Wednesday, 20 April 2016

War in an age of innocence: 3

Link to Chapter 1

 The outside fire had been lit, and the people of the village were seated around. Some were waiting patiently, and others were talking. Urho got up and walked slowly and purposely around the fire: an imposing figure among all those little people. His countrymen were at the back of the circle He extended his arm toward the perimeter with his palm downward as he walked and fixed everyone with an intent stare. They fell silent. He started to speak:

“In the valley lay the Great Meadow, and the reindeer lived there. At that time they were not one with the world. They did not understand. They ate the sweet grass and grew fat. They had many young, and the young ate the sweet grass and they, too, grew fat.

“One day a wolf came out of the forest and saw all of those fat reindeer. He called to his family and soon they were all chasing the reindeer. The poor reindeer were too fat to run very fast and the wolves killed many of them. The wolves knew that if they ate too much, they would also grow fat so they called out again, this time to their friends, and soon the Great Meadow filled with more wolves.

“When the earth swallowed the sun the wolves went back into the forest, but the next day they returned again and there were even more of them. After a long time, all the fattest of the reindeer had been eaten by the wolves and the reindeer lived in fear of every new day. Some of the wolves also grew fatter and had many young, but none ever grew too fat to chase the reindeer.

“One day, a very clever reindeer had an idea. He had seen that the wolves called out and found other wolves, and he wondered that if he could call out too then perhaps there were other reindeer somewhere that would reply. He could take his family to them, away from the wolves. He could find safety. Every day he practiced calling out, and every day his voice grew louder. One day he heard another reindeer calling back to him from the other side of the forest.

“The clever reindeer gathered his family and told them that they should travel with him, through the forest, to find the other reindeer and escape from the fear of the wolves. He asked the other reindeer if any of them would come with his family to a new meadow at the other side of the forest. Some were too old to make that journey, and others were afraid of the forest. It was the Great Unknown, they told him. He replied to them saying that the unknown might indeed be dangerous, but the known held certain death. Those that were afraid said that they had lived with the danger of the wolves and it was always the others that the wolves took, not them. The wolves would not take them. They would stay and continue to eat that sweet grass just as they had always done. It would always be another that the wolves would take.

“The earth swallowed the sun and the wolves went back into the forest. When they were all gone about half of the reindeer waited, and then they, too, went into the forest toward the sound of the other reindeer, far away. The next morning the wolves came back and there were even more of them. They saw that half of the reindeer had vanished and this worried them. They chased the reindeer all day and the reindeer had little time to eat the sweet grass. They grew less fat, and as they became thinner, they became faster. The fattest of the wolves could not catch them and fewer reindeer died that day.

“The earth swallowed the sun many times, and the reindeer got even faster. Some of the wolves became too weak and they started to die from their hunger. Some of the wolves called out and their calls were answered from the other side of the forest. They went into the forest, toward the sound of the other wolf and they never returned.

“The reindeer started to grow fat on that sweet grass again, and one of them said that they should call out to their friends to come back to them. They all practiced calling, and one day one of them became loud enough to have his call answered. But it was not from the part of the forest where their friends had gone; it was from the opposite direction.

“The earth swallowed the sun many more times, and these new reindeer arrived and they all became very fat on the sweet grass in the Great Meadow. One day a wolf came out of the forest and saw all of those fat reindeer. He called to his family and soon they were all chasing the reindeer. The poor reindeer were too fat to run very fast and the wolves killed many of them. The wolves knew that if they ate too much, they would also grow fat so they called out again, this time to their friends, and soon the Great Meadow filled with more wolves.

“One day a very old and wise reindeer had an idea. He had seen how everything kept repeating: how the wolves would come and go and the reindeer herd would shrink and grow and shrink again. He knew that the Great Serpent who was one with the world decided such matters. He would seek out the Great Serpent in the very deepest part of the forest and ask him how they could avoid this endless growing and shrinking. He asked the other reindeer if any of them would come with him, but they were all too afraid.

“The earth swallowed the sun and the wolves went back into the forest. The wise reindeer waited and he, too, went into the forest toward the lair of the Great Serpent far away in the very deepest part of the forest.

“The earth swallowed the sun many more times, and the wise reindeer came to a river deep in the forest. He thought that if the Great Serpent created all things, then he would be creating this river, for the water never stopped flowing. At the source of the river he would be able to find the Great Serpent. He followed the river and the earth swallowed the sun many more times.

“At the source of the river was a great tree that towered above all the other trees in the forest. It grew higher than the clouds and its top was lost in them. At the base of the great tree was a dark cave, and from that cave came the endless river. The wise reindeer entered the cave and travelled deep into it. It got darker and darker and the wise reindeer lost all sense of time. He did not know how many times the earth had swallowed the sun outside of the deep cave. He kept the sound of the river at his side and carefully walked across the stony floor of the cave, he would stumble every once in while, but he kept walking, on and on.

“A voice came out of the darkness toward him, and he knew it was the voice of the Great Serpent. The Great Serpent told him that every time the earth swallowed the sun he could give the wise reindeer a little of that light, to better see his way through the darkness. But the wise reindeer was afraid of what he might see in that light. The darkness was comforting, and it was familiar. He wanted to tell the Great Serpent that he was afraid, but he had lost his voice in all that darkness. The Great Serpent remained silent too, and the darkness persisted.

