About Farksolia, part 1

Barbara began to formulate her imaginary world of Farksolia when she was a few months shy of nine years old—shortly before she began to write her first novel, “A House Without Windows.” She worked on Farksolia for several years, developing the language of Farksoo with its extensive vocabulary and mysterious alphabet.

Barbara described her new world in an essay (undated, but probably when she was nine, in 1923). Excerpts of the essay appeared in Harold McCurdy’s “Barbara: The Unconcious Autobiography of a Child Genius,” but I thought I’d transcribe the whole thing. Here’s the first part.


Farksolia is a separate planet from the earth, and much more interesting. The planet is about twice the size of the earth, and the Farksolians are about twice as highly developed as we are. Or, at least, they were. The Farksolians all agreed, in almost everything. They were all vegetarians, and above anything else they all agreed to live in one big city so that the surrounding landscape would not be spoilt by houses. So that they did, all except a few of the poorer folks. Sheheritzade is the name of the city where they lived. There were eleven queens over Farksolia and all of them were great people. But those queens are grouped in two classes, the queens before Atee, and the queens after Atee. These two groups were of entirely different dispositions. The queens before Atee had their minds always on the goodness of the people, rules that would make them better, and though they all loved ruling and making rules, they all loved beauty also. They could never quite make the people good enough or kind enough and always they tried to make the people as beautiful as the woodlands around the forest, and tried to make the people love these woodlands, and also they tried to make the people love the sea and swim and bathe in it, and rejoice that they were alive. All this the queens before Atee tried to make the people do and be.

Then after Atee all was changed. This was during the Farksolian war and so of course all was changed. Queens Lazade, Herazade, Chrysothemis and Perizade were always urging the warriors on. Such brave men, and such handsome men! They fought hard with the friends of Queen Atee long after Queen Atee had herself passed. But I cannot go on talking about wars and warriors without explaining what it was all about. Queen Atee, the seventh, was chosen because of her beauty, but when she got to ruling the people all decided she was too fierce, turned on the people who had chosen her, and Queen Atee, herself and friends, and she had many friends. But after the war had passed, the people had overcome Atee, they found themselves extinguished greatly. In fact there were only two families living, with one queen, Perizade, the last. Then Perizade died, and that ended that. The people were sorry that they had gone at Queen Atee at all, and had a hard time struggling along. One family now has a little boy about six years old, and the other family a little girl, about six months. I hope and I want a lot of people to hope with me that the two children may marry and breed the race again. Here is the order of the eleven great queens: Bruwanderine, Lacee, Ibirio, Flitterveen, Rooeetu, Liassa, Atee, Lazade, Herazade, Chrysothemis, Perizade.

During the reign of Bruwanderine the people were a little lower in life than we are now, but they developed much faster than we did and during the reign of Liassa, the sixth, they looked back on themselves as savages. Then they were quite a little higher than we are now. They loved the sea (I will tell about the sea, presently) and they had wonderfully developed body organs. The most marvellous thing about the organs is the way the nose is developed. They can hold the breath for ten minutes, and of course they are wonderful swimmers and divers. Sometimes they can breathe slightly under water, and the wonderful nostrils can deliver to the lungs the small amount of air under water, only it is very rarely that a Farksolian is found with a nose quite so highly developed. If one of them breathed in about two lungfuls of salt water the body would sink. Now if the body was quickly pulled out of the water the Farksolian would be unconscious for about half an hour. But if the body was left in the water the Farksolian would drown. They are built much more strongly than we are and are prepared for much more serious work during their long life. They marry much younger than we ought to, sometimes as young as twelve or thirteen, but more commonly sixteen or seventeen. If we married so young we probably would be very weak and unable to take care of  a family. But the Farksolians marrying at sixteen or seventeen are much better wives or husbands than we are if we marry at twenty-nine or thirty. If they marry at about twelve or thirteen, they are as good as we are marrying at twenty.

Now about the sea mentioned above. It is about two thousand miles from Sheheritzade, and the sea itself is about twice the size of the Pacific Ocean. It is a wonderful sea, oh a wonderful sea, and when the sun dances on it it shows up wonderful colours, blues and greens and golds. The sand on the beaches is fine and very white indeed. This sand will show off anything that is swept up on it by the waves, and makes a beautiful background for things that look trashy on our yellow sand. In this sea are very beautiful little fishes marked with alternative bands of blue and gold.

