Wednesday, 20 April 2016

War in an age of innocence: 4

Link to Chapter 1

When Urho had finished his story everyone raised their arms to share it with the Oneness and Vara stepped into the centre. This surprised Kiri, for he had never heard Vara tell one of her stories to the village. Her usual gruff manner had vanished and she seemed rather shy and embarrassed at first as everyone settled in to listen. Regaining her composure, she gave everyone a short glance and started her story:

“A long time ago, the people of this village did not know how to plant grain. The Great Serpent took pity on them and gave them fields where this grain grew wild. After the earth swallowed the snow, the spring rains would come and the new green shoots would appear. The summer sun made them grow tall and the fields would soon show their appreciation by taking on the colour of the sun.

“The sun would become tired from all of that work. Even before the fields showed their thanks, the sun would spend less time in the sky each day. There were some days near the harvest time when the sun became very weak and the clouds would wrap themselves around the sun like a blanket so that the sun could keep itself warm and regain its strength for another day.

“The people of this village often worried at those times, for without the protection of the friendly sun, the fields could easily fall prey to things from the Darkness. What the village feared most was the Great Boar. Every year he would wait until the sun grew weak and then attack the fields and steal the grain. In some years he would be very hungry and he would leave almost nothing for the village, in other years he would take just a little, and then be on his way. If the sun could recover quickly enough he would vanish as soon as the sun cast off its blanket of clouds.

“The Great Boar always roared upon his arrival, and there would be great flashes of bright fire in the sky. Sometimes trees would catch fire, and the sky always tried to protect them with rain so that they would not burn easily. The Boar would rush about the fields, cutting some of the ears of grain from their stalks with his sharp tusks while the brush on his back would destroy even more. He charged around the fields so fast that he created a great wind and this wind would flatten the fields. He would eat his fill of the grain and trample the rest into the ground.

“The people always hid in their houses and they would hear him outside their doors, for he would also attack the village. Nothing was safe from his fury. When he was gone, the people would come out from their houses and set to work to save what they could. This happened more years than not and the people were always hungry. They tried to work faster, but they could not harvest the grain before it was ripe. At that time, they did things differently than we do now: they would walk through the fields with their baskets, collecting every ripe seed from the heads of grain and leaving the others to ripen. The Great Boar could arrive at any time so they tried to get as much as they could while they had a chance.

“The people of this village would wait until the boar had gone, and the next morning they would take their baskets to the fields to collect as much of the grain as they could. They had to eat that grain quickly because it was wet and spoiled easily. The grain that the boar had trampled into the ground would send up new shoots the following spring, but sometimes there was not so much as before.

“Late one year, just before the Great Boar came to raid the fields a hunter arrived in the village just before dawn. The people welcomed him and when they exchanged stories they told him of the Great Boar. He promised them that he would track the Great Boar to his lair and bring them back his head and pelt.

“That very night the Great Boar came, and in the morning when the people went out to gather what was left of the grain, the hunter went with them to search for the tracks and follow them to the lair of the Great boar. The hunter looked everywhere, but the rain had washed away all of the tracks. The hunter never broke a promise and he asked the people if they knew which direction the Great Boar would go after he left the fields, but the people told him that they always hid in their houses and they never saw the Great Boar leave.

“There was a wise woman who lived in the village, and this wise woman told the hunter that he would have to go and see the Great Serpent, for the Great Serpent must have sent the Great Boar to them. The hunter knew about the Great Serpent, and he knew that all the creatures that were sent by the Great Serpent were from the Darkness. Like the Great Boar, they were all dark creatures.

“The hunter walked out of the village determined to follow one of these dark creatures back to the abode of the Great Serpent. Once there, he could ask the great serpent for his help in tracking the Great Boar. The Great Serpent always helped those who sought him out. The hunter first encountered a raven, but as he walked slowly toward it, the raven became alarmed and took to the sky. Now this hunter was very clever, but he could not follow the raven into the sky, and the raven flew too fast for him to follow it on the ground.

