Saturday, February 16, 2013

Miracle of the Gulls

Like most knitters, I love to make baby presents. They are quick to knit up, adorable because they are so tiny, and received with such enthusiasm it makes all the knitting doubly worth the effort. When a friend is expecting, I like to choose something that is not only used by the baby, but can be saved as an heirloom.

A few weeks ago when I learned that my friend at work is expecting, I began pouring over my numerous baby knitting books. I wanted to make something with a fairy tale theme. Fairy tales are everywhere these days; TV, movies, books. I think it has to do something with the anniversary of the Grimms Brothers. Regardless, the idea of a fairy tale themed gift was on my mind.

But as I wrestled over whether to make a Red Riding Hood topsy-turvy doll, or a Three Little Bears cardigan, I began thinking about which fairy tales would be most relevant to her and her baby. Because she grew up in Salt Lake and is a practicing Mormon, I started to think about some fairy tales that were local to this place and that I could maybe design something from. I remembered the legend from Mormon history of the “Miracle of the Seagulls” and I knew I had to make something based on that. 

The Miracle of the Gulls 1936 by Minerva Teichert

The Miracle of the Gulls has everything a story could want; drama, adventure, adversity, triumph and even animal characters. This is a perfect tale to create something that is more relevant to her and her little Salt Lake baby.

My knowledge of the story comes from hearing it as a child so I think I want to research it a bit more to get a good grasp of it. But in a nutshell the story goes like this (from my memory):

When the Mormon pioneers first came into the Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847 they immediately began homesteading. They made crude houses and foraged for food. Because the planting season had already passed, they would have to wait until the next year to plant wheat and other grains. So in 1848 when their first harvest was ripening, it was a joyous time.

Then in May a swarm of crickets (now called Mormon Crickets) began devouring all the crops. There were so many of them the ground looked black with their bodies. Then a miracle occurred, legions of seagulls came and began eating all the crickets. They gorged on them then flew to the Great Salt Lake to regurgitate the crickets in the water only to come back and eat some more. In this way, they eradicated the plague of crickets.

The crops were saved! And all the Mormon pioneers did not starve that winter because of the miracle of the gulls. And because of this miracle, the seagull became the state bird of Utah and a monument was erected downtown to memorialize them.

 Vintage postcard of the Seagull Monument in Salt Lake City

It’s a great story and I have found nothing out there in the knittingverse that pays homage to it. So, I think I will incorporate imagery from this story into something for baby. I might even try designing a toy!

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