Fictional detectives are getting very exotic these days, even historical, but I do not think any of them has ever been prehistoric. Not, that is, apart from Ug son of Thog, the Stone Age detective whom I introduced some years ago and who is on the comeback trail with this new tale: "The Case of the Priest's Mother".
Ug had been out all day hunting for badgers, which were a favourite delicacy of his wife, and also much easier to catch than deer, and was surprised to find when he returned to the village that everyone there was wailing and weeping, including his wife.
"Ug," he said to his wife, meaning, Stop all that silly noise and take these badgers home and cook them in that delicious way you do badger, and incidentally, why is everyone making this wailing noise?
"Dug," she said, meaning that the mother of the priest had been found dead and everyone was being sorry about it.
"Trig?" said Ug. That didn't mean anything at all. It was just the priest's name. Trig was the man who communicated with the gods on behalf of the villagers, offering up their prayers to the gods when they wanted sunshine or good hunting, and bringing back the gods' apologies when it was not forthcoming. Ug sometimes wondered why they bothered with gods whose chief talent was for making excuses, but he did not dare to say anything out loud as criticism of the gods was punishable by death.
At that moment the people of the village saw Ug, son of Thog, and called to him to come and see the body of Trig's mother, as he was well known to be interested in death. She was lying on the edge of the woods. Trig was weeping over her. He looked up and saw Ug.
"Wug," he said, meaning, poor old mother, she was good for a few years yet, but unfortunately a branch fell out of a tree and bashed her head in.
Ug examined the body. Then he looked at the branch, which was indeed big and bloodstained. Then he looked at the ground all around.
"Woh," said Ug.
What did he mean, he did not think it was an accident?
"Lig," said Ug, pointing. He was right! Where the branch had broken off was a clean break, and the wood was good. It had not fallen off. It had been pulled off on purpose.
"Lig," said Ug, pointing at the ground.
Everyone gasped again!
The muddy trail on the ground showed quite clearly that the body had been dragged there from somewhere else. But why?
"Pog," said Ug.
What? To make it look like an accident? Because someone had bashed her on the head elsewhere and dragged her under the trees to make the falling branch story look good?
Several people found it so hard to follow this reasoning that they fainted.
At that moment the tribal chief appeared, holding several copper rings, and gave them to Trig the priest.
"Deg," said the chief. Ah, yes, of course! Trig had been making regular payments into the village fund, as they all did, so that when one lost a valuable relative, compensation was available.
It was a good system.
"Zig," said Ug, meaning, yes, but it was also a bad system, because it tempted people to kill their relatives to get compensation, as had happened in this case, because Trig had clearly killed his own mother.
"Tag," said Trig angrily, meaning, you bastard, I'm going to kill you for that, or at least get the gods to kill you. This was a tactical error, as the tribe saw it as an admission of guilt and promptly lynched Trig the priest for matricide.
"Pag," said the chief warmly to Ug, meaning that if he were not mistaken, Ug had just solved the first life insurance scam in the history of the world and could he offer him a drink?
"Nog," said Ug, meaning, thanks, unfortunately he had to get home for a badger supper, but maybe later.
Another Ug son of Thog case coming soon !
The Independent Tues Oct 25 05