MayShortReads 08: Rewriting History

What are you doing?

Ngum asked Dmoo.

Her actual words were

Ggumm ndo mngu napuu lawuonn?

But people today don’t understand the language of the Old ones. Their noses and tongues don’t even make all the sounds any more that the Old ones could. So this poor translation will have to do for the story before the world’s oldest story.

Dmoo had been playing around with stones, for as long as Ngum could remember. Sometimes he would run away and be lost.  Then Ngum would have to put down her games and go look for him. But only after she finished her chores (she was always good). And she would be cross with Dmoo because she had to leave her play. Dmoo would fall out of a small rock or roll down a big pebble. His hingju would be mixed up and his mnemneti would be in the wrong place so his words would sound silly (much like the way people talk now). And Ngum would get busy helping him arrange his hingju and put his mnemneti back. Then he would tell her funny things so she wouldn’t be cross anymore.

Ngum put her toes on Dmoo’s shoulders though he hadn’t answered her (she always liked to be polite even when Dmoo forgot his manners). Dmoo turned around and showed her what he was doing.

What are you going to do with them?

“I will tell you a story about how I made them.”

Ngum grunted, as was proper. Dmoo had very bad manners but he liked people to be respectful to him, when he was telling his stories.

“I made this one first. Then I made one more like it. They will sit together now. Then I took one more and threw it up. And I threw this other one down. That one went away somewhere. This one also went away to the bottom.”

Can we give them names? Call that one birdie and this one fishie.

“Those are very stupid names.”

Ngum grunted again but she scratched her hingju this time (even good girls got cross sometimes).

“Okay, we will call them freedie and bishie, like you said.”

Birdie and fishie

Dmoo grunted but Ngum knew he wouldn’t remember.

“Then I rubbed my hands very hard over wishie and it started to fly around. And I blew like so – FWOOOOOO and brifie swam.”

What is fly and swam?

“It means to move around. Like when you put your foot in front of the other and come to me.”

Dmoo could see Ngum was getting bored so he hurried on,

“Now see how pretty I made this. Every stone looks different now. We will give each one a name.”

Ngum perked up. She like naming things and secretly she thought Dmoo’s stories were okay but her names were better.

Green! Red! Blue! Yellow!

“We must also name this and that differently.”

said Dmoo pointing to the small caves and then to the big pebbles.

What and what?

said Ngum turning around and around.

“This and that! You’re not smart, that’s why you don’t tell the stories. Just tell me what names you like!”

You tell me what is this and that, first.

“Names first!”

Day Era Hour Brum Kurik Week Ningu Moung Month

“Day. Hour. Week. Month.”

repeated Dmoo (he never listened to the complete sentence)

Now tell me what is this and that!

“This is this. That is that. HourDayWeekMonth will tell us Ngum was here and Dmoo was there. Then Ngum came here and Dmoo was there. That is the difference between this and that.”

Ngum gave up. She wanted to hear more of the story. Dmoo picked up the two that he had made first and held them up.

“Now I will make them make things. They will all be on this tiny cave. Then they will be like Dmoo and Ngum in their world.”

Ngum is in your world?

“Their world.”

What is she like?

“Ngum is the last.”

No, I want to be first! First! First!

“No, she is the last. This is my story!”

Ngum was rubbing her mnemneti now. Dmoo noticed but he didn’t change his story. Still, he took a step back to be safe.

“Ngum is last. Ngum will come to them in the end, when they are good and do all their chores right. And she will keep them in a nice pebble.”

Ngum is nice?

“Yes. Ngum is very nice. She will have a nice name also. What do you want her to be?”


Even Dmoo had to agree, that was a very nice name.

“And now finally, I will make it all pretty again.”

he said and opened his teeth very wide.

Ngum despite her nice manners, interrupted him. She was very happy about the new name and so excited she didn’t realize.

No, tell the story the other way. Start with the sound.

Dmoo considered and shrugged. Opening his eyes very wide, he boomed,

“Let there be light!”

This time Ngum didn’t interrupt him till he reached the end of the story. Because she was waiting. Ngum is last and very nice.

And that is how the world’s oldest story was told.

7 thoughts on “MayShortReads 08: Rewriting History

  1. Lovely, sweet little twist on creation.
    The bit with the colours all mixed up was funny. The story before all stories, and quite possibly one story to tell them all.
    “Let there be light!”

  2. This one’s refreshing because you’re breaking out of the mould. I’m going to assume you haven’t read that Rudyard Kipling story where a caveman family invent the alphabet (one of his Just So Stories). It’s the same story, with slight differences, but you’re forgiven because you’re venturing so far out of what you’re comfortable with. If I were you (and how luck we both are that I’m not), I would have wondered around and about the first story playing with other vocabulary before finally stumbling on enough words to put together the words “Let there be light”, thus making the story a little more captivating and meritorious of one more reread.

    1. @Ronaan Roy: Read and loved that tale! And well, the story of creation has to be the oldest tale ever. How many ways can the human mind think of, to tell it? It had to be there in an experiment of this sort.

      Still, collating the related associations & references are an unexpected bonus feature of this exercise. So, thank you.

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