Introduction

This story talks about a primitive family living in the Neolithic age. One day, after the father’s spear breaks, the daughter writes a letter to the mother explaining the situation. However, the letter is actually drawn not written. It is delivered by a man from another tribe to the mother and causes a funny misunderstanding.

Characters

  1. Tegumai– the head of the family, Teshumai’s husband and Taffy’s father
  2. Teshumai– Tegumai’s wife and Taffy’s mother
  3. Taffy or Taffimai– Tegumai and Teshumai’s daughter
  4. Stranger-man– a man from the Tewara tribe

Tegumai’s Spear Breaks

Long ago there was a Neolithic man who lived in a cave and wore very few clothes. He couldn’t read or write. He was happy if he wasn’t hungry. His name was Tegumai Bopsulai, meaning ‘Man-who-does-not-put-his-foot-forward-in-a-hurry’. His wife’s name was Teshumai Tewindrow, meaning ‘Lady-who-asks-a-very-many-questions’. His daughter’s name was Taffimai Metallumai, meaning ‘Small-person-without-any-manners-who-ought-to-be-spanked’, or Taffy for short. Both her parents loved her and they were all very happy.

One day Tegumai went down to the Wagai river to catch fish for dinner with Taffy. Tegumai’s spear was made of wood with shark’s teeth at the end, and he accidentally broke it before catching any fish. They were far away from home and he did not have any extra spears. 

Taffy said she would run back to the cave and get his big black spear but Tegumai said it was too far for her little fat legs and she might fall into the beaver-swamp on her way. So, they must make the best of the situation. He began to mend the spear.

The Stranger-Man From the Tewara Tribe

Taffy thought very hard. She said that if they knew how to write they could send a message for a new spear. A stranger came along the river but he belonged to another tribe and did not understand Tegumai’s language. He smiled at Taffy because he had a little daughter too. Taffy asked him if he knew where her Mummy lived but he didn’t understand her.

Taffy was frustrated because she saw a lot of fish in the river but her Daddy did not have a spear to catch them. Taffy showed the Stranger-Man, a Tewara, what her Daddy was doing. He thought that she was a wonderful child who was the daughter of a noble chief. So, he smiled politely to her.

Taffy said she wanted him to get her Daddy’s other spear. The Stranger-man did not understand her but was afraid that the chief he mistook as her father would be angry if he did not do what she wanted. He gave her a piece of birch bark to show he meant no harm, but Taffy didn’t understand.

Taffy thought he wanted her Mummy’s address. She said she would draw pictures of it since she could not write. She asked for the shark’s tooth on his necklace to draw with. The Stranger-man didn’t say anything, so Taffy pulled at the necklace round his neck. The Stranger-man thought she was a very wonderful child because he was told that anyone who touched the magic shark’s tooth on his necklace would burst, but nothing happened to her at all.

Taffy’s Letter

Taffy drew a picture on a piece of bark with the shark’s tooth. She first drew her Daddy fishing with his spear broken. Then she drew the other spear he wanted and a picture of her explaining it to the Stranger-man. The drawing was not very good, so it looked like a spear was stuck in Tegumai’s back and Taffy’s hair was all sticking up.

The Stranger-man thought a big battle was going to happen, and Taffy was telling him to call the great Chief’s tribe to help him. Taffy then drew the path to her Mummy’s living-address. She drew the beaver-swamp on the way but because she couldn’t draw beavers, she drew their heads. The Stranger-man thought that if he did not fetch Tegumai’s tribe to help him, he would be killed by his enemies. So, he raced off to get help.

Tegumai asked Taffy what she had been doing. He had repaired his spear. Taffy said that she would be very surprised by what she had done. Tegumai continued fishing. The Stranger-man hurried away with the picture and ran until he found Teshumai talking to some other ladies who had come in for lunch. Taffy looked a lot like Teshumai, so the Stranger-Man smiled politely and gave Teshumai the birch-bark.

As soon as Teshumai saw the picture she screamed and attacked the Stranger-man. The other ladies knocked him down and sat on him while Teshumai pulled his hair. She thought he had struck Tegumai with spears and frightened Taffy so that her hair stood on its ends like in the picture and brought a picture of how it was done.

She showed the picture to all the other ladies. It had Tegumai with his arm broken and a spear sticking into his back, a man with a spear ready to throw, another man throwing a spear from a cave, and a whole pack of people that were actually Taffy’s beavers. Teshumai thought that the people were coming up behind Tegumai and was very shocked.

Conclusion

This story is a hilarious account of how the first letter might have been written in the primitive age. The funny misunderstandings between the characters make us aware of the importance of language and communication. The story also shows us what the life of early humans might have been like.