Once upon a time

Whilst carrying out research for my latest book, I have been reading about some of the world’s greatest inventions. Many are attributed to named individuals. It all makes fascinating reading. I even found a website which summarises all this information and gives me the names of the inventor, the date and place. All very helpful when writing a historical piece!

http://corporate.britannica.com/press/inventions.html

It struck me though, as I perused this list, that there is one invention, from which our modern day society has undoubtedly developed, that does not include the name of its inventor:

The Wheel.

The information given for ‘The Wheel’ is simply:

“About 3500 Russia/Kazakhstan or Mesopotamia”

It is a shame that history does not record exactly who was responsible for such a notable innovation. In fact, just as I was thinking what a shame this is, a story popped into my head and because I like telling stories I wrote it down and for want of a better place to put it, I decided to post it here.

This is the story of Abi-Eshu. (Ancient Mesopotamia circa 3500BC)

Abi-Eshu sits beneath the shade of the date tree, avoiding the hot sultry sun that scorches the ground. One ankle is wrapped tightly in cloth. The injury will keep him from helping in the fields today. He has sat here all morning, tracing shapes with a stick in the dusty ground.

Abi-eshu sits beneath the date tree

Abi-eshu sits beneath the date tree

“What is that you draw Abi-Eshu?” asks his father at lunchtime.

“They are shapes father – see, this has four straight sides, this has three and look, if I drag the stick around where I sit, like this – this is the shape of the sun,”

Abi-Eshu likes the shape of the sun. He cannot stare up at it directly of course but he can stare all he wants when he has drawn it on the soft earth. His father nods and smiles and hands Abi-eshu a rasp,

“Here, time to leave the shapes son. Take this rasp and smooth the wooden ladle your mother uses to ladle the soup. See how rough it has grown?” so saying, he leaves both rasp and spoon with Abi-Eshu and goes back to his fields.

Abi-Eshu takes the rasp and in a few swift movements has smoothed the surface of the ladle. He lays it aside and picks up a small flat pebble which he places next to his drawing of the sun. It is not as round as the sun but when he stands it on end, it rolls a little way along the ground before it topples over. Abi-Eshu picks up the stone and takes out the rasp his father has given him. If he could make the pebble rounder, would it roll for longer?

The rasp will not work as well on stone as it does on wood. Abi-Eshu throws the stone down in disgust.  He thinks for a moment before leaving the shade of the date tree and hopping across the yard, his bare foot burning on contact with the red-hot earth.  He reaches the pile of ‘things to mend’ that his father has stacked up against the little clay house. He selects a flat, circular seat that was his mother’s milking stool and decides it is perfect for his experiment.

Over the next few hours, Abi-Eshu uses the rasp to smooth the edges of the wood so that the surface is smooth. At last he sets it down on the ground and gently pushes it. The small disc turns full circle and continues to roll.

“Abi! Is that one of my best pot lids you have there?” calls his mother, seeing it roll by. Abi-Eshu shakes his head,

“No mother, it is my new invention…I call it, “the sun that rolls along the ground,”

His mother laughs and shakes a rug from which animal hairs and sand cascade onto the parched ground.

“A sun that rolls?”

“Yes, it rolls just as it does in the sky mother – see…”

His mother looks upward and sees the sun sinking slowly behind the mountain. She smiles at her only son. Tomorrow he will be well enough to help his father in the fields.

That night Abi-Eshu dreams. What does Abi-Eshu dream of?

He dreams of becoming a rich man with a fine house and enough food on the table to feed everyone. The house of Abi-Eshu’s father is modest and sits just outside the great city walls. His family is poor. Every day his father toils in the fields to bring food to the table and his mother walks miles to collect their water and wash their clothes. Abi-Eshu dreams of his invention,

“The sun that rolls along the ground.”

He dreams he is rolling it along, faster and faster until he cannot catch it. His new invention rolls down the dusty track and over the mountains and disappears.

Abi-Eshu wakes in a cold sweat but is strangely excited. He leaps up, heedless of his bad ankle and pulls out the piece of wood from beneath his bed. His eyes are shining. The pile-of-things-to-mend is lit by a silvery moon and he sees another piece of wood like the first.

As the sun rises in the East, Abi-Eshu slumbers, knees tucked under his chin, beneath the date tree. Beside him lie two perfect circles of wood, joined together by a wooden pole.

“Abi-Eshu! Wake up!”

His mother’s angry voice rouses him from a dreamless sleep and he jumps to his feet. The pain in his ankle has all but gone.

“Your father is looking for you. Today you must help him in the fields, come, breakfast first!”

Abi-Eshu sheepishly follows his mother into the kitchen and downs the chunk of coarse bread and the cup of goat’s milk that await him. He is dutiful and polite and his mother soon forgets her anger.

All day in the fields as he drags the plough along the stony ground, he thinks of his rolling-sun. He imagines all the uses it could be put to. In his head he carries images of carts and wheel-barrows. Though he has no names for them, he can see them and knows they will come.

By day Abi-Eshu works in the fields. By night he works on his invention.

By the time Abi-Eshu is a grown man, his rolling sun has indeed been put to good use and is attached to all manner of things. His father has a plough that sits on 2 rolling-suns making it easier to drag it to the fields. His mother has a rolling-sun with a platform on which she carries pots to the river. By the time Abi-Eshu has children of his own, he is sitting in a box on 4 rolling-suns and is being pulled along by horses.

Abi-Eshu has become very wealthy. He no longer sits beneath the date tree, day-dreaming. He has a new house in the city and he and his family live there in comfort.

Many years later we know the Rolling Sun as ‘The Wheel’.

Well, it could have happened that way couldn’t it?

Ok, back to my research!

11 Comments

Filed under Tidbits - the written word

11 Responses to Once upon a time

  1. Well, of course it could have. Why not?
    I envy you doing research, Deborah. It’s my favorite thing to do. I lost tons of my research when my computer crashed (lots of bookmarked sites, etc.) So be sure to back up.
    P.S. Have you ever wondered who invented the box? If you know, tell us some time.

  2. What fun! and a neat idea – isn’t this just the way all stories and inventions/ wheels come to be?

  3. Deborah! I love this! Not only is it a charming tale, you have written it down beautifully. It is so visual and filled with concrete images that I see it as a little movie in my head. Wonderful!!

    Namaste……….cj

  4. Deb

    What a delightful story! As good a possibility as any, and so fun to read.

  5. Delightful tale! Now, I can tell people that I know the woman who invented the invention of the wheel story!!!

  6. Great story Deborah. If nobody else is claiming to have invented it, maybe I could go down the patents office. I could be my wheel of fortune.

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