An Anatolian tale: Wild Drummer of the Apple Village

In May 2021, as I was thinking “what shall I do for the 12th birthday of my daughter Elif Sumru, what shall I give to her as present?”, an idea came to my mind: I could write a short story whose heroin is a young girl like Elif Sumru. So I sat down and wrote this fairy-tale-like story in three days (originally in Turkish, titled “Elmalı Köyün Vahşi Davulcusu”). I wrote it in only three days but all the details of this short story has been on my mind for quite a long time.

Picture by Elif Sumru Kütükçüoǧlu (my daughter), for chapter 5

Latest events in the normally quiet Apple Village have confused 12-year-old Elint, who was called “Curly Nettle” in the village because of her curly hair and sharp tongue:

What was the Wild Drummer, a forest boy, trying to tell the people of the village with these words?

You’re all obsessed with apple and only apple,
You don’t see the other blessings of the forest.

Most of the village people, including Curly’s father and the village teacher named Meticulous, were against the Wild Drummer. They thought, this wild jungle boy should not to be allowed into the village. Who was right and who was wrong? Should she follow the majority, or should she try the understand and defend the Wild Drummer?

Did the Teacher really teach everything that needed to be learned, as his father said, or was there much to learn from Doctor Oma and Taleteller Opa, from others, and from the forest?

What should be done with the giant of a boy Stone-Head, who couldn’t bring two sensible words together and broke his school desk with a punch of his fist when he got angry? Was the Teacher right in wanting to expel him from school for good, or did the Stone-Head, who couldn’t express his feelings verbally, had a golden conscience that had to be understood?

Curly was terribly confused. Would she be able to make sound judgments and find the right path?

***

In this story, Wild Drummer tries to protect the forest, which he views as his homeland, from the ever-expanding apple plantations. He also rebels against the “monoculture of the mind” (a phrase by Vandana Shiva who has always been one of my prime inspirations).

This is a story for families and children who are not content with just school knowledge, and attach importance to ecological and philosophical consciousness. Read this story and have your children read (or hear) it too. You will see that this short story will be the subject of much discussion.

The book will be available for sale, first in three languages (Turkish, English, German) as soon as my daughter Elif Sumru has completed its pictures –a picture for each chapter– probably until February 2023.

Chapters of the story:

  1. Apple Village and Curly
  2. At School
  3. Taleteller Opa
  4. The Bet and Doctor Oma
  5. Cury was confused and restless
  6. The demonstration of Wild Drummer
  7. Scriber talks with his daughter
  8. Village Council takes important decisions
  9. Epilogue

You may send your opinions about this story to my email address “tuncalik1968 at gmail dot com”. The English translation you see below is my own; it is not yet edited and improved by a native English speaker. Suggestions for language improvement are also welcome.

Written by: Tunç Ali Kütükçüoǧlu, December 2022

First two chapters of the story:

1. Apple Village and Curly

Picture by Elif Sumru Kütükçüoǧlu (my daughter), for chapter 1

One upon a time, about 2000 years ago, there was a village in East Anatolia by the Euphrates River that was famous for its apples. Surrounded by steep mountains, dense forests and difficult passages, this village was quite far and isolated from the other villages of the region. Everyone in the region called it “Apple Village”, because this village was known for its very neat and well kept apple orchards. Green, yellow, pink, red, spotted and unspotted, all kinds of apples were successfully grown in the magnificent gardens of this village. Named simply “pink” in the language of the villagers, pink apple was the most demanding variety that had become an symbol of prestige and wealth in the region.

Because it could grow even rare and delicate apple varieties like the “Pink”, all other villages of the region looked at Apple Village with envy, and wished “one day, our village must be as distinguished as the Apple Village”.

Every year, large markets and stalls were set up in the closest city of the region. And every year, Apple Village was the undisputed star of the fair with its rich varieties of apples including the prestigious “pink”, apple wines, vinegar and apple pies.

