danger.”
>>He is out there, swimming beside the plane.
>>I watch him. I don’t know…He’s disappeared,
>>disappeared into a thunderhead.
>>The tree is my hat.
>>Oh god, oh my god, my blood brother, what can I do?

Is this the same as the written version? The audio version seems to end very
suddenly immediately after this.

"Beside the plane" is a bit ambiguous. I'd interpreted it as meaning that
Baden could see the shark in the clear water below the low flying plane. But
the interpretation that the shark is actually flying through the air is also
perfectly possible, and given that Baden has seen the shark-like UFO, well,
yes, he could be seeing the UFO-which-is-really-the-shark. And given that
he's possessed by the shark spirit, yes, he could indeed be seeing his own

There's even the possibility that the shadow of the aircraft itself might
look like that of the shark. You remember that business referred to in the
quotation I gave from _Myths and Legends of the South Seas_ about the bodies
of dead chiefs being encased in wooden fish and floated out to sea where
they are then eaten by a shark? The example quoted is of a wooden swordfish,
but other types of wooden fish were also used. In the Solomon Islands, for
example, they put the bodies inside a wooden shark. (Picture on p56-57 of
M&LotSS.) Baden is in a shark-like aircraft, being flown out to sea. In
other words, he's a dead man, and the shark is waiting.

The line, "He’s disappeared, disappeared into a thunderhead." would fit in
well with the idea of the shark flying alongside Baden's aircraft, but
wouldn't necessarily discredit the other interpretations, or perhaps
"visualisations" is a better word, as I don't think that we're in any
substantial disagreement as to what is going on. I have the distinct
impression that we're supposed to assume that "He's disappeared into a
thunderhead" is supposed to indicate that the thunderhead itself is malign
and manipulated by Hanga. Hange has entered the thunderhead. He may even
have "turned into" the thunderhead.

The whole logic and momentum of the story seems to indicate that it's a tale
of damnation - a horror story, a tragedy. Even so, the meaning of the final
lines remain potentially ambiguous.

>>The tree is my hat.
>>Oh god, oh my god, my blood brother, what can I do?

It all depends which "god" Baden is praying to. Is it "god" or "God" in the
printed version? We know that Baden has become Hanga's blood brother, so the
logical thing is to assume that he's talking to the evil Hanga, who is about
to "devour" him. But what if Baden really did come to his senses in the
middle of the attack on his family and cut off his own right hand? Could he
even at this late stage be remembering the rejected saviour who shed his
blood for him and called his disciples his brothers?

No, my reading is that there is no last minute repentance, but it's
interesting to see that it still remains an outside possibility!

As for Hanga being the island...Hmmmmm. Interesting! In terms of scale, the
tree is a very small hat for a whole island, while it makes a perfectly
admirable one for a body buried at its roots. Unless we assume some sort of
poetic "one for the many" trope, it would be more natural for the island to
say, "the forest is my hat." No, while I can't rule out the island theory
completely, I still find the more natural explanation to be for Hanga to be
a body under a tree. He's a white dwarf with sharp teeth on land, a
hammerhead shark in the sea, and a shark-like UFO in the air.

Then again, we all know about Wolfe and islands. Is this story yet another
part of the Wolfe archipelago? Rob is the missionary doctory of
death-by-shark island?



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