Whales in literature have sometimes taken on a mysterious symbolism or meaning. They are things of great wisdom or old gentle giants. There is often something magical about them or about the song of a whale.
In the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, the whale is an agent of God sent to eat Jonah and provide the opportunity for him to repent. Researchers and scientists believe that the whale is not only a mysterious symbol in literature, but also a living example of the results of evolutionary ancestry.
Some whales are actually born with a few legs, a gesture towards a possible ancestor who may have lived on land. Paleontologists have been trying to trace the ancestry of whales back to the Eocene era. Whales themselves are incredible creatures. There 80 species of animals that are considered to be whales or cetaceans, which is the scientific designation for whales.
There are two main types of whales: mysticetes (baleen) that use plates in their mouths to strain food and odontocetes that are toothed whales.