Jack London Story: The Strength of the Strong

THE STRENGTH OF THE STRONG

First published in Hampton's Magazine – 1911

“Parables don’t lie, but liars will parable.”—Lip-King.

Old Long-Beard paused in his narrative, licked his greasy fingers, and wiped them on his naked sides where his one piece of ragged bearskin failed to cover him.  Crouched around him, on their hams, were three young men, his grandsons, Deer-Runner, Yellow-Head, and Afraid-of-the-Dark.  In appearance they were much the same.  Skins of wild animals partly covered them.  They were lean and meagre of build, narrow-hipped and crooked-legged, and at the same time deep-chested, with heavy arms and enormous hands.  There was much hair on their chests and shoulders, and on the outsides of their arms and legs.  Their heads were matted with uncut hair, long locks of which often strayed before their eyes, beady and black and glittering like the eyes of birds.  They were narrow between the eyes and broad between the cheeks, while their lower jaws were projecting and massive.

It was a night of clear starlight, and below them, stretching away remotely, lay range on range of forest-covered hills.  In the distance the heavens were red from the glow of a volcano.  At their backs yawned the black mouth of a cave, out of which, from time to time, blew draughty gusts of wind.  Immediately in front of them blazed a fire.  At one side, partly devoured, lay the carcass of a bear, with about it, at a respectable distance, several large dogs, shaggy and wolf-like.  Beside each man lay his bow and arrows and a huge club.  In the cave-mouth a number of rude spears leaned against the rock.

“So that was how we moved from the cave to the tree,” old Long-Beard spoke up.

They laughed boisterously, like big children, at recollection of a previous story his words called up.  Long-Beard laughed, too, the five-inch bodkin of bone, thrust midway through the cartilage of his nose, leaping and dancing and adding to his ferocious appearance.  He did not exactly say the words recorded, but he made animal-like sounds with his mouth that meant the same thing.

“And that is the first I remember of the Sea Valley,” Long-Beard went on.  “We were a very foolish crowd.  We did not know the secret of strength.  For, behold, each family lived by itself, and took care of itself.  There were thirty families, but we got no strength from one another.  We were in fear of each other all the time.  No one ever paid visits.  In the top of our tree we built a grass house, and on the platform outside was a pile of rocks, which were for the heads of any that might chance to try to visit us.  Also, we had our spears and arrows.  We never walked under the trees of the other families, either.  My brother did, once, under old Boo-oogh’s tree, and he got his head broken and that was the end of him.

“Old Boo-oogh was very strong.  It was said he could pull a grown man’s head right off.  I never heard of him doing it, because no man would give him a chance.  Father wouldn’t.  One day, when father was down on the beach, Boo-oogh took after mother.  She couldn’t run fast, for the day before she had got her leg clawed by a bear when she was up on the mountain gathering berries.  So Boo-oogh caught her and carried her up into his tree.  Father never got her back.  He was afraid.  Old Boo-oogh made faces at him.

“But father did not mind.  Strong-Arm was another strong man.  He was one of the best fishermen.  But one day, climbing after sea-gull eggs, he had a fall from the cliff.  He was never strong after that.  He coughed a great deal, and his shoulders drew near to each other.  So father took Strong-Arm’s wife.  When he came around and coughed under our tree, father laughed at him and threw rocks at him.  It was our way in those days.  We did not know how to add strength together and become strong.”

“Would a brother take a brother’s wife?” Deer-Runner demanded.

“Yes, if he had gone to live in another tree by himself.”

“But we do not do such things now,” Afraid-of-the-Dark objected.

“It is because I have taught your fathers better.”  Long-Beard thrust his hairy paw into the bear meat and drew out a handful of suet, which he sucked with a meditative air.  Again he wiped his hands on his naked sides and went on.  “What I am telling you happened in the long ago, before we knew any better.”

“You must have been fools not to know better,” was Deer-Runner’s comment, Yellow-Head grunting approval.

