Agodd sat by the cooking fire
waiting for his stew to finish cooking and idly contemplating the way
in which the flames flickered and jumped as they warmed him, heated
his broth, and turned the dry wood into ash. He knew he wasn’t
clever and he could never understand how someone as ordinary as he
was could make such a thing happen. But, he said to himself, “I’m
just an ignorant caveman.” Which shows he was wrong as a well as
ignorant because Agodd lived somewhere between Cromer and Hunstanton
and there are no caves anywhere near there.
Then he thought, “If I rub my
fire stick, I can make flames. If I do nothing, nothing happens. I
can sit looking at my fire stick all day and it never produces
flames. So where do the flames come from? Something must cause it to
happen. I don’t think I cause it because I’m not very
Agodd’s stew was ready and he
forgot his thoughts as he enjoyed his meal, a particularly succulent
bit of mammoth that had been going rotten for several days.
About ten years later he had an
idea. He rubbed a piece of stone for ages but there were no flames.
He rubbed a piece of meat and nothing happened except that he got his
hands even more smelly.
Over the next few years he tried
rubbing all sorts of things but he could never get flames except from
his fire stick. He examined it closely – for the umpteenth time.
There really weren’t any flames to be seen and, he told himself,
even if there had been, they would all have been used up long ago.
“It’s a mystery,” he said
to himself, making up the new word in his own language. “A mystery.
There’s nothing more to say about it.”
Years went by and Agodd was an
old man – fully fifty years old although he himself didn’t know
that. What he and his family did know was that he was much older than
anyone else. He knew where the best hunting grounds were. He knew
where and when to plant seeds so that new plants would grow and he
could avoid the need to go looking for them. He had told no one
about the magic grains that, at the end of each summer, could be
found where the flowers had been and which, when scattered on the
ground, would produce new plants so this added to his reputation for
For many years, he thought no
more about flames until, one day, when he was a very old man, his
grandson asked him, “Where do the flames come from?”
“It’s a mystery,” answered
“What about rain?”
“That’s a mystery as well.”
“That’s a mystery too.”
“Why do plants grow?”
“That’s a mystery as well –
and don’t ask so many questions.”
The fact that Agodd didn’t
know the answers didn’t spoil his reputation for wisdom – and
mystery was a splendid sounding word that people remembered for
Agodd’s grandson wasn’t
entirely satisfied with the explanation he had been given. He was a
bright lad and, as he grew up, Agodd’s mystery continued to trouble
him. He told his own children about the problem and they told theirs
until the origin of the puzzle was forgotten and people began to say
simply, “It’s all because of Agodd.”
By now, of course, no-one knew
who Agodd had been or even remembered that Agodd was a person’s
name. In fact it had become established that no child was ever called
by the name in case it brought bad luck.
The day came when Agodd’s
great great great great great grandson was sitting by the cooking
fire waiting for his broth to heat and idly contemplating the way in
which the flames flickered and jumped as they warmed him, heated his
broth, and converted the dry wood into ash (although he knew nothing
about his ancestor). He knew he was clever – but not with the
ordinary, everyday sort of cleverness that was so common. Agodd’s
five times great grandson was a genius and he could understand
how someone like him could make things happen.
“I’ve never seen a god,”
Huma, who prided himself on scientific rationality, said to himself.
“I’m the sort of guy who believes in the evidence of his eyes
and, therefore, I don’t believe in a god, a lot of superstitious
There was no writing, of
course, and he thought phonetically – and he was inclined to