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In Search Of The Squonk

For as long as I've been using computer conferencing systems I've been using the pseudonym of "Squonk", from FidoNet BBS systems all the way through to the Internet.

Why?

I have been a fan of the legendary British rock band, Genesis for the last 20-odd years. My favourite album of theirs is one that dates back to 1976 called "A Trick Of The Tail" and my favourite track on that album is called "Squonk".

As a kid I was always interested in "monsters" and a much prized childhood possession was a book by Carey Miller

called "A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts". This was a gazetteer of all the usual suspects : vampires, werewolves, the Loch Ness Monster, dragons - and also had an entry for the Squonk.

After receiving many email enquiries over the years from others in search of information regarding the squonk I thought it was about time I put all that I currently know online. I hope that others will find this information useful, and that maybe somebody out there might be able to tell more about my favourite mythical beast than I already know.

 

The Genesis Connection

As mentioned in my introduction, the squonk features on the 1976 Genesis album, "A Trick of the Tail". The third track on side one was entitled "Squonk" and has widely been translated by Genesis fans as an allegory for the departure of the band's former lead vocalist Peter Gabriel.

Squonk & huntsman

Part of the album artwork showing the Squonk crying his eyes out and the huntsman who appears in the story.

Below are the lyrics to the song in full, plus a brief footnote which also appeared.

Squonk

Like father like son
Not flesh nor fish nor bone
A red rag hangs from an open mouth.
Alive at both ends but a little dead in the middle,
A-tumbling and a-bumbling he will go.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Could never put a smile on that face.

He's a sly one, he's a shy one
Wouldn't you be too.
Scared to be left all on his own.
Hasn't a, hasn't a friend to play with the Ugly Duckling
The pressure on, the bubble will burst before our eyes.
All the while in perfect time
His tears are falling on the ground
BUT IF YOU DON'T STAND UP YOU DON'T STAND A CHANCE.

Go a little faster now, you might get there in time.

Mirror mirror on the wall,
His heart was broken long before he ever came to you.
Stop your tears from falling,
The trail they leave is very clear for all to see at night
all to see at night

In season, out of season
What's the difference when you don't know the reason.
In one hand bread, the other a stone,
The Hunter enters the forest.
All are not huntsmen who can blow the huntsman's horn
By the look of this one you've not got much to fear.

Here I am, I'm very fierce and frightening
Come to match my skill to yours.
Now listen here, listen to me, don't you run away now
I am a friend, I'd really like to play with you.
Making noises my little furry friend would make
I'll trick him, then I'll kick him into my sack.
You better watch out ... You better watch out.

I've got you, I've got you, you'll never get away.

Walking home that night
The sack across my back, the sound of sobbing on my shoulder.
When suddenly it stopped,
I opened up the sack, all that I had
A pool of bubbles and tears - JUST A POOL OF TEARS.

All in all you are a very dying race
Placing trust upon a cruel world.
You never had the things you thought you should have had
And you'll not get them now,
And all the while in perfect time
Your tears are falling on the ground.

 

The Squonk is of a very retiring disposition and due to its ugliness, weeps
constantly. It is easy prey for hunters who simply follow a tear-stained
trail. When cornered it will dissolve itself into tears.
True or False?

 

The Steely Dan Link

I have been contacted on numerous occasions by fans of Steely Dan who tell me that the Squonk also featured in the song "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" on their 1974 album "Pretzel Logic". Lyrics shown below :-

Any Major Dude Will Tell You

I never seen you looking so bad my funky one;
You tell me that your super fine mind has come undone.

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend;
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again.
When the demon is at your door, in the mornin' it won't be there no more.
Any major dude will tell you; any major dude will tell you.

Have you ever seen a squonks tears? Well, look at mine.
The people on the street have all seen better times.

[chorus]

I can tell you all I know: there where to go, the what to do.
You can try to run but you can't hide from what's inside of you.

[solo]

[chorus]

Any major dude will tell you; any major dude will tell you.

 

The Entry from Monsters and Mysterious Beasts

book cover

"A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts" by Carey Miller was one of my favourite books as a young boy. The edition that I have here was published by Piccolo Books in 1974. The ISBN is 0 330 24074 9 and the cover price was the princely sum of 35 pence.

A recent search of Amazon.com showed an entry for the book as being "out of print", and they also had it accredited to "Carey Killer"...!

Below is the story of the squonk according to Carey Miller :-

The Squonk

The saddest beast we have heard about so far is the squonk. As it lives only in the hemlock forests of Pennsylvania very few people know about him. His grief seems mainly to be caused by the ugliness of his skin, which is said to be ill-fitting and covered with warts and moles. The only way to trap a squonk is by following its tear-stained trail. This is particularly successful on very frosty nights when the tears freeze and sparkle in the moonlight and the squonk can't move around too quickly. In fact you can actually hear it weeping under the hemlock trees.

One man thought he had captured the squonk after he lured it into a sack by mimicking its cry. On his way back home he felt his burden get gradually lighter and the sobbing ceased. When he opened the sack all he could find were tears and bubbles.

 

The illustration of the squonk from the book is shown to the right. His baggy skin covered in warts he sits sobbing into a pool of his own tears. This image is nothing like the one portrayed on the cover of the Genesis album "A Trick of the Tail".

 

Squonk Illustration

UPDATE

I recently recieved a message from Carey Miller telling me that Monsters and Mysterious Beasts was due to be re-released in August 2006. It does indeed now seem to be available from Amazon.co.uk! 

Further Reading

Readers may also wish to take a look at the BBC h2g2 site which has an entry for Squonks here, or the entry in Wikipedia here.