Long, long ago, when the world was, if not young, at least not old as
it is now, there was born a kind of animal called People. Although they
started out not much different from the other creatures of the Earth, there
were some rather odd things about them. For a start, they remained
soft and fleshy for their whole lives, apparently defenceless, and indeed
the other animals noticed that they died rather a lot. However, due to a
unique part of their body which we now call a thumb, they were able to use
the world around them in a way in which no-one else could; they could pick
things up. Whilst the other animals thought this quite a clever trick,
since no-one seemed to have thought of it before, none of them supposed
it was of any great importance. Another unusual thing about People was that
they spent a lot of time sitting on the floor and thinking, often about
pointless or unanswerable questions, which usually began with 'why?'.
The consequence of this was that People spent a great deal of their time
worrying, but also coming up with clever answers to problems. The fact that
many of the answers they came up with were to problems that did not necessarily
need to be solved did not phase them one bit. They continued to ruminate,
reflect, consider, hypothesise, theorise, doubt and generally think until
their heads hurt at the end of each day.
One of these long thinks resulted in a Person coming up with People's cleverest
idea yet; language. People already used noises to communicate with one another -
they screamed if they were afraid, whooped if they were excited and laughed
if they found something funny - but the only things these noises expressed
were how a Person was feeling, and they already had faces for that. Objects,
and Animals, the Person thought, could be given a special, more complicated
noise which everyone else would recognise. Before, if a Person had wanted
a fish from another Person, they had to point wildly at the river and then
at their mouths, or dance around pretending to spear fish until the other
Person got the message. But if both People knew a special noise which actually
meant 'fish' then all they would have to do to get a fish from one
another would be to make that special noise and the other Person would understand!
And why stop at fish, or objects? They could name each other, too! They
could have special noises for places, for times of the day, or the year;
they could even name actions like running, swimming, or hunting! The Clever
Person's head started spinning. The possibilities were endless! And
best of all, the Person suddenly realised, they could name their Clever
Standing up from where the Person had been sitting and thinking, the Clever
Person ran at top speed back to the rest of the tribe. Standing in the People's
meeting place in the centre of their settlement, the Clever Person began
whooping excitedly. The other People stopped what they were doing and gathered
round curiously. Soon the whole tribe was assembled. All of the People on
the face of the Earth looked on with growing interest, as the Clever Person
began to behave very strangely. Picking up a rock, the Person held it in
the air, and made a noise.
"Ug!", the Person said, pointing at it and looking from it to
the People and back again. "Ug!"
This went on for some time until a small Child looked thoughtfully at the
rock, and then at the Clever Person.
"Ug?", said the Child.
The Clever Person smiled and began jumping up and down, waving at the Child.
"Ug!", the Person shouted, and handed the rock to the child. Looking
up at the Person uncertainly, the Child took the rock.
"Ug?", said the Child again.
"Ug! Ug! Ug!", shouted the Clever Person happily.
"Ug.", said the Child, "Ug. Ug! Ug! "
The other People shuffled about, confused. Turning around, the Child showed
them the rock.
"Ug!", the Child explained.
"Ug?", said one of the Elders. "Ug?"
"Ug.", said the Child.
"Ug!", said the Elder. "Ug!"
Other People took up the cry, and soon everyone was at it. "Ug!"
they shouted, passing the rock around. The Clever Person began whooping
again. Silence fell and once more everyone turned to watch. This time the
Clever Person held a stick.
Shaking it in the air, the Clever Person said, "Ik!"
"Ug?", said one of the People slowly.
The Clever Person scowled at the other Person, and handed them the stick.
"Ik!", said the Clever Person firmly, waving at the stick. "Ik!"
"Ik?", said the other Person, and smiled. "Ik!", the
Person said again, and handed the stick to somebody else. The Person took
it and, after a pause, said, "Ik!".
"Ik!", the Person said again, passing it on.
Everyone soon got the hang of it, and the stick was passed around joyously,
whilst all the People danced about and shouted, "Ik!".
