Fedallah is the harpooneer of the mysterious crew whom Captain Ahab sneaks onto the Pequod to staff his personal boat. Of Asian descent, he first appears wearing all black except for the white turban upon his head, and the reader later learns that he is a Parsee, or a descendent of the Persians who adheres to Zoroastrianism. If characters like Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo are “others” to the white crew members on board, then Fedallah is an “other” to these “others.” He exists completely outside of the ship’s diverse and democratic community, functioning instead as a companion to the authoritarian Captain Ahab. This social separation symbolically reflects his otherness and enables Melville to depict him as an almost otherworldly figure whose ominous presence foreshadows the doomed nature of their voyage. 

From his first appearance in the novel in Chapter 48, Fedallah has an air of darkness about him which the rest of the crew immediately senses, and this quality reflects the foundation of his relationship with Ahab. He emerges on the boat seemingly out of nowhere like a phantom with “one white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips” during their first whale chase, an image which implies that his presence is closely related to Ahab’s unwavering hatred for Moby Dick. Other members of the crew speculate about who Fedallah really is, and Stubb even goes so far as to call him “the devil in disguise” in Chapter 73. These early scenes seem to paint him as a key figure in enabling Ahab’s villainous pursuit of revenge.

Fedallah’s otherworldliness becomes most apparent, however, in Chapter 117 when he delivers a prophecy about Ahab’s death. In this moment, Fedallah appears to serve Ahab by making it sound as if his death at sea is impossible, but he ultimately foreshadows the doom they both face. This discrepancy illuminates the consequences of Ahab’s hubris and reflects Fedallah’s true dark purpose. His death, as well as the fact that Ahab sees his body attached to Moby Dick moments before he drowns, suggests that his primary role in the novel is to lead Ahab to his own destruction rather than to the destruction of Moby Dick.