“The hunter arrived at the sea and followed the shore until he came to some cliffs. He climbed the cliffs because there was no beach at that spot and the water was deep at the foot of those cliffs. He saw the white sea birds wheeling around. Every once in a while one of them would touch the water and fly up again with a small fish in its beak. Among the white sea birds was a dark bird: a cormorant. He watched the cormorant dive into the darkest part of the water and vanish below the waves. He waited, and after what seemed like a long time, the cormorant came up from the deep with a dark fish in his beak.

“The hunter was pleased: although he knew that he could not fly like the raven, he knew that he could dive like the cormorant. He watched for the bird to dive again, and quickly dived after him into the sea. The light began to fade as the hunter followed the cormorant deeper and deeper. He had started to wonder if he could hold his breath long enough when he saw a dark eel swim into a cave and he saw the cormorant follow after it. The hunter swam into the cave and the darkness surrounded him. He became very scared and could feel the air bubbling out of his mouth and the cold seawater entering, Then a light appeared to him, and around this light he saw the coils of the Great Serpent. He wanted to speak, but he could not. He wanted to be alert, but he felt himself falling into a peaceful sleep.

“When he awoke he found himself lying on a beach where the cliffs went far back from the shore. At the foot of the cliffs was a dark cave and all around the entrance were boar tracks. He took his sling and gathered stones from the beach. He entered the cave. No sooner was he inside when he heard a bellowing and saw the Great Boar charging toward him. He let fly with a large stone and the Great Boar fell dead at his feet.

“He carried the body of the Great Boar on his shoulders and found a way back to the village. The wise woman was waiting for him, and told him that he had been gone for a day and a night. He could not remember anything between seeing the light and the coils of the Great Serpent, and waking up on the beach, but he told the wise woman that the Great Serpent must have directed him there and then taken his memory away.

“The wise woman gathered all of the people and told them that the Great Serpent had visited her in a dream in the night and told them how they should use the body of the Great Boar. They should cook all the meat and give it to the hunter as his reward. They should use the sharp tusks of the Great Boar to cut the ears of grain from the stalks and bring them all back to the village in their baskets. When all the grain was gathered, they should place it on the hide of the boar and beat it with the brush from his back, then they should toss everything in the enormous hide and let the wind carry away all of the waste.

They should not eat all of the grain, but save some for the next year when the earth had swallowed the snow. Then they should take the shoulder blades of the boar and fashion a tool to scratch lines in the earth. They should scatter the grain that they had saved and gently cover them with earth using the shoulder blade. When this was done they should gently walk over that earth so that the grain would not be as deep as when the Great Boar had trampled it.

She told them that the Great Serpent had told her that the sun would be able to warm the seeds sooner and make them grow quicker, so if he sent another Great Boar, then the village would already have harvested the grain. The Great Boar would have to find other food. The Great Serpent would send them a sign when it was time to plant the grain, and that sign would be the moon taking the form of the tusk of the Great Boar as soon as the earth had swallowed the snow. They should wait for the grain to ripen, and after, when the moon was full, they should start their harvest.

The Great Serpent looked kindly on them after that. He changed the winds and the currents of the sea and gave them more time for the grain to ripen. He set an image of the hunter in the sky in stars to protect them through the winter. He sent other Great Boars to their fields just in case they were ungrateful and did not follow his directions, but they never did.

The villagers raised their arms to share Vara’s story with the Oneness, and then the flutes and drums were played and the Danai were given their last feast before they took to their boat again. Urho told Vara how much he had enjoyed her story and she blushed. Kiri thought that she looked younger when she did this, and her usually harsh voice was softer as she thanked Urho for his praise. As Kiri enjoyed the music and the feast that came after, he thought about the two stories. They were both new to him, and there was something about them that put questions in his mind. He must talk to Aunt Vara about these questions, but not now. She was sitting with Urho. They were talking and laughing together.

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  1. Good morning! The robins woke me up early because they are trying so hard to find mates. I see you have posted chapter four.
    I feel very priviledged to part of your discussions about the things you so enjoy researching and learning about.

