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I'm trying to track down a short story I read, on paper, at some point between (very approximately) 1980 and 2000. It was set during the neolithic (aka first agricultural) revolution, the "wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement", to quote Wikipedia.

Unfortunately I can remember very little of the plot. Two key characters were a girl or woman, who wanted to settle and grow crops, and a boy or man, who wanted to cling to the old hunter-gatherer ways. Stereotyped, I know, but there you go. I think the man may have been named "Bam" or "Bann" or something like that.

The key phrase that sticks in my memory is the man saying to the woman,

"Nothing can grow without a strong arm to protect it."

Googling around this has not turned up anything, sadly.

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  • Is this sci-fi / fantasy? Oct 16, 2014 at 20:32
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    @ChrisB.Behrens that's a really good question! I have (now) read what I think is the relevant meta thread and I think community consensus would rule this question in, but... /shrug. As a marker, I would guess that Jean Auel's Earth's Children series would be on-topic here - it's certainly filed in the matching section of bookstores - and what I'm seeking is in the same subject area of fiction.
    – AakashM
    Oct 16, 2014 at 21:01
  • It's an interesting question. I mean, to a degree, it's definitely SPECULATIVE fiction, but only because of the limits of our knowledge, rather than the limits of our understanding of reality. I love this kind of fiction, and I upvoted irrespective of this question... Oct 16, 2014 at 21:48
  • I’m voting to close this question because mundane real-world historical fiction is off-topic, even if it is set in a poorly documented time and place or based on a limited understanding of history.
    – Adamant
    Feb 2, 2023 at 22:43

1 Answer 1

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Ahoy, AakashM-2014. It is I, AakashM-2023 with what I am sure is the answer to your question.

In 1973, John Christopher (of Tripods fame) wrote a short novel titled Dom and Va, also known as In the Beginning. In 1982 he published a short-story adaptation of the same tale, and called it In the Beginning. Confusing huh. From the blurb of a single-volume edition of the two of them, we have:

In the beginning, many, many years ago, there were two tribes. Dom [you were close!] was a boy from the hunting tribe, and Va was a girl from the farming tribe. The two tribes fought, but that couldn't stop Dom and Va from falling in love.

I eventually found this work by phrase searches, dropping various words from the phrase you remembered, until I landed at this google books reference:

https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/_/Jan5CAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA194&dq=%22nothing+can+grow%22+%22strong+arm%22

"But what I said was true. Nothing can grow unless a strong arm shields it."

Having read this single-volume edition, I can now say that this phrase appears only in the novel, not the short story adaptation (the plot of which is different in some key points). It is on page 194 out of 214 in this printing.

The book is set earlier than the Agricultural Revolution, I think, although I also think anthropological thinking has moved on since it was written, making it hard to know exactly when it's set. Don's tribe eat their meat raw, having not yet tamed fire, while Va's tribe keep domesticated cattle - I'm not sure that it's now believed that these two peoples could coexist.

Being subjective for a moment, I will say that the novel is... not great? And the blurb isn't exactly accurate about the events described. The short story is even worse, written in an oddly telegraphic, almost Simple English way.

But the identification question is solved, at least.

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    Why wouldn't it be on topic? Prehistoric tales have always been included in the marketing category known as "science fiction". Do you want a list of examples from the SF magazines of the 1930s, or from the classic anthologies?
    – user14111
    Jul 20, 2022 at 17:48
  • @user14111 see the comments on the question
    – AakashM
    Jul 20, 2022 at 19:08

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