“So we were, but we became bigger fools, as you shall see.  Still, we did learn better, and this was the way of it.  We Fish-Eaters had not learned to add our strength until our strength was the strength of all of us.  But the Meat-Eaters, who lived across the divide in the Big Valley, stood together, hunted together, fished together, and fought together.  One day they came into our valley.  Each family of us got into its own cave and tree.  There were only ten Meat-Eaters, but they fought together, and we fought, each family by itself.”

Long-Beard counted long and perplexedly on his fingers.

“There were sixty men of us,” was what he managed to say with fingers and lips combined.  “And we were very strong, only we did not know it.  So we watched the ten men attack Boo-oogh’s tree.  He made a good fight, but he had no chance.  We looked on.  When some of the Meat-Eaters tried to climb the tree, Boo-oogh had to show himself in order to drop stones on their heads, whereupon the other Meat-Eaters, who were waiting for that very thing, shot him full of arrows.  And that was the end of Boo-oogh.

“Next, the Meat-Eaters got One-Eye and his family in his cave.  They built a fire in the mouth and smoked him out, like we smoked out the bear there to-day.  Then they went after Six-Fingers, up his tree, and, while they were killing him and his grown son, the rest of us ran away.  They caught some of our women, and killed two old men who could not run fast and several children.  The women they carried away with them to the Big Valley.

“After that the rest of us crept back, and, somehow, perhaps because we were in fear and felt the need for one another, we talked the thing over.  It was our first council—our first real council.  And in that council we formed our first tribe.  For we had learned the lesson.  Of the ten Meat-Eaters, each man had had the strength of ten, for the ten had fought as one man.  They had added their strength together.  But of the thirty families and the sixty men of us, we had had the strength of but one man, for each had fought alone.

“It was a great talk we had, and it was hard talk, for we did not have the words then as now with which to talk.  The Bug made some of the words long afterward, and so did others of us make words from time to time.  But in the end we agreed to add our strength together and to be as one man when the Meat-Eaters came over the divide to steal our women.  And that was the tribe.

“We set two men on the divide, one for the day and one for the night, to watch if the Meat-Eaters came.  These were the eyes of the tribe.  Then, also, day and night, there were to be ten men awake with their clubs and spears and arrows in their hands, ready to fight.  Before, when a man went after fish, or clams, or gull-eggs, he carried his weapons with him, and half the time he was getting food and half the time watching for fear some other man would get him.  Now that was all changed.  The men went out without their weapons and spent all their time getting food.  Likewise, when the women went into the mountains after roots and berries, five of the ten men went with them to guard them.  While all the time, day and night, the eyes of the tribe watched from the top of the divide.

“But troubles came.  As usual, it was about the women.  Men without wives wanted other men’s wives, and there was much fighting between men, and now and again one got his head smashed or a spear through his body.  While one of the watchers was on top of the divide, another man stole his wife, and he came down to fight.  Then the other watcher was in fear that some one would take his wife, and he came down likewise.  Also, there was trouble among the ten men who carried always their weapons, and they fought five against five, till some ran away down the coast and the others ran after them.

“So it was that the tribe was left without eyes or guards.  We had not the strength of sixty.  We had no strength at all.  So we held a council and made our first laws.  I was but a cub at the time, but I remember.  We said that, in order to be strong, we must not fight one another, and we made a law that when a man killed another him would the tribe kill.  We made another law that whoso stole another man’s wife him would the tribe kill.  We said that whatever man had too great strength, and by that strength hurt his brothers in the tribe, him would we kill that his strength might hurt no more.  For, if we let his strength hurt, the brothers would become afraid and the tribe would fall apart, and we would be as weak as when the Meat-Eaters first came upon us and killed Boo-oogh.

“Knuckle-Bone was a strong man, a very strong man, and he knew not law.  He knew only his own strength, and in the fullness thereof he went forth and took the wife of Three-Clams.  Three-Clams tried to fight, but Knuckle-Bone clubbed out his brains.  Yet had Knuckle-Bone forgotten that all the men of us had added our strength to keep the law among us, and him we killed, at the foot of his tree, and hung his body on a branch as a warning that the law was stronger than any man.  For we were the law, all of us, and no man was greater than the law.

