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Thag not talk much!

Mammoth by ThagThag’s year with the Drunka Grunka was drawing to a close, and he was almost ready to head back to his own tribe, the Thunka Grunkas.

His relationship with the slender and beautiful Twigla was blossoming, and his artwork was a major triumph, despite the many critics within the Elder’s council of the Drunka Grunkas. They even liked the cow, though they were most excited about Thag’s surrealistic depiction of a mammoth stomping a shaman to death. At first, the Drunka Grunka shaman, Cave-Bear-Bite-Leg-Brother, had objected to the depiction, but then Thag explained:

“Him not good shaman. Him shaman of Thunka Grunkas, Weasel-Scratch-Face-Brother.”

“Why don’t you like your shaman, Thag?”

“Him seduce Thag’s mate. Him demote Thag from leading hunters. Many hunters die without Thag lead them,” Thag amplified. “Him big phallus with ears.”

“Ah,” Cave-Bear-Bite-Leg-Brother said. “I grok.”

When the mural was finished, the Drunka Grunkas planned a festival to celebrate the artwork. A special brewing of the Drunka Grunka specialty, a delectable potage they called ‘beer’.

Thag had noticed that many of the Drunka Grunkas got quite chatty once they’d had a few bowls of their “beer”; in his experience, Thag was used to men not talking much, while the women of the tribe did most of the gossiping, gabbing, and generally keeping the lines of communication open within the tribe.

Because they had beer to supply calories, the Drunka Grunka men didn’t need to spend quite as much time hunting; in fact, they seemed to spend as much time hanging out talking as the women did.

On the other hand, the people of the Drunka Grunkas had noticed that Thag was laconic at best, and positively taciturn at worst. The Elders sent the shaman to find out why.

“You don’t talk much, do you Thag? But from your artwork, it’s clear you have a rich inner life. Why don’t you share it more?”

“Thag say something once, why say again?”

“But it would be nice if you could explain your artwork to some of the Grunkas that don’t get your art.”

Thag shrugged. “They not grok, Thag not make them grok.”

“But it would be –”

“Thag let art speak for itself,” Thag interrupted. “Besides, Thag go back Thunka Grunkas soon. He not be here to explain.”

“Fair enough Thag. When do you think you’ll be leaving?”

“Ah, soon. But now, Thag have something he do want talk about.”

“Oh, really?”

“Twigla,” Thag said, raising his eyebrows. “Her come with Thag?”

“Does she want to?”

“Yes. Her grok Thag.”

“Well, that will get tongues wagging around here; even more than usual,” said Cave-Bear-Bite-Leg-Brother. “Let’s have a beer and we can discuss it with the other Elders.”

“Thag talk on this. Yes!”

New Scientist story: Men talk just as freely as women. Mammoth pic by The Bucky Hermit. Other jabberers here. Originally published 2007.