Settled on the banks of the generally calm Euphrates, neat and tidy apple orchards of the Apple Village spread over the entire valley as far as the eye can see, before the wild mountains began with their forests, bears, wolfs, foxes, wild goats and pigs, leopards, tigers, deer and antelopes, squirrels and other wild creatures.

The village had a long history, with many generations of people coming from different parts of the world. As people multiplied, the village grew together with its apple orchards that almost reached the foothills of the high mountains that ended the valley. As the village grew, the green and cool forest of the valley that hosted so many wild creatures became smaller and smaller.

The continuous expansion of the apple orchards along with the number of families and houses meant prosperity and progress for the people of Apple Village. Especially Pink was a symbol of wealth. Because growing Pink required lots of knowledge, care, water and fertilizer, those families who can grow pink apples were considered the upper-crust of the village; they often looked on families who couldn’t grow pinks with disdain and contempt. Pink-able families proudly displayed their Pinks in wooden boxes that were placed in front of their houses, implying “you see, we are such smart and wealthy people”.

One of these upper-class families was the family of Elint, a 12-year-old girl.

Apropos Elint… In this village, everyone was given a strange name ending with syllables like “int”, “ent” or “ant”, like Elint, Ilant, Valent and Melant. Only these strange names were included in the official records of the kingdom that ruled over the whole region and therefore collected taxes from the villages. But no one in the village used these official names; everyone was called by a proper nickname.

Elint’s nickname was “Curly Nettle”, because she had dark curly hair, and she had a quick-witted tongue that was sharp and burning like a nettle. She was usually referred to as “Curly”, but she instantaneously became “Nettle” when she angered someone with her sharp tongue.

Curly’s best friend was “Windy Mane”. She had very long auburn hair like Rapunzel, and she was tall and leggy. She was the fastest running child in the village; even the most agile boys couldn’t keep up with her in the chase and catch games that were very popular among the children of the village. Windy Mane was also Curly’s schoolmate. They always went to the school in the village square together, and sat next to each other at the school.

In Apple Village, every child over the age of six had to go to school every morning, except for some religious holidays of the year. The school consisted of a straw-roofed pavilion with stools lined up in rows, and small and low desks in front of every stool. Students learned reading, math, astronomy, history and most importantly, “apple care” from the middle-aged teacher whose nickname was “Meticulous”. Sometimes, Meticulous took them to the apple orchards around the village for hands-on training.

2. At School

Picture by Elif Sumru Kütükçüoǧlu (my daughter), for chapter 2

The topic of the lesson that day was the pink apple. Teacher “Meticulous” explained the principles of growing Pink for hours, repeating again and again the 20 features that distinguish “Pink” from other apples varieties.

Leaning on Windy Mane’s ear, Curly said: “Uuuff! Meticulous has taken too long again; I wish, he finishes soon so that we can finally go to Taleteller Opa.”

Windy Mane: “Alright. First to Taleteller Opa, then we’ll go to Doctor Oma. Remember? She will tell us the story of the sage plant today.”

Meticulous: “Pssshhh! How many times must I tell you not to talk while I am lecturing? If you go on being disrespectful like that, don’t ever come to school again! Now, everyone should say a feature of Pink. Fox, you say first.”

Fox was an absent-minded boy with a fox-like face, but he was not at all alert and cunning like a real fox. He used to daydream during the lessons, and often, he didn’t hear the teacher at first try. Realizing that Fox was again staring at his desk with dreamy eyes, the teacher shouted angrily:

“Fox, I’m talking to you, tell me a feature of Pink. I have repeated these features so many times here.”

Fox: “It needs lots of water.”

Meticulous: “Well, finally you could wake up. Know-it-all, you tell me, what else feature does Pink have?”

Know-it-all: “Pink is very sensitive; easily gets sick.”

Know-it-all was the favorite student of Meticulous. He always worked hard, and absorbed everything Meticulous has said like a sponge.