“Then there were other troubles, for know, O Deer-Runner, and Yellow-Head, and Afraid-of-the-Dark, that it is not easy to make a tribe.  There were many things, little things, that it was a great trouble to call all the men together to have a council about.  We were having councils morning, noon, and night, and in the middle of the night.  We could find little time to go out and get food, because of the councils, for there was always some little thing to be settled, such as naming two new watchers to take the place of the old ones on the hill, or naming how much food should fall to the share of the men who kept their weapons always in their hands and got no food for themselves.

“We stood in need of a chief man to do these things, who would be the voice of the council, and who would account to the council for the things he did.  So we named Fith-Fith the chief man.  He was a strong man, too, and very cunning, and when he was angry he made noises just like that, fith-fith, like a wild-cat.

“The ten men who guarded the tribe were set to work making a wall of stones across the narrow part of the valley.  The women and large children helped, as did other men, until the wall was strong.  After that, all the families came down out of their caves and trees and built grass houses behind the shelter of the wall.  These houses were large and much better than the caves and trees, and everybody had a better time of it because the men had added their strength together and become a tribe.  Because of the wall and the guards and the watchers, there was more time to hunt and fish and pick roots and berries; there was more food, and better food, and no one went hungry.  And Three-Legs, so named because his legs had been smashed when a boy and who walked with a stick—Three-Legs got the seed of the wild corn and planted it in the ground in the valley near his house.  Also, he tried planting fat roots and other things he found in the mountain valleys.

“Because of the safety in the Sea Valley, which was because of the wall and the watchers and the guards, and because there was food in plenty for all without having to fight for it, many families came in from the coast valleys on both sides and from the high back mountains where they had lived more like wild animals than men.  And it was not long before the Sea Valley filled up, and in it were countless families.  But, before this happened, the land, which had been free to all and belonged to all, was divided up.  Three-Legs began it when he planted corn.  But most of us did not care about the land.  We thought the marking of the boundaries with fences of stone was a foolishness.  We had plenty to eat, and what more did we want?  I remember that my father and I built stone fences for Three-Legs and were given corn in return.

“So only a few got all the land, and Three-Legs got most of it.  Also, others that had taken land gave it to the few that held on, being paid in return with corn and fat roots, and bear-skins, and fishes which the farmers got from the fishermen in exchange for corn.  And, the first thing we knew, all the land was gone.

“It was about this time that Fith-Fith died and Dog-Tooth, his son, was made chief.  He demanded to be made chief anyway, because his father had been chief before him.  Also, he looked upon himself as a greater chief than his father.  He was a good chief at first, and worked hard, so that the council had less and less to do.  Then arose a new voice in the Sea Valley.  It was Twisted-Lip.  We had never thought much of him, until he began to talk with the spirits of the dead.  Later we called him Big-Fat, because he ate over-much, and did no work, and grew round and large.  One day Big-Fat told us that the secrets of the dead were his, and that he was the voice of God.  He became great friends with Dog-Tooth, who commanded that we should build Big-Fat a grass house.  And Big-Fat put taboos all around this house and kept God inside.

“More and more Dog-Tooth became greater than the council, and when the council grumbled and said it would name a new chief, Big-Fat spoke with the voice of God and said no.  Also, Three-Legs and the others who held the land stood behind Dog-Tooth.  Moreover, the strongest man in the council was Sea-Lion, and him the land-owners gave land to secretly, along with many bearskins and baskets of corn.  So Sea-Lion said that Big-Fat’s voice was truly the voice of God and must be obeyed.  And soon afterward Sea-Lion was named the voice of Dog-Tooth and did most of his talking for him.

“Then there was Little-Belly, a little man, so thin in the middle that he looked as if he had never had enough to eat.  Inside the mouth of the river, after the sand-bar had combed the strength of the breakers, he built a big fish-trap.  No man had ever seen or dreamed a fish-trap before.  He worked weeks on it, with his son and his wife, while the rest of us laughed at their labours.  But, when it was done, the first day he caught more fish in it than could the whole tribe in a week, whereat there was great rejoicing.  There was only one other place in the river for a fish-trap, but, when my father and I and a dozen other men started to make a very large trap, the guards came from the big grass-house we had built for Dog-Tooth.  And the guards poked us with their spears and told us begone, because Little-Belly was going to build a trap there himself on the word of Sea-Lion, who was the voice of Dog-Tooth.

