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The Revealer of the Strange

You wanted to know about the man who in our language we call “The Revealer of the Strange”?  In those days we lived on an island in the river that had an extremely large tree in it, and we spent most our time fighting the men from Bear Clan.  And it so happened that the night before one of our fights a stranger appeared.  He spoke our speech strangely, and said he was from an island across the sea.  The Bear Clan had withdrawn but he was a good tracker and advised us of a feint.  We pretended to sleep and put out the fire, and slept with the swords hidden under leaves.  And the Bear Clan attacked and we routed them, and Revealer of the Strange killed two.

Three of the Bear Clan were left alive and Hero was going to kill them.  And Priest said, it is pleasing to the gods.  And he told the story of how Sky Mother got Sky Father drunk one time and lay with him,and when he woke up she had done mischief and he spanked her. Spanked her hard!  And Priest said “These wounded men of Bear Clan.  We will please Sky Father.  We will spank them hard. And eat them. And burn their fat so Sky Father can smell the pleasing fragrance with his nostrils.”

And everybody was drunk by then and, as you know, when you start to put a plan like that into action, you dip your toe into it first, and they started teasing the prisoners, first with words, and then pulling their noses and their ears and such, and the prisoners, wounded they were, and tied up, glared.  One of them cried I think.

And Revealer of the Strange said “What do you say about a son who tells lies about his father?”  “He is a scoundrel!” we cried.  “And what do you say about a liege-man who tells lies about his liege-lord?  Says he is a scoundrel or a coward?”  “Death to him!” cried Hero!  Death to him!

“Then why do you tell lies about the All Father?”

Everybody quiet and he recited a Making, a Making of Words, and the images danced in our minds.  It was a strange way he spoke of the gods, the revealer of the strange.  He said the All Father had no wife.  If he had a wife he would not spank her.  He had no hands.  He had no anger.  He was like the memory of the moon and the feeling of hope before a battle, and the gleam of dawn.  He has no body.”

He said the All Father did not kill or take a side in the war of Bear Clan versus Eagle Clan.  He said All Father loved the men and women and children of Eagle Clan as much as those in Bear Clan.  “You lie!” said Priest!

“You lie!” said Priest.  But Hero was listening.  Hero could kill when he was drunk with battle and drunk with wine, but he did not wish to kill the prisoner with the wet eyes.   But he feared to be called coward.   The fear of the prisoner’s eyes, the fear to be called coward, battled within him.  He was sixteen year old.

“I do not lie.” said Revealer of the Strange ” In Ethiopia they have flat noses and dark skin and they believe All Father and the other gods have flat noses and dark skin.  In Thrace they have slender waists and fair hair, and they say the gods are likewise.  If oxen could paint pictures of gods their gods would look like oxen.  If donkeys could paint pictures of the gods their gods would look like donkeys. ”

“Spare the men of Bear Clan and let them join us.” said Revealer of the Strange and we did.  And my daughter is married to one of their sons.

He was strange.  He revealed the strange.  He came from the strange world, lingered with us for five summers, and departed.  He made the world seem stranger, but also the strange seem like it belonged to us.  Now that the world is so different and we fight with swords of iron for cities of stone I feel a strange in the world.  Not so in the world of memory where I remember that party speech he gave.

In our language we call “He Who Reveals the Strange” “Xenophanes”.

ἀλλ᾽ εἰ χεῖρας ἔχον βόες <ἵπποι τ᾽> ἠὲ λέοντες
ἢ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῖν ἅπερ ἄνδρες,
ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἵπποισι βόες δέ τε βουσὶν ὁμοίας
καί <κε> θεῶν ἰδέας ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν
τοιαῦθ᾽ οἷόν περ καὐτοὶ δέμας εἶχον <ἕκαστοι>

 

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