In the aftermath of a fairly serious illness at the start of the month that prevented me from working for a while, and the week of recuperation from the cure that I’ve had to take, I find that I’m down to the wire here with a piece half-done. The choices are to either bang out the last half and take the chance of fucking it up horrendously, or do something else. I hope what follows will suffice. It was written a few years ago, but it’s not been published before. I pulled it out a few days ago after a news item reminded me of it. Something I posit herein – the supposition of the language of children, based on an actual experience – is now being eagerly investigated by scientists whose early discoveries seem to prove me right. Ahead of my time again. It’s hard, being a fucking genius.
This was written for the letters page of DRUID, a comics series I wrote for Marvel. It was cancelled with its fourth issue, because it was only outselling 95% of its natural shelf companions, the DC Vertigo line. DRUID was about Anthony Ludgate, an expatriate Englishman who was also believed to be the last true druid. Being a druid, he was fond of things like nailing people’s innards to his oak tree, waving his arms around a lot, and being a bit of a bastard. I had a wonderful time writing him, and I hope you enjoy this little piece of a lost book. What follows is a monologue by Anthony Ludgate, who was entirely mad and possessed by forces greater than Man, on the steps of his New York City residence:
|Fertility…ah, fertility links to moon worship, you know, the moon being a symbol of fertility … Druids worshipped the great oak struck with mistletoe, fruit of the gods — perhaps literally. If the gods came from beyond the moon, then their “fruit” may well have been holy sperm. Moon worship, however, does go well before Druidry — their worship was pure, possibly without precedent in the British Isles, (though there’s evidence to suggest it was prefigured by a Cult Of The Dead born in Africa) but its expansion and sophistication is the mark of an evolved brain. This could also possibly explain the how and why of Greek mythology — a sophisticated expansion upon a generic moon worship introduced by another culture. Which other culture? Atlantis, as it is popularly known. Plato named the culture, though its true title is lost. It occupied land from the still-standing island of Santorini, across to its northern neighbour Crete. When the volcano occupying Santorini blew in 1500 BC, it took that shelf of land with it, probably wiping out much of Crete and causing a diaspora. “Atlantean” moon worship could well have been carried with this diaspora to Greece, where Atlantean refugees would surely have sought haven. But how could a similar thing occur between Africa and England? If Atlantis was nearly as advanced as we are led to believe, then they could have managed it with their excellent seacraft. In fact, long-distance seafaring had been established by civilisations known to us five hundred years earlier than that. When Joseph of Arimethea sailed to Europe following the Crucifixion, he was breaking no new territory. And Druidry was well established more than two hundred years before Christ.
However, Atlantis was merely the tail-end of a remarkably adept and complex society. Ancient sea navigation charts, copied in the 16th Century, show the Antarctic coast as free of ice. Antarctica is known to have been frozen stiff since around 4000BC. Charts of the same origin show a landbridge across the Bering Straits that has not existed for 30,000 years. For thousands of years before history, there were men and women who straddled the earth, infecting far-flung places with worship patterns that we now consider generic. Perhaps the Sun-King pattern, which reaches its apotheosis in Jesus Christ — himself deliberately attached to the iconography of the sun god Mithras by Emperor Constantine — begins in the heart of Africa, the cradle of life on Earth.
Another question arises — how could that race of First Travellers have communicated their ideas to others?
Two points; firstly…have you ever listened to children talking alone? It is a truly eerie experience. When I still lived in London, I would visit a woman who baby-sat three children. One was a year old, and couldn’t yet talk comprehensibly. Another, eighteen months or so. The third was nearly three. Alone, thinking no-one could hear, they babbled happily, all three, in what we would call babytalk. All three understood everything said. Perfectly. Sometimes, the youngest would babble some gibberish at me. The oldest could actually translate what the baby had said. I felt like an alien…or maybe that they were aliens. They confidently spoke a prehuman language. It had limited expression, but it was definitely a language.
Second point; it has been established that all world languages stem from about a dozen root sounds. Those dozen sounds, mildly corrupted though they may be, carry essentially the same meaning in all world languages. Remember also that language is shaped by culture, social forces, not by some mythical Babel.
We forget that prehuman language when we grow up — rigid laws and social forces suppress the base language and supplant a wider, living, but endlessly corrupt modern variant.
Our First Travellers would not have undergone this re-education. They spoke the language they were born with, like a computer preloaded with software. And, as they travelled the world, strode the Bering Bridge and strolled across the crisp, grassy shores of Antarctica, they would have communicated with every other human they met.
A land of dreams has been lost to us. And you see how, in seeking to build your own dream, you have been prefigured by centuries of similar hopes. Of course, I don’t think this foul little ritual with the chickens and the underwear was quite going to do the trick. You have made rather a mess. There is blood on my suit.
Come with me. Your innards and my oak tree have a pressing appointment.
Next week, back on track. More weird career announcements due in the next thirty days, too.
I can be contacted by email about this column at firstname.lastname@example.org. My terribly beautiful website, updated today and now containing an online store (carrying most things listed in INSTRUCTIONS) and a 24-hour rolling news service, is http://www.warrenellis.com.
INSTRUCTIONS: Read A HISTORY OF UNDERGROUND COMICS by Mark James Estren (Ronin Publishing, 1989) listen to INFECTED by The The (CBS, 1986) and hit WHITEOUT artist Steve Lieber’s website at http://unrewarding.com/steve/. Today’s recommended graphic novel is, in fact, WHITEOUT by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber (Oni, 1999). Now begone.