“There was much grumbling, and my father called a council.  But, when he rose to speak, him the Sea-Lion thrust through the throat with a spear and he died.  And Dog-Tooth and Little-Belly, and Three-Legs and all that held land said it was good.  And Big-Fat said it was the will of God.  And after that all men were afraid to stand up in the council, and there was no more council.

“Another man, Pig-Jaw, began to keep goats.  He had heard about it as among the Meat-Eaters, and it was not long before he had many flocks.  Other men, who had no land and no fish-traps, and who else would have gone hungry, were glad to work for Pig-Jaw, caring for his goats, guarding them from wild dogs and tigers, and driving them to the feeding pastures in the mountains.  In return, Pig-Jaw gave them goat-meat to eat and goat-skins to wear, and sometimes they traded the goat-meat for fish and corn and fat roots.

“It was this time that money came to be.  Sea-Lion was the man who first thought of it, and he talked it over with Dog-Tooth and Big-Fat.  You see, these three were the ones that got a share of everything in the Sea Valley.  One basket out of every three of corn was theirs, one fish out of every three, one goat out of every three.  In return, they fed the guards and the watchers, and kept the rest for themselves.  Sometimes, when a big haul of fish was made they did not know what to do with all their share.  So Sea-Lion set the women to making money out of shell—little round pieces, with a hole in each one, and all made smooth and fine.  These were strung on strings, and the strings were called money.

“Each string was of the value of thirty fish, or forty fish, but the women, who made a string a day, were given two fish each.  The fish came out of the shares of Dog-Tooth, Big-Fat, and Sea-Lion, which they three did not eat.  So all the money belonged to them.  Then they told Three-Legs and the other land-owners that they would take their share of corn and roots in money, Little-Belly that they would take their share of fish in money, Pig-Jaw that they would take their share of goats and cheese in money.  Thus, a man who had nothing, worked for one who had, and was paid in money.  With this money he bought corn, and fish, and meat, and cheese.  And Three-Legs and all owners of things paid Dog-Tooth and Sea-Lion and Big-Fat their share in money.  And they paid the guards and watchers in money, and the guards and watchers bought their food with the money.  And, because money was cheap, Dog-Tooth made many more men into guards.  And, because money was cheap to make, a number of men began to make money out of shell themselves.  But the guards stuck spears in them and shot them full of arrows, because they were trying to break up the tribe.  It was bad to break up the tribe, for then the Meat-Eaters would come over the divide and kill them all.

“Big-Fat was the voice of God, but he took Broken-Rib and made him into a priest, so that he became the voice of Big-Fat and did most of his talking for him.  And both had other men to be servants to them.  So, also, did Little-Belly and Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw have other men to lie in the sun about their grass houses and carry messages for them and give commands.  And more and more were men taken away from work, so that those that were left worked harder than ever before.  It seemed that men desired to do no work and strove to seek out other ways whereby men should work for them.  Crooked-Eyes found such a way.  He made the first fire-brew out of corn.  And thereafter he worked no more, for he talked secretly with Dog-Tooth and Big-Fat and the other masters, and it was agreed that he should be the only one to make fire-brew.  But Crooked-Eyes did no work himself.  Men made the brew for him, and he paid them in money.  Then he sold the fire-brew for money, and all men bought.  And many strings of money did he give Dog-Tooth and Sea-Lion and all of them.

“Big-Fat and Broken-Rib stood by Dog-Tooth when he took his second wife, and his third wife.  They said Dog-Tooth was different from other men and second only to God that Big-Fat kept in his taboo house, and Dog-Tooth said so, too, and wanted to know who were they to grumble about how many wives he took.  Dog-Tooth had a big canoe made, and, many more men he took from work, who did nothing and lay in the sun, save only when Dog-Tooth went in the canoe, when they paddled for him.  And he made Tiger-Face head man over all the guards, so that Tiger-Face became his right arm, and when he did not like a man Tiger-Face killed that man for him.  And Tiger-Face, also, made another man to be his right arm, and to give commands, and to kill for him.