“As the wise reindeer continued stumbling along in the darkness, he started to think about his fear. He remembered that, when he was younger, he was afraid to follow the other reindeer through the forest to escape from the wolves. He remembered that, when he became older, the other reindeer were afraid to follow him into the dark forest. But the forest was not as dark as this cave, and now it was he who was afraid: not of the darkness, but of the light that was offered to him.

“He felt ashamed of himself. He felt that he was like a young reindeer again, running to the safety and warmth of his mother when a strange sound startled him. He couldn't go backward like this. He tried to find his voice, but there was only the silence. He tried again, and this time it came softly, like the sound of a soft breeze through the forest. He tried again, and the sound grew louder. Finally, he was able to bellow into the darkness.

“There was a great flash of light, and for an instant he saw trees by the side of the river, and other reindeer moving among them. Then all became darkness once again. He wondered that if he would see this flash of light only when the earth swallowed the sun, as the Great Serpent had told him, then his journey would be very slow by that light. No sooner than he had that thought, then there was another flash of light. And then another, sooner than the last, and it continued, on and on. The time between each flash grew less and less.

“As the light became almost continuous, he noticed something very strange: he saw the trees growing leaves, and they would quickly turn brown and fall off, and then new buds would appear and the leaves would grow again. He started to see the trees grow bigger, and then die. He saw new trees starting to grow, and watched as they completed their path through life. The reindeer that he first saw moved faster and faster growing older, dying, becoming born. On and on. Faster and faster, until they were just a blur.

“He looked across the river, and in a clearing in the fast ever-changing forest he saw the almost motionless figure of the Great Serpent, his great coils did not move, only his head swayed gently to the rhythm of the changing world. The wise reindeer grew very tired, and he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.

“When he awoke, he was back in the Great Meadow. He saw that he had been sleeping below a gigantic tree. There was a cave entrance at the foot of the tree and a stream of sweet water gushed from within. One of the other reindeers approached him and the wise reindeer asked how long he had been gone. The other reindeer told him that he had been sleeping for just a little while. The wise reindeer asked where the tree, the cave, and the stream had come from. The other reindeer seemed puzzled, and said that they had always been there.

“The earth swallowed the sun, and the next day two new creatures arrived in the Great Meadow. They walked on two legs and were called Man and Woman. They carried a bag of seeds with them. They took some of the branches of the gigantic tree and fashioned a plough. They harnessed two of the reindeer to the plough and had them dig furrows for the seeds.

“When all their plants grew high, they called out, and more of them arrived. They gave some of their plants to the reindeer for their work and they built fires. The wolves were scared of the fires and they were scared of the Men and Women who protected the reindeer. They grew very hungry, and only a few remained.

“The earth swallowed the sun many more times, and mice arrived in the Great Meadow to feed off the plants that the Men and Women grew. The mice were small and fast, and the Men and Women could not catch them. The wolves could hear the mice, and they could smell them and they soon learned how to catch them. There were not enough mice for the wolves to share with other wolves, so when they called in the night, it was only to each other, and no new wolves arrived.

“The earth swallowed the sun many more times, and the wise reindeer grew very old. The Men and Women treated him with respect, and did not make him pull their ploughs. They fed him with their plants, and the sweet water and grass of the Great Meadow. He was happy. One day, he lay beneath the gigantic tree and went to sleep for the last time." 

John's Coydog Community page


  1. Good morning! Just waking up couldn't' sleep because the house was warm and I was thinking of the day's events. I will read chapter 3 later since my iPad needs recharging. Early in the morning I heard robins singing but I went back to sleep. At least the house has cooled off .

    1. Good Morning!

      It is more springlike today. Just took Tristan for his walk and the neighbourhood is especially quiet: hardly anyone about and the only sound I heard was a woodpecker working about a block away. After yesterday's heat I am out of juice so I am going to go shopping this morning. I might get just a few things and then call Robert later about the seafood buffet at the casino on Friday. He usually doesn't mind driving to Walmart afterwards and I might save the bulk of my grocery shopping for then as, believe it or not, rain is forecast from Saturday to Monday and I had planned to do the bulk of my shopping on Monday.

      I came across what looks to be an interesting ebook this morning (with a preview)-- The Academic Ape: Instinctive aggression and boundary enforcing behaviour in academia, Kindle Edition by Lirpa Loofouy and Mike Haseler:


      It deals with the predominant rejection of independent research by academia and seems to focus on archaeology.

      I have had some email disagreements with Mike, over the years, about his Celtoskeptic views on Britain, which are even more extreme than mainstream British archaeology (which is saying something). These discussions have been quite civil on both sides. The main problems I have with his ideas are based on linguistics as it is too easy to find linguistic connections based only on similar-looking words. Linguistics has very specific methods for avoiding this sort of thing, but it goes on all the time outside of linguist specialization.