    1. Good Morning!

      I appreciate you taking part in them!

      In today's chapter there's a bit from here:

      "Recently, a fragment of Greek text from Noricum was translated into German (G. Dobesch, Zu Virunum als Namen der Stadt auf dem Magdalensberg und zu einer Sage der kontinentalen Kelten, Carinthia 187, 1997, 107-128). It is the only contemporary telling of a Celtic foundation myth. An Otherwordly boar is wreaking havoc in the land, and although many try to slay the boar, they all fail. Finally, a stranger comes, and he "brings back the boar on his shoulders". The people all hailed him "one man" in their language, and the Noricum city of Virunum came to be named as such." John Hooker, The meaning of the boar, Chris Rudd List 69, May, 2003.

      and from Homer's Meleagros (Ovid's Meleager) and connected myths, see:

      which I wrote in 1994.

  2. Just finished chapter four. Interesting explanation of the coming of agriculture to Kiri's cultural group. Mythology playing a part again in your writing. Will Kiri have his questions answered in chapter five?
    A much cooler morning and it smells like rain.
    Today is the Queens 90th birthday who would have thought she would reign this long. In 1975 I was invited to attend a function at Hertiage Park when Prince Charles was here to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Cityof Calgary. The Prince and Premier Lougheed were walking through the crowd and they stopped right in front of me (we were all wearing name tags). The Premier introduced me and I was totally speechless not because of the Prince. But because of the fact the Prince looked like my special uncle who had passed away a few years prior. What a fool I was!
    I am just reading your post about the Greek text and was going to mention did you use the idea of the boar from Celtic mythology. I remember you mentioning a Celtic coin with a boar symbol on it. See I am starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

    1. That must have been quite the experience! Something never to be forgotten. I liked Peter Lougheed and had spoken with him on a couple of occasions, once in Calgary and again in Edmonton in the suite at the MacDonald hotel which was his "office" for the dinner/convention going on downstairs he had invited me to. I remember when the Queen visited Calgary and Carrie and I took Jasmin to see her outside of City Hall and later at McMahon Stadium for the Calgary Highlander regiment's ceremony in 1990.

      The link I gave to the boar article (has to be cut and paste, or just Google my name and boar symbol) has more coin connections and I mentioned Joseph Campbell in it as well.

  3. I was also at McMahon Stadium for the Calgary Highlander regiment's ceremony. What a small world. Once one had security clearance for Royal visits, one seemed to be invited to this events. The invitations I received are put away in a special place.
    I hope Jasmin has good memories of the event because they just do not happen that often.
    Peter Lougheed was a special individual who was a good listener. As you mention he did bring about chance with the concern you brought to his attention. What a privilege to be invited by him. These are the special occasions that remain with us.
    I will certainly check out boar article. Thank you as always for the information.

    1. Our attendances at the Royal visit were just as part of the crowd, and Peter Lougheed's invitation was verbal so all that could be retained was the memory. I picked him, out all the other political candidates at the public meeting because he was the only one who answered questions head on. I was sure that he would be elected premier. He took the matter seriously, and before he left the stage he asked his research assistant to get him a full report on the matter within a week. A doer, not a waffler.

      It's funny, that when you do something that dramatically changes society and the course of history, it can only be seen in retrospect. At the time, there are no noble thoughts, it can be a lark; a PR ploy; being at the right place at the right moment where everything just goes "click".

      I'll ask my daughter if she remembers. I should probably get together with the family for Sunday breakfast. I also want to find out how her volunteering at the Calgary Underground Film Festival went. She has been interested, lately, about pursuing film production as a career. Currently, she is Marketing and Special Leasing Manager for Deerfoot Mall. This interview with her on the news gives an idea about her interest in film:

      Perhaps other coincidences will present themselves. Did you know Calgary artist Gerda (Gina or G. as she liked to be called) Christoffersen? There's a large painting of an Indian man and woman at Mount Royal College that might have been the one I saw at her studio when she had just finished it in 1969. She was really quite the character! Also, how about Chief Francois Paulette? I knew him long before he was a favourite of European Royalty and active fighting the Tar Sands project, although he was always an activist. He also knew the Christoffersen family quite well. G. was ceremoniously adopted by Chief John Hunter (Sitting Eagle) whose statue is downtown. she used to phone me quite often right up to just before her death a few years back.