“But this was the strange thing: as the days went by we who were left worked harder and harder, and yet did we get less and less to eat.”

“But what of the goats and the corn and the fat roots and the fish-trap?” spoke up Afraid-of-the-Dark, “what of all this?  Was there not more food to be gained by man’s work?”

“It is so,” Long-Beard agreed.  “Three men on the fish-trap got more fish than the whole tribe before there was a fish-trap.  But have I not said we were fools?  The more food we were able to get, the less food did we have to eat.”

“But was it not plain that the many men who did not work ate it all up?” Yellow-Head demanded.

Long-Beard nodded his head sadly.

“Dog-Tooth’s dogs were stuffed with meat, and the men who lay in the sun and did no work were rolling in fat, and, at the same time, there were little children crying themselves to sleep with hunger biting them with every wail.”

Deer-Runner was spurred by the recital of famine to tear out a chunk of bear-meat and broil it on a stick over the coals.  This he devoured with smacking lips, while Long-Beard went on:

“When we grumbled Big-Fat arose, and with the voice of God said that God had chosen the wise men to own the land and the goats and the fish-trap, and the fire-brew, and that without these wise men we would all be animals, as in the days when we lived in trees.

“And there arose one who became a singer of songs for the king.  Him they called the Bug, because he was small and ungainly of face and limb and excelled not in work or deed.  He loved the fattest marrow bones, the choicest fish, the milk warm from the goats, the first corn that was ripe, and the snug place by the fire.  And thus, becoming singer of songs to the king, he found a way to do nothing and be fat.  And when the people grumbled more and more, and some threw stones at the king’s grass house, the Bug sang a song of how good it was to be a Fish-Eater.  In his song he told that the Fish-Eaters were the chosen of God and the finest men God had made.  He sang of the Meat-Eaters as pigs and crows, and sang how fine and good it was for the Fish-Eaters to fight and die doing God’s work, which was the killing of Meat-Eaters.  The words of his song were like fire in us, and we clamoured to be led against the Meat-Eaters.  And we forgot that we were hungry, and why we had grumbled, and were glad to be led by Tiger-Face over the divide, where we killed many Meat-Eaters and were content.

“But things were no better in the Sea Valley.  The only way to get food was to work for Three-Legs or Little-Belly or Pig-Jaw; for there was no land that a man might plant with corn for himself.  And often there were more men than Three-Legs and the others had work for.  So these men went hungry, and so did their wives and children and their old mothers.  Tiger-Face said they could become guards if they wanted to, and many of them did, and thereafter they did no work except to poke spears in the men who did work and who grumbled at feeding so many idlers.

“And when we grumbled, ever the Bug sang new songs.  He said that Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw and the rest were strong men, and that that was why they had so much.  He said that we should be glad to have strong men with us, else would we perish of our own worthlessness and the Meat-Eaters.  Therefore, we should be glad to let such strong men have all they could lay hands on.  And Big-Fat and Pig-Jaw and Tiger-Face and all the rest said it was true.

“‘All right,’ said Long-Fang, ‘then will I, too, be a strong man.’  And he got himself corn, and began to make fire-brew and sell it for strings of money.  And, when Crooked-Eyes complained, Long-Fang said that he was himself a strong man, and that if Crooked-Eyes made any more noise he would bash his brains out for him.  Whereat Crooked-Eyes was afraid and went and talked with Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw.  And all three went and talked to Dog-Tooth.  And Dog-Tooth spoke to Sea-Lion, and Sea-Lion sent a runner with a message to Tiger-Face.  And Tiger-Face sent his guards, who burned Long-Fang’s house along with the fire-brew he had made.  Also, they killed him and all his family.  And Big-Fat said it was good, and the Bug sang another song about how good it was to observe the law, and what a fine land the Sea Valley was, and how every man who loved the Sea Valley should go forth and kill the bad Meat-Eaters.  And again his song was as fire to us, and we forgot to grumble.