The Clever Person picked up the rock again and snatched the stick back,
and once more began whooping. A hush fell quickly over the People and they
turned to watch excitedly.
The Clever Person held the rock aloft, and shouted, "Ug!".
"Ug!", replied all of the People at once. "Ug!", everyone
cried, and began to jump about again.
Quickly the Clever Person hushed them again, and holding the stick in the
air, said, "Ik!"
"Ik!", everyone shouted.
The Clever Person lowered the stick and raised the rock again. This time
the Clever Person did not need to say anything; "Ug!", chorused
the whole crowd. Once more the Clever Person held up the stick. "Ik!",
they all shouted happily.
During the course of that afternoon the whole Tribe followed the Clever
Person around in amazement. First they went to the river, since that was
sort of what had given the Person the idea in the first place. It was soon
named "Ob" and they set off to the wood, where they named trees
"At"s, and then back to the village, where they named the Sun,
the Sky, and the different parts of their bodies. Night fell and they stayed
up, naming the Moon, the Stars, and each other.
Within days everyone was naming things, and pretty soon every object and
creature they could find around the village had a name. Within weeks they
had a name for almost every action a Person could do, including thinking,
and within months they had words to describe even more complex concepts,
like Up and Down, Big and Small, Soft and Hard, and so on. Soon it became
difficult to think of anything else to name, so a meeting of all of the
People was called. The Elders announced that this gift of language must
be used to the absolute fullest. People would travel to the four corners
of the Earth and give a name to every object, creature and idea under the
sun. Once one hundred generations had passed ("the world is a very
big place - this could take some time") members of each clan would
make the long journey back to their original birthplace, and share the vast
knowledge they had gained with one another.
The very next morning, the whole of the race of animals called People divided
into four groups, and, waving goodbye to one another, set off in the four
directions of the compass, full of Hope and clever ideas.
As the years rolled by, People spread far and wide until they could be
found in all places on the Earth, and wherever they went they named the
things they saw about them. The tribe that had travelled to the East saw
mountains; "Brothers and sisters, let us call this mighty thing a Sploot."
The tribe that had gone West also saw mountains; "Brothers and sisters,
from now on these huge things will be known as Plunks." Likewise,
the People who travelled North saw mountains; "Let it be recorded that
these gigantic objects are called Tertis." As you might have
guessed, the People of the South too encountered mountains, and they named
In this way, all of the millions of things on the face of the planet received
at least four different names, since each group divided further as time
passed, and continued to name the things they saw. Eventually even the very
words with which the decision to leave had been made were forgotten, and
replaced with new words - dozens of them now for each of their predecessors.
Not forgotten, however, was the ancient promise each group had made - to
return to their birthplace and reunite themselves with their brothers and
Many hundreds of years passed, until at last the appointed hour arrived.
People who had settled in each and every part of the world began preparing
for the long journey back to their ancestral home. At least one Person from
each community was sent to fulfil their ancient promise, and each carried
a record of the knowledge the People had accumulated over all the long years.
Pilgrims met on the road and slowly parties of travellers grew up all over
the world, gathering People as they went.
The first to arrive at their destination were a party of people from the
South. Finding nobody there, they set up camp and eagerly awaited the arrival
of their long lost relatives. A few months later, the first of the parties
from the North approached the meeting place. Seeing the fires burning in
the distance, they joyfully ran into the valley, with outstretched arms.
As they approached, the people of the South dropped what they were doing
and stared. Surely these were not the Brothers and Sisters for whom they
awaited? They looked strange and wild, with their pale, sickly skin, straw-like
hair and cold, bright eyes.
Likewise, the People of the North had stopped running , and now stood together
looking doubtfully at those who awaited them. Although they could not remember
what shape or colour they had once been, they felt certain it could not
have been the deep black of the creatures assembled before them. The two
groups of People stood for some time, in silence, watching each other fearfully.
At last, a member of the group of People from the North stepped forward.
