18 November 2009

The Black Camel of Death

One of our favorite articles we have found when searching for obituaries in the local paper started with these words: "The Black Camel of Death has knelt at the gates of prominent and much loved Newaygo county folk during the last week, signifying a toll somewhat unparalleled." (Fremont Times Indicator, page 1 I think, 16 February 1922) Doesn't that sound profound?
We have been trying to research the phrase and found that The Black Camel was the name of a 1929 book by Earl Derr Biggers, the fourth in the series of Charlie Chan novels that he wrote. The phrase was also used in the 2nd Charlie Chan movie that came out in 1931. ("Death is a black camel that kneels unbidden at every gate. Tonight black camel has knelt here.") Can't you just picture Charlie Chan solemnly intoning those words?
But our local newspaper quoted those words years before the book or movie. Do any of our readers know if this is an older saying? If you do, please enlighten us.
Until then, --watch out for black camels. They should be easier to spot than black cats.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous19 June, 2012

    It is an old saying that comes from Arabic origin, probably Turkey: "Death is a black camel which kneels at every man’s gate. Sooner or later you must ride the camel."

    My grandma just said she saw it in her grandpa's obituary. We were thinking it was something biblical, but apparently it is a traditional Arabic saying.

    Hope that helps.


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