“It was very strange.  When Little-Belly caught too many fish, so that it took a great many to sell for a little money, he threw many of the fish back into the sea, so that more money would be paid for what was left.  And Three-Legs often let many large fields lie idle so as to get more money for his corn.  And the women, making so much money out of shell that much money was needed to buy with, Dog-Tooth stopped the making of money.  And the women had no work, so they took the places of the men.  I worked on the fish-trap, getting a string of money every five days.  But my sister now did my work, getting a string of money for every ten days.  The women worked cheaper, and there was less food, and Tiger-Face said we should become guards.  Only I could not become a guard because I was lame of one leg and Tiger-Face would not have me.  And there were many like me.  We were broken men and only fit to beg for work or to take care of the babies while the women worked.”

Yellow-Head, too, was made hungry by the recital and broiled a piece of bear-meat on the coals.

“But why didn’t you rise up, all of you, and kill Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw and Big-Fat and the rest and get enough to eat?” Afraid-in-the-Dark demanded.

“Because we could not understand,” Long-Beard answered.  “There was too much to think about, and, also, there were the guards sticking spears into us, and Big-Fat talking about God, and the Bug singing new songs.  And when any man did think right, and said so, Tiger-Face and the guards got him, and he was tied out to the rocks at low tide so that the rising waters drowned him.

“It was a strange thing—the money.  It was like the Bug’s songs.  It seemed all right, but it wasn’t, and we were slow to understand.  Dog-Tooth began to gather the money in.  He put it in a big pile, in a grass house, with guards to watch it day and night.  And the more money he piled in the house the dearer money became, so that a man worked a longer time for a string of money than before.  Then, too, there was always talk of war with the Meat-Eaters, and Dog-Tooth and Tiger-Face filled many houses with corn, and dried fish, and smoked goat-meat, and cheese.  And with the food, piled there in mountains the people had not enough to eat.  But what did it matter?  Whenever the people grumbled too loudly the Bug sang a new song, and Big-Fat said it was God’s word that we should kill Meat-Eaters, and Tiger-Face led us over the divide to kill and be killed.  I was not good enough to be a guard and lie fat in the sun, but, when we made war, Tiger-Face was glad to take me along.  And when we had eaten, all the food stored in the houses we stopped fighting and went back to work to pile up more food.”

“Then were you all crazy,” commented Deer-Runner.

“Then were we indeed all crazy,” Long-Beard agreed.  “It was strange, all of it.  There was Split-Nose.  He said everything was wrong.  He said it was true that we grew strong by adding our strength together.  And he said that, when we first formed the tribe, it was right that the men whose strength hurt the tribe should be shorn of their strength—men who bashed their brothers’ heads and stole their brothers’ wives.  And now, he said, the tribe was not getting stronger, but was getting weaker, because there were men with another kind of strength that were hurting the tribe—men who had the strength of the land, like Three-Legs; who had the strength of the fish-trap, like Little-Belly; who had the strength of all the goat-meat, like Pig-Jaw.  The thing to do, Split-Nose said, was to shear these men of their evil strength; to make them go to work, all of them, and to let no man eat who did not work.

“And the Bug sang another song about men like Split-Nose, who wanted to go back, and live in trees.

“Yet Split-Nose said no; that he did not want to go back, but ahead; that they grew strong only as they added their strength together; and that, if the Fish-Eaters would add their strength to the Meat-Eaters, there would be no more fighting and no more watchers and no more guards, and that, with all men working, there would be so much food that each man would have to work not more than two hours a day.

