The Family on Stage in the Americas
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A Synopsis of “In the Beginning” by Humberto Constantini
I was first attracted to this short story by the simple beauty of its language. It is an epic; a story which tragically re-creates the slaughter of the last of earth’s ancient men, the Neanderthals. This story, much like Genesis in the Bible, is a story of origins and dispossessed people. However, unlike Adam and Eve, the peace-loving families of the Neanderthal community are not cast from their Eden-like homes because they have fallen from God’s grace. The Neanderthals become a dispossessed people when warrior like strangers invade their land. These strangers, called Cro-Magnons, come as hunters in pursuit of wild horses. Without provocation these fierce strangers slaughter great numbers of unsuspecting, friendly Neanderthals. It was a slaughter that was to last for hundreds of years. Increasing numbers of Cro-Magnons crossed the borders from the east in search of wild horses, and occupied the lands that formerly housed families of Neanderthals. The Neanderthals sadly retreated, seeking safety in the recesses of the distant valleys. But the Cro-Magnons continued to advance, killing the ancient cave-dwellers as they pursued the herds of wild horses, forcing the last surviving Neanderthals to flee from their homeland. The leader of the small band of Neanderthals, a man called Grug did his best to protect the remaining few. But the appetite of the warriors was great and they continued to slaughter the Neanderthals until only five survived; Grug, his two wives and their whelps. Grug fled with his family to a crag high up in the mountains. Here the family hid for several days. Their mountain perch gave them a clear view of the valley below. From there the frightened family watched as the Cro-Magnons slowly ascended from below. Grug and his wives knew there was no escape. On the morning of the sixth day Grug picked up his stone ax and murdered his wife and children. Standing with bloodied ax in hand Grug became a true tragic hero. Instead of waiting meekly for death, Grug cries out in rage and attacks the approaching enemy. Driven by rage Grug kills many Cro-Magnons before he dies. He has, by his last actions, redeemed himself and the memory of his people.