The Long Kodo

Kit Kuksenok
…and others.
Published in
4 min readDec 22, 2019


Call: Do you know what time it is?
Response: Yes, we know, it is the time for the Kodo.

Call: How do you know it is the time for the Kodo?
Response: The trees were [ringing] in the dark, and the earth began to [hum]; these are the parts of the Kodo.

Call: Do you remember the story of the First Kodo?
Response: Let us remember together.

This call-and-response storytelling style is common on Udur in the Dzid mountain range region. Dzid-Udur is known for its nearly-uninhabitable climate, and the necessity of its inhabitants to continuously move across regions to avoid snow-storms. As a result, the long periods of either movement or darkness, spent in large groups, are filled by turn-based collective storytelling. The longest tales can take days, with different parts of the group choosing how and when to participate.

One form of variation is the chorus of distinctness: descriptive words or phrases where typically between a quarter or half of the Udu participating replace with alternatives. The story of the first Kodo is one of the most common and short; characteristically both reflective of human custom but not featuring human characters, it explains the Udu name for an extended and patchwork chorus of any species.

Call: There was a pack.
Response: It was as many as we are.

Call: There was no leader.
Response: It was as [soft in the snow/light in the breeze] as we are.

Call: There were a few small ones.
Response: They were carried and cared for as our small ones are.

Call: This is a story of Oak.
Response: One of the small ones.

Call: Not small for much longer.
Response: He had just gotten his voice.

Call: Once he learned to use his voice
Response: He would be small no more.

Call: Oak struggled using his voice:
Response: One day it was too [sharp/brief], another day — too [violet/orange].

Call: Oak tried singing at night
Response: And the voice [got lost in the forest/forgot the way home].

Call: It took hours for the rest of the pack to fetch it
Response: “What a [strange] voice you have!” they said.

Call: Oak tried singing at noon
Response: And the voice [hid behind the clouds].

Call: All the others in the pack saw it
Response: “What a [strange] voice you have!” they said.

Call: Oak tried singing at the highest peak of the Dzid,
Response: And the voice [tumbled down the slope].

Call: The rest of the pack had to backtrack to get it,
Response: “What a [strange] voice you have!” they said.

Call: Oak tried to contain the voice;
Response: But you cannot always contain such a [strange] voice.

Call: After much effort, it got out of Oak’s throat,
Response: And it [slipped along the slopes].

Call: Could the pack find it?
Response: No, the pack were too few and too weary.

Call: What did the pack do?
Response: They all started to howl.

Call: Who heard their howl?
Response: All the neighboring packs.

Call: Could the neighboring packs find it?
Response: No, they were still too few and too weary.

Call: What did the neighboring packs do?
Response: They started to howl, too.

Call: Who heard their multiplied howl?
Response: All the creatures of the [snowy mantle],

Call: And all the creatures of the [misty fog],
Response: And all the creatures of the [frozen planes].

Call: The many-voiced howl stretched east,
Response: The great chorus stretched west,

Call: Oak’s [strange] voice
Response: [Swimming] against the multitude,

Call: [Gathering] the chorus of creatures
Response: Like needle stitching cloth,

Call: [Weaving] the many searching packs
Response: Into one strong patchwork.

Call: Little Oak’s voice continued to [tumble down the slope]
Response: But it was not lost.

Response: It had taken its place
Call: In the very First Kodo.

Excerpted from Songs from the Ledge: a Collection of Folktales and Sonic Art Practices from Dzid-Udur, collected in collaboration between E-Te’k, a renowned Terran nomadic scholar and activist, and Adem Demeda, a biocultural sociologist from Udur, and featuring a foreword by Marya Grimm, a long time friend of E-Te’k and who, as a seasoned Collector of Marks from the Dweller Planet and famed storytelling scholar, helped both E-Te’k and Demeda to apply mark-collection methods to understand the unique format of storytelling on Demeda’s home planet.*

This story is meant to be heard, read aloud, read together; anyone can begin, and anyone can choose to participate in any of the stanzas. Many regional variations have been recorded.

This fictional fairytale was part of the Lost Mail package from June, 2018 as a print book, typeset and illustrated by Cora Lee, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Seattle, WA.

(*It’s a speculative “historical” document.)