Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s raining fish and frogs!


A few years ago, I watched a movie called Magnolia starring Julienne Moore, Tom Cruise and William H.Macy. It was one of those movies which makes you want to hang yourself after watching it. The characters were all miserable, sad and lonely.

I kind of like the movie though for all its dark intent and purposes. I thought Tom Cruise’s portrayal of a  misogynistic estranged son was very convincing and should have earned him that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Anyway, there is one bizarre scene in the movie where toads started to fall heavily from the sky. I couldn’t quite understand the meaning behind this. I thought that it was some kind of a hidden message because surely, amphibians (or anything for that matter except for snow, hail and rain) don’t just fall from the sky, right?

It bothered me that I couldn’t figure this out.

Then, a few weeks ago, I finally read Haruki Murukami’s Kafka on the Shore. Again, it’s a bizarre story where one of the lead characters was able to talk to cats and provoked fishes and leeches to fall from the sky.

Hmmm…I realized that both books (Magnolia is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) are fictional; stories written by people who have very good imaginations. If Tolkien and Rowling can let their imaginations run wild, why not them?

Well, not quite.

I read on the paper today that such impossible phenomenon did happen in Nakanoto, Japan recently. Prior to fishes being strangely discovered by the roadside in a residential area in Nakanoto, 100 tadpoles were seen in Nanao, about 15 kilometres north of Nakanoto. (Get this, the character in Murukami’s book is called Nakata.)

It wasn’t clear whether anyone had actually witnessed these animals falling from the sky but the mystery remains. The public had suggested that it may be caused by birds spitting out the tadpoles or a tornado had picked up the fishes from shallow water and dropping them off randomly.

Raining cats and dogs Garfield and Odie

So naturally after reading this, I became interested and did some research online. I also wondered whether the idiom raining cats and dogs has some kind of connection; whether it did happen and wasn’t just invented by some lunatic person. I know, I know, it’s crazy but at least let me try to find out the origin of this idiom.

I’ve found several possible explanations but two sounded plausible and no, nobody ever saw cats and dogs pelting from the sky. (Damn!)

The first explanation is that during medieval times, animals spent a lot of time on roofs. When it rained, these animals would either be washed out or jumped from the roof to seek shelter from the rain. This created an impression that it was raining cats and dogs, literally.

The second explanation is that prior to the creation of drainage system, animals like cats and dogs would drown in heavy rain and washed down from the gutters. More explanation can be found on Grahams Random Ramblings.

Right. So, did other similar “meteorological” phenomenon not involving mammals, but reptilians and amphibians really happen then?

The earliest record of such event was probably in the Old Testament, Exodus 8:2 where God cursed the Egyptians by sending them ten plagues; one of them frogs, in order to compel Pharoah to release the Israelites from enslavement.

Now, I’m not religious and hence it doesn’t really convince me that God was trying to punish the people of Nanao, Japan by sending them tadpoles.

I found this website on paranormal phenomenon which gave a list of documented events involving raining frogs and fish which date back to as far as the 19th century. There has been no other logical explanation attributed to these events except that a powerful whirlwind must had carried these animals from their point of origin and dropped them off in the middle of somewhere else.

In 1981, citizens of Naphlion, Greece, woke up one morning to find small green frogs falling from the sky. The Greek Meteorological Institute concluded that they were picked up by a strong wind. Problem is, the specie of frog was native to North Africa!

Whether it had truly been a strong wind (force of nature), or perhaps an aeroplane transporting these frogs had accidentally dropped them (a coincidence) or simply an inexplicable miracle, it did happen.

I think this is the point that the author of Magnolia wanted to bring into his book and movie. Culture Snob wrote a great analysis of this scene.

To end this note, I think there are three points to be made from this.

Firstly, I think we shouldn’t dismiss something just because they’re so bizarrely impossible. I never really believe that frogs or fish could literally fall from the sky, but it seems that they do.

Secondly, even if something like this does happen, we need to try to understand whether there is some sort of logical explanation or coincidence before concluding that it is an act of miracle.

Finally, sometimes when there is no logical explanation, miracles might just happen.


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