Once upon a time an unlearned man from the plains made his first journey to the seashore. Walking along the beach, he espied a seagull, wheeling high in the sky, plummet to the ocean, hit the water, and flap skyward again with a fish in its beak. Shaking his head in astonishment, the man ambled on down the beach.
As he neared a promontory, the breeze carried a cacophony of seagull cries to the man's ears. Rounding the point, he came upon a huge humpback whale, washed by the waves to the shore, and a great host of gulls lunching on the carcass.
"Golly," the man whispered in awe. "A bunch of them goldarn birds must've swooped down, yanked that big fish outta the water, and drug him up here on the sand so's they could eat 'im."
A stickler for detail, renowned for his honesty, the man measured the whale. "Fifty-three paces! Holy Cow!!"
Sitting in the sand, he thought. Back home his village was engaged in intense rivalries with neighboring villages. All the villages perceived ivory as being very valuable. It was their custom to dye the hard white substance green for use in trading and ornamentation. Life was tough. Ivory wasn't easy to get. The villagers went to extremes, often killing one another, to obtain it.
Although uneducated, the man was clever. It didn't take him long to decide to catch several pair of these marvelous sea birds and return home where his people could domesticate them for use hunting elephants, which are much smaller than whales.
"Jeez," he exclaimed happily, weaving a net to trap some seagulls, "these little fellers could get us a heap of rhinoceroses too, they're even smaller than elephants." The villagers valued rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac, so the man fell to his knees praising and thanking his God for visiting such good fortune upon his people.
Tucking half a dozen pair of seagulls into a sack, which he carefully shouldered, the man set off on the long trek back to the plains. The delicate nature of his burden made his journey extremely arduous, but his faith was strong. Along the way the man prayed to his God. Sometimes he counted his blessings in terms of green ivory and rhinoceros horn. Finally he arrived home with the birds still alive.
Immediately he summoned his people together. "Brethren," he began. Pausing, he cleared his throat to better expound the glad tidings. "Our God has sent us a Savior, redemption, and deliverance from our enemies." Reaching into the sack he drew out a seagull in either hand. Tenderly holding the travel-weary birds aloft, he declared, "In the person of these wonderful critters is the substance of Our God's promise for the redemption of our village, and the hope of the life to come."
At first the people were skeptical. The man could sense it. Quickly he related the high points of his visit to the seaside. He told of watching gulls dive into the waves and snare fish. He told of the "fish bigger than five elephants," and how he had seen the winged hunters feasting upon it. Then he related his idea of training the fowl to hunt elephant and rhinoceri for the enrichment of the village.
Due to his well-established reputation for honesty, no one questioned even the slightest word of the man's narrative. The village fell to its collective knees, singing Hosannas to its God. They began to dance in joyful anticipation.
"Brethren," the practical man reminded. "Our task is but begun. We must now be about the work of Our Lord." Reluctantly the dancers stopped, and industriously the people set to work, round-the-clock, constructing a majestic Gullarium in which, to the glory of their God, they would propagate a large flock of seagulls.
And it came to pass that, when the Gullarium was completed, the seagulls died.
At first there was much lamentation and gnashing of teeth. The adventurous soul who had trekked to the sea tried to mount an expedition to capture more gulls. But the witch doctor, who also happened to be the duly elected administrator of the village, and a financial whiz, had an idea.
"This scoundrel deceives us," the witch doctor accused. "He knows that these birds cannot survive the long trip. He has led us to waste energy and provisions in building the Gullarium, and now he would lead many on yet another fruitless, dangerous journey." The witch doctor continued to incite the people until they stoned the adventurer to death.
"Oh my people, Our God has given me a revelation. Our God told me: 'Stuff those birds.'" The witch doctor said. "Then we must set them upon pedestals in the Gullarium, pray to them, and He will send us a flock, numbering in the millions of billions, riding down from the clouds on thundering steeds, to bring us into the life to come."
As many faithful people do, the villagers had faith in their God, and they pretty much believed in miracles. So they stuffed the birds and prayed to them. A priest class grew out of the witch doctor's bird-stuffing revelation, and waxed very prosperous. After a time the stuffed birds rotted away, but the priest class replaced them with plastic facsimiles.
As one thing affects another, over the years religion affected some customs of the village. As the village grew the cult of Gullistainity grew. As the cult grew it split into two factions. Because the gulls had been sea birds one faction of Gullistains, the Liquidists, held to the dogma that liquid was sacred. The other faction, called Airists, believed that since the gulls flew, air was sacred.
To ritualize their beliefs the Liquidists drank a liquid concoction brewed from fermented rice and fruits. Meanwhile the Airists symbolized their devotion to air by ritually smoking an herb which grew in an area not far from the village.
The Airist herb induced a state of peace and tranquility in the mind of the smoker, while the Liquidist brew created a state of belligerent arrogance in the drinker. Owing to their belligerent arrogance the Liquidists favored plundering the neighboring villages. The pacific nature of the Airists was viewed by the Liquidists as a threat to the security of the village.
The Ruling Council of Liquidists organized enforcer gangs, legitimized by issuing little tin badges (from which the gangsters became known as "Tins").
The Liquidists seized power and, by edict, criminalized the Airist ritual of herb-smoking. Tins roved the village. At first, whenever a gangster patrol found an Airist smoking herbs they would drag the offender off to be beaten. Airists caught bringing herbs into the village were decapitated summarily. After the Liquidists had consolidated their power they began to speak of building a kinder and gentler village. Liquidist policies toward Airists altered somewhat. Instead of beatings, Airist smokers were sent to rehabilitation camps where they were forced to drink fermented rice and fruit. As Liquidist policy grew more sophisticated "due process" was added. Anyone found, after a trial by Liquidist peers, to have brought herbs into the village was given the freedom to choose between decapitation and being buried alive in a red ant hill.
The witch doctor's priest class waxed ever fatter. The Tins thought themselves to be more and more indispensable to village security. Strangely enough, so did some Airists. The villagers paid for the rite to pray to their plastic facsimiles. Otherwise the life of the villagers remained much the same; people continued to bicker and die over ivory and rhinoceros horn of various hues.