“Then the Bug sang again, and he sang that Split-Nose was lazy, and he sang also the ‘Song of the Bees.’  It was a strange song, and those who listened were made mad, as from the drinking of strong fire-brew.  The song was of a swarm of bees, and of a robber wasp who had come in to live with the bees and who was stealing all their honey.  The wasp was lazy and told them there was no need to work; also, he told them to make friends with the bears, who were not honey-stealers but only very good friends.  And the Bug sang in crooked words, so that those who listened knew that the swarm was the Sea Valley tribe, that the bears were the Meat-Eaters, and that the lazy wasp was Split-Nose.  And when the Bug sang that the bees listened to the wasp till the swarm was near to perishing, the people growled and snarled, and when the Bug sang that at last the good bees arose and stung the wasp to death, the people picked up stones from the ground and stoned Split-Nose to death till there was naught to be seen of him but the heap of stones they had flung on top of him.  And there were many poor people who worked long and hard and had not enough to eat that helped throw the stones on Split-Nose.

“And, after the death of Split-Nose, there was but one other man that dared rise up and speak his mind, and that man was Hair-Face.  ‘Where is the strength of the strong?’ he asked.  ‘We are the strong, all of us, and we are stronger than Dog-Tooth and Tiger-Face and Three-Legs and Pig-Jaw and all the rest who do nothing and eat much and weaken us by the hurt of their strength which is bad strength.  Men who are slaves are not strong.  If the man who first found the virtue and use of fire had used his strength we would have been his slaves, as we are the slaves to-day of Little-Belly, who found the virtue and use of the fish-trap; and of the men who found the virtue and use of the land, and the goats, and the fire-brew.  Before, we lived in trees, my brothers, and no man was safe.  But we fight no more with one another.  We have added our strength together.  Then let us fight no more with the Meat-Eaters.  Let us add our strength and their strength together.  Then will we be indeed strong.  And then we will go out together, the Fish-Eaters and the Meat-Eaters, and we will kill the tigers and the lions and the wolves and the wild dogs, and we will pasture our goats on all the hill-sides and plant our corn and fat roots in all the high mountain valleys.  In that day we will be so strong that all the wild animals will flee before us and perish.  And nothing will withstand us, for the strength of each man will be the strength of all men in the world.’

“So said Hair-Face, and they killed him, because, they said, he was a wild man and wanted to go back and live in a tree.  It was very strange.  Whenever a man arose and wanted to go forward all those that stood still said he went backward and should be killed.  And the poor people helped stone him, and were fools.  We were all fools, except those who were fat and did no work.  The fools were called wise, and the wise were stoned.  Men who worked did not get enough to eat, and the men who did not work ate too much.

“And the tribe went on losing strength.  The children were weak and sickly.  And, because we ate not enough, strange sicknesses came among us and we died like flies.  And then the Meat-Eaters came upon us.  We had followed Tiger-Face too often over the divide and killed them.  And now they came to repay in blood.  We were too weak and sick to man the big wall.  And they killed us, all of us, except some of the women, which they took away with them.  The Bug and I escaped, and I hid in the wildest places, and became a hunter of meat and went hungry no more.  I stole a wife from the Meat-Eaters, and went to live in the caves of the high mountains where they could not find me.  And we had three sons, and each son stole a wife from the Meat-Eaters.  And the rest you know, for are you not the sons of my sons?”

“But the Bug?” queried Deer-Runner.  “What became of him?”

“He went to live with the Meat-Eaters and to be a singer of songs to the king.  He is an old man now, but he sings the same old songs; and, when a man rises up to go forward, he sings that that man is walking backward to live in a tree.”

Long-Beard dipped into the bear-carcass and sucked with toothless gums at a fist of suet.

“Some day,” he said, wiping his hands on his sides, “all the fools will be dead and then all live men will go forward.  The strength of the strong will be theirs, and they will add their strength together, so that, of all the men in the world, not one will fight with another.  There will be no guards nor watchers on the walls.  And all the hunting animals will be killed, and, as Hair-Face said, all the hill-sides will be pastured with goats and all the high mountain valleys will be planted with corn and fat roots.  And all men will be brothers, and no man will lie idle in the sun and be fed by his fellows. And all that will come to pass in the time when the fools are dead, and when there will be no more singers to stand still and sing the ‘Song of the Bees.’  Bees are not men.”

Go Back Next: South of the Slot
Home |  Introduction | Biography |  Beauty Ranch |  Wolf House |  Museum

For Copyright and Terms of Service Instructions - click here Valid XHTML 1.0!