The Girl asked if we could play a game one night, and when I asked what kind, she said, “Historical charades.”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of historical charades, I said. “Well, you wouldn’t; I made it up just now,” she said.
The rules were that we had to enact something from the medieval period, and the results were fantastic:
- I started out by pretending to ride a horse, and getting something in the eye, and she guessed it – Harold at Hastings.
- She made shoving, chopping and falling over gestures, and then shoving away and chopping again, but I never guessed the answer: Henry VIII’s wives.
- I acted like I was putting on robes and writing, and she easily guessed monks. For her turn she replicated my gestures and then acted like she was screaming and swinging a sword, and I laughed and guessed Viking raiders.
- For my last turn, I acted like we were rocking to and fro, and sending birds away, and she pondered over it for a while. Soldiers sending carrier pigeons? Barons training falcons? All good guesses, I said, but it’s Norsemen sending ravens from their boats, seeing if they would return.
“Oh, right!” she said. “They let a raven loose because they’re smart and will try to find land, but they can’t land on the sea, so if they don’t find anything, they would have to come back to the boat.”
Right. In fact, I told her, reading history like that gives me new insight into some old stories. As a child, I was taught that Noah let one raven after the other from his ark, and they never returned – my Sunday school teachers said that he almost lost hope until the dove showed up.
Now that I’m reading history with The Girl, I realise they were reading the story all wrongly. When the ravens never returned, they knew some of the world had survived. No matter what happened to the world, there was still life somewhere, and with life there was hope. Hope didn’t come from the doves, the angelic symbol we all love. It came from the scroungers, but it came all the same.