Meticulous: “Well done again Know-it-all, that’s it. I wish, you could all be like Know-it-all. Now, you tell me Naughty, what else feature does Pink have?”

Naughty: “Pink is very sensitive; easily gets offended.”

Though small in size, Naughty was a weird sarcastic boy who was afraid of no one in the world, including the teacher. He was always full of surprises; no one could guess, what he would do next. No one knew of anything he took seriously in life. No one and nothing could scare him; not even the tough and spiteful boy “Despot” who was the head of the notorious “Gang of Five”.

Meticulous: “Don’t be kidding Naughty, you will get a sound beating again! Have I ever mentioned such a feature? I’m tired of you, I will report you to your father again. Despot, you tell.”

After waiting deliberately for a while with a sinister gaze directed at the teacher, Despot replied as if he was doing him a favor:

“Can’t stand the drought.”

Even though he thought to himself “Fox has already said that”, Meticulous swallowed his words before they came out. Even the teacher was afraid of the vindictive Despot. Everyone in the village knew, he forgot nothing, not even the slightest wrong done to him. One day, sooner or later, he would take revenge in the most bitter manner. Thus, concerned about his personal safety, Meticulous turned to poor Goofy to take his anger out of him:

“Goofy, it’s your turn.”

Goofy: “Easily gets sick.”

Meticulous: “It was already said, you idiot, don’t you ever listen to the lecture? Conceited, you tell me.”

The son of the richest family in the village, Conceited was, as his name implies, was a conceited and unpleasant boy who looked down on everyone except Despot. He was one of the most vicious members of the notorious Gang Of Five led by Despot. Just like Despot, he found pleasure in scaring, torturing and humiliating other children of the school at every opportunity. But he did all these evils under the protective wings of Despot. When alone, he was quite coward and unconfident. Apart from Despot and Conceited, the other members of the Gang of Five were Arsonist, Pickpocket and Bone-Breaker.

Conceited: “Compared to other apple varieties, Pink trees must be planted sparsely because they can easily get diseases from each other.”

Meticulous: “Well done, Conceited. Now, Stone-Head, it’s your turn.”

Truly living up to his name, Stone-Head was already as tall as the teacher, but much broader than him, was a giant of a boy. He was extremely robust and strong. Everyone in the village wondered, what he would look like, when he was fully grown. His big head that widened from top to bottom was attached directly to the body, ignoring the necessity for a neck. His shovel-like hands hung down the sides of his huge body at the and of his long arms. He had thorn-like thick hair, a narrow forehead, a huge chin, thick arms and legs of incredible strength. He was more like the child of a terrible giant living in an unknown country, than the child of a human being.

When Stone-Head stared at his desk and didn’t make any sound, the teacher repeated his question:

Meticulous: “I’m asking you, Stone-Head, don’t you hear! Tell me about a feature of Pink.”

Stone-Head, who looked very stiff in his seat, produced a strange growl but no one understood what it meant, since it was unlike any known human language.

Curly, again leaning on Windy Mane’s ear: “I don’t understand why this blockhead comes to school. Do you think, he understand anything lectured here? He hasn’t even learned how to speak yet, and no one has ever heard a meaningful word coming out of his giant mouth. I think the name Stone-Head is too light for him, he should be named Rock-Head”.

Hearing Curly’s whisper, all other children of the class began to laugh and shout in unison: “He is not Stone-Head, he is Rock-Head!”

Stone-Head turned red with anger, and shattered his thick wooden desk that stood in front of him with a sudden blow of his giant fist. Horrified by this incredible force that could shatter even such a solid desk, the whole class fell suddenly silent, and looked at the teacher wondering, what he would do next.

Meticulous: “Look into my eyes Stone-Head and listen carefully: Don’t ever come to school again if you don’t bring a brand new desk for the one you have just smashed. You all can go home now, it is enough for today. Don’t forget to repeat and memorize what I have told today.”

