Thing Letters

Literacy for the illiterate

In the absence of a good common written language, the Lankani populace have developed their own way of personal communication. These are the thing letters - letters made up of things, not words and bound together by intuition, not grammar.

Note; The Thing Letter concept was stolen from a short story by Rudyard Kipling the English name of which I do not know. Many of the things and their meanings were lifted from GURPS Religion from Steve Jackson Games.

Thing Letters - the concept

A thing letter is a small bundle of items held together by or in some container - a large leaf with a string will do. The items within can be interpreted to have some collective meaning, usually the message is very simple, something that could be expressed in a single sentence in English.


When interpreting thing letters, there are some important major components. First, there is the container. The nature of the container itself may or may not be significant to the message - in general, if there is a small piece of material inside the letter that in some way is directly related to the nature of the container, the container matters. Second, there are the items within. Most often, each single item will have its own symbolic meaning. However, if there are several of one single type of item, the meaning changes. The number of items signifies a time of day.

Telling time

As put forth above, the quantity of any single type of items speaks of some time of day. In the simplest variant, counting the number of items tells what hour of the day it is. In another variant, there may be up to two different items involved. The biggest item signifies the quintar and the smaller item signifies the hour within that quintar. Further, days can also be given by specific items.

Interpreting items

Below is a list of items and their meanings. Note that many items have several meanings, the reader often has to rely upon intuition to decipher the message.
Life, fertility
Death, sickness
Journey, travel, traveller
Evening or night
Egg or part of an egg
Hope, creation
Speed, flight
Flower, white
Married, marriage
Hair, long
Hair, short
Vengeance, death
Love, affection
Clergy, priests, leaders
Salt, spice
Instability, untrustworthiness
Spice, salt
Heavy burden, hardship
Artisan, craftsmanship

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Last modified: Fri Nov 14 23:13:02 MET 1997