      Nevertheless, Mike's problems in this area must have got him looking at academic rejection in general and by no means would invalidate what he has observed, especially in the shared similarities in attitude. My independent assessment of the problem is partially acknowledged in Ian Hodder's, writing, even though he is also subject to it to some degree. The ebook is certainly a good fit with my ideas from what I see of the preview and I will obtain the complete work.

      The comparison to chimpanzee scent marking is especially interesting and presents a highly amusing mental picture along Monty Python lines.

  2. Just finished reading the chapter. You used the element of mythology to explain how the reindeer became one with the world, wolves and reindeer finding their voices and the arrival of humans. Also, the cycle of life is mentioned.
    I had a late breakfast of cottage cheese and fresh pineapple. Must do some housework today.
    Did you ever read "The Naked Ape" by Desmond Morris? It might well fit with your final comment.
    The chimpanzee comment reminds me of the Farley Mowat book " Never Cry Wolf". Where he tried to mark his territory around his camp site just like the wolves. He was not able to do so withouut replenishing his supply of urine but the wolf had no difficulties accomplishing this task with ease.

    1. Yes, it is fun writing your own mythologies. I derived the basic reindeer/wolf relationshp from that old Scientific American article about the caribou/wolf relationship; the mice and wolf from Farley Mowat and the cycle of life elements in the ever changing cave scene from a dream.

      I can't remember whether I read The Naked Ape, but I am familiar with it and with Desmond Morris. I do remember Farley Mowatt's reliance on a lot of tea (and eating whole mice). That last one reverberates a little later in the novel. Talk about being a dedicated researcher!

      Just got back from getting the shopping and the seafood buffet and heavier shopping on Friday is arranged with my friend Robert. The rest of the day will include more T. S. Lawrence research and although my copy of Marie-Louise von Franz,The Problem of the Puer Aeternus has still yet to arrive, the day is not over yet. I hope it does not throw my Lawrence research schedule off too badly. I will concentrate on the Oxford text of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom and perhaps more from Friends of... today. have not eaten today. I must fit that in too. No "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" for me today. Oh, and more laundry.

      Spring cleaning is scheduled for the weekend.

      Any good news about your sister-in-law?

  3. Family matters first I all know she is being moved to another hospital where best they can handle her issues. My sister will keep me updated. Thank you for asking.
    It is interesting where one comes up with ideas to include in their writing. They say one should draw on their experiences and you certainly did.
    I am waiting for a friend to arrive and have some wimpy tea. The bathrooms are clean and towels are in the laundry. Talk to you later.

    1. It sounds like she is in good hands. I would take that as good news.

      I just had my midday meal. Inspired from when I was child and would get some sort of white fish cooked in milk and served with mashed potatoes, I made a simple white sauce with just a little parsley and poached some sole fillets with baby peas in it. I broke up the sole fillets as they were cooking. Then I covered my plate with the mixture and put a heap of mashed potatoes in the middle sprinkled with a bit more parsley. A white and green lunch. The sauce was much better than the runny milk I remember as a child which made the mashed potatoes runny too. The thicker white sauce did not compromise the potatoes.I'll do that again sometime.

      Never, ever, serve such tea to an Englishman!

  4. The thing to remember is I am only part English maybe it is the German part that enjoys wimpy tea. I have made left over chicken with white sauce add mixed frozen vegetables, onions and sliced mushrooms and serve it on toast. Yummy! Your lunch sounded delicious! I remember having fish prepared this way as I child.
    On off to deal with my Aunt's income tax paper at the accountants.
    The vacuuming is still to been done, maybe tomorrow. Thinking of having a toasted bacon and tomatoe sandwich for supper.
    Hope the research goes well and that you receive your package today.

    1. I think that the discussion of the tea has gone as far as it can (safely) go. I never took that much trouble for the left-over chicken on toast and cheated with condensed cream of mushroom soup with very little added milk. I think my variation on the fish might do well substituting linguine or fettuccine for the mashed potatoes, ... sole pescatore nothing else added for sole, though.

      Mission accomplished on reading the unabridged Oxford text, although when Lawrence wrote in a letter about him reading chapters 13 to 18, most of what was pertinent was in the first and especially the last. Being of about the same personality type, I fully understand him now. What he was thinking, I have thought. Lawrence's problem was that he was thinking that on his thirtieth birthday, when I thought those things when I was about ten to eleven years old. The reason for the difference in time will be in the still absent book. I know it, but I need the words to quote.

      If I need another book being sold by that same third party Amazon dealer. I will pick a more expensive seller. No package tracking was even given. A couple more days and I will complain. The order was confirmed March 26th. I got a book from New Zealand much faster than this one from California. They should eat their lotuses on their own time.

      Laundry is on, something quick to eat tonight, a little correspondence to do, a bit more reading, then Netflix.

  5. Great to to know your goal for reading about Lawrence was reach today. The bacon and tomatoe sandwich was tastey. Enjoy Netflix. I think I will read another chapter of the Second Jungle Book. I will await the next chapter of the book tomorrow morning. Have a enjoyable evening and a good nights rest.

    1. Continuing my food theme for the day, I had my father's take on Welsh rabbit (No rabbits were killed for this dish, just a lot of cheese).

      Enjoy your evening with Kipling, and have a good night!