"Who are you?", She said gruffly. "Where are our Brothers
and Sisters whom we have travelled so far to meet?".
But of course, the People of the South could not understand her, because
the words were different to their own. To them, it seemed that one of the
creatures had stepped forward to challenge them. All they could see was
the fear in her eyes. One of them stepped forward.
"Who are you?" , He demanded. "Where are our Brothers and
Sisters with which we have waited so long to be reunited?".
But the People of the North heard the strange and alien noises which issued
from the mouth of the creature, and were afraid. Not only were these ugly
creatures living in their valley obviously not the Brothers and Sisters
they seeked, they seemed to be hostile too. The Person who had stepped forward
shook her fist at them.
"Who are you? What have you done with our Brothers and Sisters?",
Now the people of the South were becoming scared and angry. What did these
savage, pink creatures want with them? The Person who had stepped forth
gripped his spear and spoke again.
"What do you creatures want here, at the ancient birthplace of our
People?" , He said, loud and angrily.
The two People threatened and shouted at one another for a while, and the
other People looked on, frightened. Older People clutched the children to
them, and huddled together. Younger People clutched their weapons, uncertainly.
Suddenly the Person from the South began to approach the People from the
North. Waving his spear at them, he shouted, "Go home! Get out of here!
This is our valley! You cannot stay here!".
The Person from the North raised her shield and pointed her spear at the
Person from the South. "Go away! Get out of here! This is our valley!
You cannot stay here!"
Neither the People from the North nor the People from the South budged
"People of the South," , the Person of the South shouted to his
People. "We cannot leave here! We must fulfil our ancient promise to
our Brothers and Sisters!"
In an instant the Younger People of the South had formed a line in front
of the Older People of the South, and they stared at the intruders grimly.
"People of the North," the Person of the North shouted to her
People. "We cannot let these foul creatures stand in our way! We must
fulfil the promise that was made to our Brothers and Sisters so long ago!"
A moment later the Older People of the North had huddled together, and
the Younger People of the North had begun to advance, staring at the savages
The silence deepened upon the two Peoples, until all that could be heard
were the soft, irregular footsteps of the People of the North, advancing
slowly but surely upon the People of the South. Soon they stood within a
few paces of one another, both Peoples wearing hard and ugly faces.
Just then they heard a shout. Everyone spun around, startled, terrified.
They were met with a sight which confirmed their fears. Another large group
of People had arrived; the People from the East. However, this was not what
the People from the North saw. They saw another group of savages come to
the aid of their new-found enemies.
Neither was this what the People from the South saw. They saw more barbarians
come to help their new-found enemies attack, and probably eat, them.
As for the People of the East, they were feeling confused and dismayed.
Some kind of vicious creatures were obviously about to attack and kill one
another at the place where they had expected to find their long lost Brothers
and Sisters. Uncertainly drawing their weapons, they readied themselves
for an attack.
Suddenly there was another shout from the West. Shaking with fear, everyone
spun around to face the noise. Confronted by a horde of armed and hostile
savages, the People of the West drew their weapons and formed a circle,
staunchly ready to fight to the death to keep the promise their ancestors
made to one another all those years ago.
This was too much for the Peoples of the North and South, and suddenly
all hell broke loose; People began laying into one another; others fled,
screaming; still others stood, overwhelmed, uncertain who was the enemy
or why they were fighting, and were cut down where they stood. Cries in
four different tongues rang out in the valley as Brother killed Brother
and Sister murdered Sister. Soon the valley was empty, save for the bodies
of the fallen.
Those who survived the long trek back home told tales of murderous savages
who had overrun the valley of the birth of their race. They told of the
brutal deaths of their companions, and sorrowfully explained what must have
happened to the long lost Brothers and Sisters they had gone to meet. They
spoke bitterly of avenging their deaths, and all across the Earth the People
prepared for WAR.
This story was written by my brother, Leo Murray, in 1997, and originally titled War. It is reproduced here with his permission.