Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Meeting

Farmers assimilated Hunter-Gatherers

Scandinavia, =/- 9000 years ago

Torg rested on the fencepost, regarding his work.  Two winters ago he, his wife and children, and his brothers with their families had found this lovely field.  It was surrounded by forested rolling hills, and a flowing stream to the north.  Turning slowly, Torg took it all in. There was a fine net across the stream, that provided fish for their supper. Three small sod and grass huts were clustered together in the eastern part of the field. Smoke rose from two of them at the moment. In the already worn dirt in front of the huts, three small children squealed and ran around.  To the south was a large area where he grew wheat and barley.  His woman and his oldest daughter were working there, removing stray grasses and ensuring the crop was growing well.  Another smooth area was left to grow grass for their two cows and twenty sheep. In front of Torg were two pens, the second of which he had just finished. The cows and sheep had been sharing the first one, now he could bring the sheep into the second pen during the summer nights.  In the cold season, the animals stayed in the huts with them, providing warmth and milk. Torg was satisfied for the moment.  Three days journey to the south was the village of his parents and his wife’s family.  Torg would be going down to get another cow and some more seeds for next year’s crops.  In time, this field would be full with his own small village.

While Torg was resting, looking over his homestead, he was being watched. Across the stream, hiding in the trees, Tuka looked on in anger and amazement.  For two seasons he and his small tribe had been going north, following the paths of the deer.  This season, they had headed west for a change. Tuka had remembered this large meadow. Deer had often come here in the early morning to feed, and drink from the fresh stream where he was now standing. Yet instead of deer, or any sign of them, he saw strange people, with odd growths coming from the ground. Also they had animals, just staying put, eating the grass.  Tuka didn’t know what any of this meant. All he knew at the moment was that there were no deer for his tribe to hunt and then eat.  Stunned, Tuka watched a while longer, then turned and went back to his camp.   The next day he took his eldest son, Toki, to watch again. On the way they caught a few birds and a rabbit.  When they arrived at the stream, Tuka pointed to the strange things coming up from the ground. When Toki looked, his eyes widened.  He also saw a girl, who might have been his own age, poking around in the grasses.  He couldn’t figure out what she was doing, but her long blond hair glowed in the sunlight.  A movement from his side caught Toki’s eye. His father was lifting his bow, ready to shoot one of the placid beasts eating in the field.  “Da, No!” he yelled and pulled on Tuka’s arm.  In anger, Tuka swung around and hit his face.  Blood flowed from Toki’s cheek. Sullenly, Toki glared at his father, then after quickly washing his face in the stream, he grabbed the birds and rabbit and ran across the cold shallow water to the meadow. 

Torg heard the sudden yell from across the stream. He stood up and stared, looking for the source of the voice. His daughter, Dari, also heard the noise and stopped pulling the stray grasses.  As they both watched a figure emerged from the shadows, running across the stream.  It was a youth, slightly older than Dari.  His brown hair was long and tousled.  He wore a well-worn leather tunic, with wet leggings wrapped around his slender yet strong legs.  As he stood there, holding out the strung birds, an older man came running up behind.  His brown hair had streaks of gray, and there was a scar running down his left cheek.  He spoke angrily to the younger man, trying to grab the birds from him.  Torg watched the exchange, then raised a hand.
“Come.” He said. “Come.” He indicated that the two should follow him.  Tuka began yelling again, gesturing for his son to follow him.  Torg stepped up to him, and put a hand on Tuka’s shoulder. Tuka shrugged it off.  Again Torg gestured for them both to follow.  Slowly Tuka and Toki walked behind him as he went toward the huts. Toki stared at Dari, who just stood there.

Torg called to his wife. “We have guests, bring some cheese and bread.”   Torg’s wife came outside, and looked at the strangers.  After regarding them for a moment she brought out several small loaves of fresh bread and a lump of cheese.  She held them out to the guests with a smile on her face.  Tuka just stared at her, but Toki shyly took a loaf.  He smelled it, felt it with his hands, licked it.  Dari couldn’t help but laugh. Red-faced, Toki dropped his hand.  Seeing his confusion, Dari took a loaf, and bit into it. She gestured for Toki to do the same. Toki sniffed the bread again, then tried biting it. He got a mouthful and began to chew. His eyes widened as he tasted bread for the first time.  Dari took the cheese from her mother, and took a piece and put it in her mouth. She held out the cheese to Toki.  He wrinkled his nose, smelling it.  Then he put a lump of it in his mouth.  After a moment he turned to his father, and in a rapid dialect unknown to Torg and his family, offered the bread and cheese to his father.

Tuka had had enough.  He didn’t want the odd looking and awful smelling food. He wanted to hunt his deer.  Rapidly he grabbed the strung birds they had collected that morning and walked back to the stream.  Just before he crossed it, he turned back and yelled angrily at Torg and his family, making angry gestures.  Toki frowned, and with evident sadness, turned and slowly followed his father.  Several times he looked back at Dari. Torg knew that look and harshly told Dari to go into the hut.

Over the next few moons, Toki stopped by the meadow.  He talked in his strange tongue, but after some time, he and Torg began to understand one another.  Toki told him that his father, Tuka, wanted to shoot his animals, as they looked to be easy hunting.  Torg answered that Tuka would be welcome to bread and cheese anytime, and meat from the sheep when they were slaughtered. Dari also learned to speak to Toki, and soon the two began teaching the other their way of life.  Dari began to understand how to follow game, and trap birds, while Toki learned how to get milk from a cow and what the strange grasses were.

Tuka went north to hunt by himself during the cooling season. He never returned. Toki suspected that he wanted to hunt by himself, and not be involved in the people who didn’t move.  As his tribe dwindled, Toki spent more and more time with Dari and her family.  In time, she became his wife, and he left the hunting life forever.

Many seasons later Torg hobbled out to the old fence he had built.  There were five more huts now, and more cows and sheep.  Toki had also caught some wild geese, and some of these were now tamed, providing eggs and feathers for the village.  Toki came out, with his youngest child on his shoulders.  Looking across the stream, he thought he saw the shape of an old man, but he couldn’t be sure.

1 comment:

  1. I always love these little stories---I can see these people in my mind!