Lady Elizabeth Barnaby is a forgotten explorer who abandoned her husband and six children under the age of 13 to live with ‘the Indians’ of South-America. She encountered several isolated village as she wandered through the Xingu with a hired guide, looking for a suitable place to settle. From her guide we know that she eventually found her new home with a nomadic people of uncertain Tupi extraction calling themselves The People. Lady Barnaby had always dreamt of becoming a writer, Conrad was her great inspiration, and she must have tried to keep a journal, keeping an eye out for future publications. There remains no trace of her: maybe she got sick and died, maybe the people she lived with had enough and got rid of her. This happened in a time cannibalism was more common than it is today. Lord Barnaby travelled after his wife hoping to take her back but he never caught sight of her. He did leave behind him a small network of informants who would keep him updated about any news about his wife that might make its way out of the forest. It is through this channel that after 25 years a badly tattered fragment of notebook was delivered by mail at the Barnaby family home in Causton, Midsomer. The handwriting was unmistakably, indecipherably, hers. Most of the writing that could be made out was devoted to a game simply called: The Game. The game board is shown above, the rules and circumstances of the game as documented by Lady Barnaby are as follows:
“Chieftain Sabino the Third taught me to play The Game today, after much hesitation and muttering. The reason of his earlier refusal seems to have been for reasons of protocol and problems of translation. Our earlier conversation that day in which I told him about the stars in the English sky also seemed to have warmed him to me. He sang the Song of the Game with long drawn out sighs and puffs while drawing the patterns of the board in the mud on the floor: a fixed but intricate design described as Milky Way Anus, but my sorry grasp of the language may be at my detriment here. Sabino showed the movements allowed to each of the pieces with finger dancing grace. As counters we used glass beads in three colours that are exchanged with the sedentary villages along the river for the bark they need for fishing.
- The first player moves a piece representing the jaguar, the second player moves the remaining 14 pieces; which are dogs.- The first and second player are opponents but they need to deal with a third player who moves a piece representing the Acua, spirit of anteater, overlord of the bestiary.- The drive is like a game of checkers, turning the houses.- The Jaguar eats the other dogs and the dogs must immobilize the jaguar by collaring it.- The Acua eats all and attempts to clear the board.- The Jaguar player wins when s/he lives at the end.- The Dogs wins when the Jaguar has been immobilized and the game stops.- The Acua player wins when all the other pieces have been devoured.”
The fragments ends unreadable but the words, ‘shamanic’, ‘kinship’, ‘pain’, ‘fun’ and ‘depraved’ can be made out.
(Post dedicated to the Maloka Elektra, Oi-Indigenista who enjoyed the readers of their blog with a fascinating snippet about a (possibly) unique Amazonian Indian board game. Read Here. This story (first draft) was inspired by their post.)