If it were up to him, the teacher wouldn’t have accepted Stone-Head to school at all. He obviously didn’t understand the lectures, and he couldn’t reply to any question other than emitting a grunt. It wasn’t even clear whether he was deaf or not; until this age, no one had ever heard him speak in an intelligible language.

Meticulous did not understand, why this brainless cub of giant came to school with such stubbornness and persistence. Now this human caricature had gone beyond every measure and smashed the school desk with his bare fists.

The teacher had brought this issue multiple times to the administrative council of the village. Although almost everyone in the village agreed with him, two people, who could somehow convince the director of the village every time the matter was discussed, opposed him persistently: One was Taleteller Opa, the other was Doctor Oma. They said:

“If Stone-Head wants to come to school, let him come. We cannot know what goes through his mind, what he understands and learns. These are things only he himself knows. He obviously makes an extraordinary effort to learn something even though he knows that everyone finds him strange and out of place. That is important and valuable.”

Meticulous didn’t understand, why the village director attributed so much value to the words of these two ancient charlatans of the village. He thought, they had nothing to teach the people of the village, except for useless sophistry and fairy tales. Every important and valuable issue that was worth learning was taught by him at the school. He hated to see children running to these old charlatans at every opportunity, to listen to their fallacies, old wives tales and superstitions. Once, Curly had asked the following question in the class:

“Teacher, they say the world is round like an apple. Is that right?”

Meticulous: “Who fills your brains with such nonsense! Haven’t I told you last month that the world is flat like that wooden table?”

Curly: “Taleteller Opa told me. When I asked then Doctor Oma, she confirmed it.”

Meticulous: “Listen to their tales, but do not ever believe them. In fact, it would be much better if you didn’t listen to them at all, because these fairy tales steal the time you need to spend on your lessons and repetitions. Besides, they confuse your little brains.”

Thereupon, Curly had impertinently asked Teacher the following question:

“If the world is flat, is this an endless flatness? If not endless, what is at the end of this plain? If we take one more step forward there at the end, will we fall down?”

Music of chapter 6: Wild Drummer is coming!

“Wild Drummer is coming!”, the music that I composed for the 6. chapter of the story

A section from the 6. chapter of the story:

Meticulous, the teacher, had intended to finish the lesson early before Wild Drummer came, but while he was quickly telling the details of irrigation, drums already started to sound from afar.

Thump and thump, thump and thump…
Thump and thump, thump and thump…
Thump and thump, thump and thump…

The drumming got stronger as it got closer. The teacher hurriedly said to the children, “Okay, class is over, go home quickly, quick!”.

But the children moved rather slowly because they were curious about what was going to happen. The Gang of Five went immediately to the village square and started collecting stones around the trees.

Suddenly, the jungle boy, dressed in dirty rags, appeared on one verge of the village square. He was drumming loudly as usual, shouting the same verses again and again:

You’re all obsessed with apple and only apple,
You don’t see the other blessings of the forest.

This time, however, there was something new in the sonorous demonstration; three wolf cubs were following the Wild Drummer in a single line. The people of the village, gathered around the square like watching a theater, could not believe their eyes when they saw the young wolves. Everyone began to murmur to each other: “See, this time he dared to bring the wolves into the village”.

About tuncali

I began keeping aquariums as early as I was nine years old. Since then, I kept many aquariums and lots of fish, plant and invertebrate species. My favorite fish family is of course cichlids with their fascinating behaviors. My relatively new area of interest is low-tech natural aquariums as almost self-sufficient ecosystems that are I think ideal models for sustainable life.
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1 Response to An Anatolian tale: Wild Drummer of the Apple Village

  1. tuncali says:

    This is the music that I composed for the first chapter of my short story “Wild Drummer of the Apple Village”. I wrote the notes of this music with Dorico software. The composition is not yet completed (audiomack/tuncalik)
    https://audiomack.com/tuncalik/song/vahsi-davulcu-1-bolum-muzigi-28122022

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