Sparked by Words

Droog Tells a Story

Droog sprints around the campfire before the six members of the gang he hangs out with. He whistles and puffs, pounds his chest and leans over the crowd. He flashes a toothy grimace, gestures wildly. He can’t count how many folks are there but he knows by their faces and smells if one is missing. Droog is the very first human being, a creature different from the monkey hanging by his tail in the tree overhead. He isn’t threatening his gang in a power play or forcing anyone to submit to his demands. Well, not now, anyway.

Droog, you see, is telling a story. The gang he hangs with is mesmerized because they can’t wait to learn what happens next.

The monkey is used to Droog. He’s seen him before and senses when it’s time to high tail it out of there – before Droog grabs him by that long tail and slings him over the fire, making crispy monkey tenders out of him. Monkey acts from instinct and experience. Self preservation is a big deal to him. If monkey is female, she’ll protect her baby with everything she’s got. Hanging overhead of Droog and his gang is fine as long as the ground hoppers leave monkey and her crew alone.

When the big water rushes toward them, they all run – monkey and human. When the big mountain spits fire, they all run. When the giant animal with dagger teeth leaps at them, they all run. Monkey and human run from threats when instinct and experience declare their lives are imperiled. Fire mountain, flooding water, and bounding predator all plan to end their lives.

Monkey and human run and run and run. They climb and hide and cower and watch to make sure they’re safe. When the all clear bells sounds, they go back to doing what they like. Eating and mating and hanging around with each other in a safe place, pulling off ticks and fleas. Monkey and Droog are much the same in these ways. Food, sex, safety. Except this is where it ends with monkey.

Droog stepped over the threshold of humanness, one level further along the evolutionary tree. Maybe we should call it a bramble bush, given how erratically that tree spread its experimental developments. Mab, Hund, Wurf, and all the rest of the human gang do one thing that monkey never does. They tell stories.

Mab scrapes ocher from the river bank and smears it onto rocks, making images that tell stories.

Hund pounds on a dried gourd in a rhythm that quickens and ebbs, making sounds that tell stories.

Wurf hauls a stone out of the earth and carves shapes into it, making forms that tell stories.

After years of watching the very youngest children play, I noticed that all kids tell stories. Putting rocks and leaves in patterns, jabbering to plastic blocks and stuffed animals, toddling outside to hug a roly poly, they tell stories the whole time. The narrative, even if gibberish, infuses their activities with meaning. They tell stories even before they can talk or have the ability to understand the craft of storytelling, Yes, parents read to them, but even the littlest ones are compelled to tell their own stories.

Telling stories is one of the big differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. Droog excels at retelling the run from danger. Bellies fed, sexual desire sated, and safety guaranteed for the next few minutes (even though they can’t count and have no concept of time,) the gang raptly listens and watches while Droog scrabbles, tumbles, waves his arms, wiggles his rear, spits and grunts to tell the story of the fire, the flood, the capture they all just evaded.

Monkey strips bark from the tree and chews. He’s aware of the manic nonsense Droog pulls every once in a while – he’s seen it before but can’t make anything out of all that wild gesticulation except to know that he’s safe in his tree, tail looped around a branch, eating bark. Monkey can’t figure out why Droog is cavorting in the firelight, and he can’t improvise a routine either. Monkey not only can’t tell stories – he can’t perceive when they’re being told.

The gift of free time allows monkey the luxury of hanging around the branches fluffing his neighbor’s fur. That same wealth of time grants Droog his moment of theater. The story of the chase, of the hunt, of birth and death, of visions, of the promise that it will all happen again tomorrow because it happened yesterday, and they all lived to tell about it today.

So here I am, a few evolutionary levels advanced from Droog, a few years older than the kids I observe, telling stories. One day my stories will be available in print and you’ll see they aren’t much different from Droog’s or the toddler’s. My characters run from fire, flood, and monsters with big teeth.

Sharon tells a story.

 

Prehistoric cave art image courtesy Pixabay

Comments on: "Droog Tells a Story" (34)

  1. Jenna Barwin said:

    We are all storytellers. It’s in our genes. Story allows us to experience stuff vicariously that we would never want to experience personally (like eating the deadly purple plant or being chased by monsters).

    I enjoyed your story. You showed your point beautifully!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The teacher in me just loved this, Shari. Fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You reeled me in with this one. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Now you could illustrate this great story cuz the names of the characters are FANTABULOUS and conjure up all sorts of images.

    Droog on!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Their faces took up residence in my imagination. I’m fascinated by prehistoric cultures and the art they made. I know they told stories, but unfortunately no one wrote them down. Nothing I draw could match the majesty of ancient art.

      Droog on – funny, funny.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I enjoyed this, Sharon. You tell the story of where we came from, in essence – factual and symbolic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you did, Betty. I’ve always felt that telling stories one way or another is an essential part of being human, and it’s why art classes of all kinds should be included at every level of education. Math and science explain how the world works. Art (poetry, dance, music, theater, etc.) show what’s important in the world.

      Like

  6. Storytelling was the way first humans and many cultures taught their histories. It is definitely the essence of humanity, and you are so right about how arts and culture need to be continually taught! And Sharon tells GREAT stories! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. what a clever, wonderful way to regard us tellers of tales 🙂

    Like

    • I’m glad you think so, Daal. I think of those prehistoric people for whom the next breath was no guarantee, for whom another seed or root or chunk of meat might not happen for days, for whom a step might land them into the jaws of a predator, and still those people were compelled to tell stories. Amazes me their fortitude and drive.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, this is absolutely captivating, Sharon. You expressed the essence of story telling perfectly! My fingers are crossed for you as you pursue your publishing dream. Very clever and well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Storytelling must have started in the time of early man. This one was wonderful. You are a great storyteller. Imagine what Droog could have accomplished if he had a literary representative.

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  10. Like you I enjoy prehistoric fiction very much, Shari. And your story evoked so many pictures in my head, it felt so real and close to watch the world from the eyes of Droog, his friends and the monkeys.
    Terry Pratchett who’s one of my very favourite authors wrote about humans being Pan narrans – the storytelling ape. I always thought that it actually is one of the best definitions of our species. 😊

    Like

    • I’d been talking with another writer friend about when man became enamored with art and religion/spirituality. I’ve always believed those ideas emerged when man began to tell stories, something I became aware of decades ago during art history classes.

      I’ve never read Terry Pratchett, so would you please recommend a book to begin with? Maybe the one that discusses Pan Narrans? It could be your good deed for the day, Sarah. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pratchett discusses the theory of Pan narrans together with two other authors in his book ‘ The Science of Discworld II – The Globe ‘. But if you want to read one of his fiction works I can recommend all of them. But ‘ The thief of time’ is one of my favourites.😉 He was a true genius, a rare gem really and sadly passed on far too early.

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  12. You’ve captured humaness – we are hardwired for story. Its how we remember things and how we pass things on. I for one am looking forward to the story Sharon tells.

    Like

    • Thank you, Irene – you’ve always been wonderful at encouraging me. I’m making slow progress on publishing one book. Slow being the operative word – but also carefully considered.

      Like

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