  4. Sorry I did not know G. Christoffersen. Another one of the many interesting characters that you have known. Once I started teaching it seemed that my social circle became much smaller because I seemed just living within the walls of the school. I realize I missed many important events and meeting many wonderful individuals. But I guess I was busy building a strong foundation for learning with the children I taught. I have been in touch with a few of my students they are doing well. I will check out the video of your daughter.
    My grandson is here again since he is still ill. There is some nasty bug traveling around the students at school. He loves watching Forenic Files and results in many interesting discussions. With Nathan one question leads to another and another.
    I have heard our new Premier admired Premier Lougheed for of his manor of governoring. I hope she takes a page from his play book.
    I talked to my sister about send the book to her when it is ready. There will be no problem. She will put it on a stick and I will have it printed at Staples.

    1. Oh well, it was a long shot, but coincidences seem to beget more. If there's bug going through Calgary schools, I might not be able to meet the family this weekend.

      I'll use the PDF format for your copy, then. Staples will be able to both print it double-sided and bind it cerlox, coil or perfect binding. I'm going to make a start on the cover art today and maybe do more editing/rewriting.

  5. Don't give up on the breakfast idea , your lovely grandchildren may be just fine. My grandchildren may have picked the bug up from their hiking trip to Banff on the weekend. My daughter and her family never stay home and when they are out and about that much they are in contact with too many people.
    The opportunities for women is so wide these days so I hope you daughter persuades her dream. Canada seems to be a hot bed of film activity with some many interesting productions being produced across the country.

    1. Just finished the cover layout, it should be good to go. I'll post it as a blog entry after I finish this so you (and anyone else) can comment on it. It can always be changed. I was trying to make it "literary" looking. I labelled it as a novel in case anyone thought it was a non-fiction title. Blogging a novel's production is fun.

      I'll keep my fingers crossed about lunch with the family. Even Robert said he might be coming down with something so the seafood buffet is up in the air, too.

      Must be great fun for your daughter and her family going places and meeting people. I stay home a lot (apart from shopping and dog walking) so I don't like cancellations of my few social events. I joke with people saying that sightings of me are about as rare as sightings of Sasquatch.

      Jasmin started out conveyancing in industrial real estate so she has a very good head for business. She always got very good references from her employers whenever she moved on. Film production is far more business than art.

      When we had our company, the manager of the Plaza was over at the house and said that he wanted to do the commercial premier of "Michael Ondaatje's Elimiation Dance" a short film by Bruce McDonald, Don McKeller and Michael Ondaatje:

      The owners of the Plaza would not go for it as they wanted $500 to screen it and paying for a short was just not done. So Jasmin, who was 13 at the time pipes up and says "Why don't we sponsor it?" So we did. The manager arranged an opening party, I bought some champagne (a jeroboam) for a door prize, and presented it to the winner on stage. A friend of ours, Richard Reeves, contributed one of his animated films )with animated sound)and the main feature was Don Mckeller's movie Last Night. So we recreated the old days where you got to see a cartoon, a short,and a main feature together with running a world (commercial)premier for a film in Calgary. We had to send the cans to Edmonton for the censors to rate it and all. It was a great success. Our employees got to help and everyone had a great time. It later played in Toronto and Vancouver but the box office tickets in Calgary were the highest even though both Toronto and Vancouver were grinding it (multiple theatres). Some time later, two representatives from Alliance Atlantis flew to Calgary to congratulate us and they later tried to do something with independent films at the theatre which used to be in Banker's Hall. I did not work because the success of the premier was due to far more factors than just screening independents. So Jasmin can add that to her resume!