chapter  2
32 Pages

What Historians Say About the Origin and History of Writing and Numerals

Primitive man was happy, except when hungry, Rudyard Kipling assures uso In the beginning, man could neither read nor write, but then events conspired to bring about the invention of the alphabet. Just what happened exactly? In his lust So Stories, Kipling (1902/1989) told of a fishing expedition that a young girl, Taffimai, makes with her father. During the expedition, her father's spear breaks so they are unable to catch carp in the river. Taffimai thinks to herself that it is such a pity that she does not know how to write. She then sees astranger approaching, which gives her an idea. She scratches a drawing on a piece ofbark from a birch tree asking her mother to send a new spear. Taffimai gives the bark to the stranger and tells him to deliver the message to her mother. The drawing is misunderstood and the stranger is unable to explain its meaning because he does not speak the same language as Taffimai's tribe. The mother thinks that her husband is in danger and summons the whole tribe to help him. Confusion reigns, but when it has died down the chief of the tribe congratulates young Taffimai for her idea of transmitting messages. He predicts that the day will come when this great invention will be known as writing. He claims that although the system now consists only of drawings, one day they will be replaced by letters, "twenty six to be exact," which would not be misinterpreted as the drawing had been. The chief of the tribe then wams Taffimai that the next time she wants to communicate by me ans of drawings she should make sure that someone speaking her language can interpret the drawing.