Not Wanted on the Voyage

“And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.” (Genesis 7:7)

Not Wanted on the Voyage“Everyone knows it wasn’t like that.”

“To begin with, they make it sound as if there wasn’t any argument; as if there wasn’t any panic — no one being pushed aside — no one being trampled — none of the animals howling — none of the people screaming blue murder. They make it sound as if the only people who wanted to get on board were Doctor Noyes and his family. Presumably, everyone else (the rest of the human race, so to speak) stood off waving gaily, behind a distant barricade: SPECTATORS WILL NOT CROSS THE YELLOW LINE and: THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION. With all the baggage neatly labelled: WANTED or NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE.”

“They also make it sound as if there wasn’t any dread — Noah and his sons relaxed on the poop deck, sipping port and smoking cigars beneath a blue and white striped awning — probably wearing yachting caps, white ducks and blazers. Mrs Noyes and her daughters-in-law fluttering up the gangplank — neat and tidy — dry beneath their umbrellas — turning and calling; “goodbye, everybody!” And all their friends shouting; “bon voyage!” while the daughters-in-law hand over their tickets, smiling and laughing — everyone being piped aboard and a band playing Rule Britannia! and Over the Sea to Skye. Flags and banners and a booming cannon…like an excursion.”

“Put it this way: Noah was pretty bad, but you should have seen the others. It came as little surprise to us that God decided to wipe the slate clean; the only puzzle was that he chose to preserve anything at all of this species whose creation did not reflect particularly well on its creator.”

Timothy Findley, one of Canada’s most compelling and best-loved writers, infuses the Old Testament tale of Noah and his ark with fantasy and an extraordinary cast of characters: the tyrannical Noah and his indomitable wife, Mrs. Noyes; the aging and irritable Yahweh; Mottyl, the perceptive, half-blind cat; a chorus of singing sheep; and a shy unicorn with a terrible destiny.

Noah’s Ark

“We have come upon this voyage together. And before this voyage, I heard another rumour – didn’t you – of another promised land. Well – this is the promised land, right here, my friends. This is all we have and it may well be the only promised land we shall ever know. The Unicorn has already perished here. And look – the lantern flickers. Any moment now, it too may die.”

She paused and then she said: “this is a place without magic. All that was magical and wonderful has been left behind us – drowned – in my world that was before your world – and in your world that was before this.”

Findley’s richly imaginative storytelling addresses such contemporary social issues as gender equality, the environment and the dangers of fundamentalist beliefs.

Published in 1984, Not Wanted on the Voyage won the Canadian Authors Association Award for fiction. It has been dramatized for both stage and radio.

To Findley, the novel told how mankind had taken the notion of divinity and tampered with it as a means of gaining and keeping power—power of humanity over the rest of nature, and power of male authority figures over women and children. It was not meant to be blasphemy, as one group of American religious extremists were said to have interpreted the book, allegedly putting Findley’s name on some kind of hit list. It was a plea for humanity to be more truly humane—and this was recognized by the churches who invited Findley to read passages of the novel from the pulpit.

CBC review on the novel’s inspiration

Noye’s Fludde (Noah’s Flood) is a late 16th century mystery play from the Chester Mystery Cycle. It was set to music by Benjamin Britten in 1957.

Noye’s Fludde opens with the congregation singing “Lord Jesus, think on me” as Noye enters. The spoken Voice of God tells Noye to build “a shippe”. Noye agrees and calls on his family to help. His sons and their wives enter with tools and materials and begin, but Mrs Noye and her Gossips (close friends) mock the project. The cast build the ark on stage.

Noye’s Fludde


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