Marysville, United States

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ONCE there was a scholar who wandered away from his home and went to an Emmet village.

There stood a house which was said to be haunted.

Yet it was beautifully situated and surrounded by a lovely garden.

So the scholar rented the house,

One evening he was reading, when several hundred tiny knights suddenly galloped into the room.

They were astride horses the size of flies.

Accompanying them were hunting falcons and dogs the size of gnats and fleas.

They rode to his bed in the corner of the room, and there they held a great hunt, with bows and arrows.

The scholar could see them quite plainly.

They capturedt a tremendous quantity of birds and game, none larger than a grain of rice.

When the hunt was over, in came a long procession with banners and standards.

They wore swords at their side and bore spears in their hands, halting in the north-west corner of the room.

Next followed several hundred serving-men.

These brought with them curtains and covers, tents and tent-poles, pots and kettles, cups and plates, tables and chairs.

Still hundreds more servants carried in all manner of fine dishes, of the finest quality,

Hundreds more ran frantically to and fro, guarding the roads and dispatching messages.

The scholar gradually accustomed himself to the sight.

Although the men were so very small he could distinguish everything quite clearly.

Before long, a bright colored banner appeared.

Behind it rode a personage wearing a scarlet hat and garments of purple.

He was surrounded by an escort of several thousands.

Before him went runners with whips and rods to clear the way.

Then a man wearing an iron helmet and with a golden ax in his hand cried out in a loud voice:

“His Highness is graciously pleased to look at the fish in the Purple Lake!”

Whereupon the one who wore the scarlet hat dismounted his horse and, followed with a retinue of several hundred men, approached the saucer which the scholar used for his writing-ink.

Tents were put up on the edge of the saucer and a banquet was prepared.

A great number of guests sat down to the table.

Musicians and dancers stood ready.

There was a bright confusion of mingled garments of purple and scarlet, crimson and green.

Pipes and flutes, fiddles and cymbals sounded, and the dancers moved in the dance.

The music was very faint, and yet its melodies could be clearly distinguished.

The table-talk, shouted orders, whispered questions and calling out names, could be quite distinctly heard.

After three courses, he who wore the scarlet hat said: “Quick! Make ready the nets and lines for fishing!”

And at once nets were thrown out into the saucer which held the water in which the scholar dipped his brush.

From the ink was caught hundreds of thousands of fishes.

The one with the scarlet hat contented himself with casting a line in the shallow waters of the saucer and caught a baker’s dozen of red carp.

Then he ordered the head cook to cook the fish, and the most varied dishes were prepared with them.

The odor of roasting fat and spices filled the whole room.

Without warning, the wearer of the scarlet hat in his arrogance, began to amuse himself at the scholar’s expense.

He pointed to him and shouted: “I know nothing at all about the writings and customs of the saints and wise men, and still I am a king who is highly honored!

Yonder scholar spends his whole life toiling over his books, and yet he remains poor and downtrodden.

If he could pledge to serve me faithfully as one of my officials, I might allow him to partake of our meal.”

This angered the scholar.

He took his largest book and struck at them.

They were scattered and sent wriggling and crawling out of the door.

He followed them and dug up the earth in the place where they had disappeared.

There he found an ants’ nest as large as a barrel, in which countless green ants were wriggling around.

The scholar calmly built a large fire and smoked them out.

The Myth of the Gold Mining Mountain Ants.

This myth comes from The Histories of Herodotus.

A passage found in his book talked of a place in the far eastern part of the Persian Empire, somewhere north of modern day India. Furry ants larger than foxes, but smaller than dogs lived in great numbers.

According to the myth, these ants inhabit a dry desert land.

They lived underground and when they went topside their fur was covered in golden sand which was then quickly gathered by the locals.

Herodotus was widely known to have been very liberal with his facts.

Scholars of history for over a thousand years, have largely considered most of his work to be fictional.

As a result, the story of the gold mining ants of Persia was relegated to the realms of myth.

Oddly enough, Herodotus was right, sort of.

The gold digging ants were not really ants but marmots, or groundhogs.

Herodotus had almost no grasp of the Persian language.

When he was told of the “ants” he took the Persian word for it literally.

The Persian word for marmot literally translates as “mountain ant”.

On the Dansar Plain of Pakistan, near its North-West border with India, Minaro villagers had gathered gold from the sand dug out by the marmots excavating their dens, since the earliest beginnings of the Persian Empire.

For more than two thousand years people who read Herodotus’s book were picturing nightmarish images of hairy giant ants living in vast underground networks.

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