On the other side of this magnificent sea there is a huge plain which extends all along the shore of the sea. There are about two inhabited houses on the plain and about one uninhabited house. Over this marvellous plain run strange, brown little wild animals. Over this plain fly beautifully and gloriously birds with magnificent gaudy plumage. Over this plain fly butterflies with richly coloured wings. All the birds and butterflies on the plain are very beautifully coloured. Wonderful slotched [sic] of colour.

About Farksolia, part 2

Barbara painted several watercolors depicting her imaginary world.

Continued from About Farksolia, part 1.

The Farksolians were great people for inventions. Almost every one of their thirty-six hour days they invented something. One of the most important days was when one invented the marvelous mail system that they had. In the middle of the city was an electric mail station. From it ran underground passages to each house in the city. The person that wished to send a letter or a message, writes it out, puts it in the passage, pushes an electric button, and off shoots the box through the passage, to the mail station. The man which receives the letter takes it out of the passage and sends it along the underground passage which leads to the house to whom the letter or package is addressed. In the mail system there is a great closet full of cabinets in which are piles of boxes, so that if one was lost it was easy to replace it, and at the station the men were manufacturing them all the time, for they were lost very often. The envelopes to the letters were very varied indeed. For letters containing valuable things the envelopes were sometimes of metal. Though this precaution was not necessary, considering the fact that none of the men at the mail station were cheats, for they were thoroughly tried out by the queen before they were allowed to go into the business. For notes containing less valuable things are made out of hard beautiful wood, and for notes containing hardly anything valuable the envelopes are made simply of the papery substance that the notes are written on.

The wires of the mail system run along the ground and people walking very often come upon little boxes running along the wires. You usually step over six or seven wires in a single step. The boxes are made of metal. In the winter, when the snow blocks up the passage of the boxes the wires are hoisted from the ground by means of poles.

Another important invention was that of the writing instrument, which, of course, came before the mail system. The invention of the writing instrument was like this: It was a hollow piece of wood sharpened down to a point, and filled with thick, green sap of a certain tree, which is used for ink. Up on the end of this pen that you hold there is a small rubber button, and to wet the sharpened end of the pen you press this button a little and the ink trickles down over the  point by means of a little hole just above it. Then when the point gets dry again just press the button again. Sometimes these pens are made of metal but that is quite rare.

The snows of Farksolia have many peculiarities. To begin with snow cannot rest on the trees, and the reason for this is because the sap of the trees is unusually warm and the snow melts away from the warmth of it when it touches the branches through which the sap flows. Also the snow cannot rest under the trees for the outspreading branches throw down a great heat to the ground. Therefore the mountains look much greener in winter than they would otherwise though of course not as green as they do in summer. The leaves of the trees do not fall much in winter and this is another reason for making the trees greener in summer, and even then where they fall vines which grow green in winter twin around the trunks and limbs and take the place of the true leaves of the trees. Though on the great plain the snow level sometimes rises to twenty feet and the Farksolians from Sheheritzade start when the first snow falls and go across the great ocean to the plain in the same machine that they use for coming to the earth, for the sake of the snow. Then when the snows stop falling the Farksolians take a machine which they have hidden on the plain and fly back over the ocean to the city. This journey they can take in about two days.

The Farksolian trees are very peculiar, as I said before most of them are warm-sapped. Nature has planed quite definitely for a green winter. Then there is a special variety of warm-sapped tree and it is this that has the thick dark sap which is used for writing. Though, of course, it has to be cooled before it is used for that purpose. Then there is danger of getting it hard, and when this is done there are two ways to cure it. One is to heat it up and melt it, after which you have to be careful again, about not letting it get hard when it is cooled, and two is to put a bit of water in it, fresh water. Of course, this thins it out more or less, and it is then not so good for writing purposes. But when it is put in a vial with a tight metal cork it stays in the same condition. Then there is another kind of tree whose sap, after going through many processes serves as salt, being rather bitter. It is warm at first, then it is hardened and ground into fine powder. Then a certain food is dipped into it to be eaten.

The foot described is a plant with a stalk almost an inch in diameter. When it is peeled and appears on the food board, anybody would say, “This is the same old food,” and it does look much like celery. Then you dip it in the “salt” from the trees, bite into it, and instead of its being like celery as you supposed it has a funnel down the middle full of red sweet juice, delicious. One of the favorite foods in Farksolia was a fruit. The Farksolians loved fruit. One of the fruits, their favorite, was grown on a beautiful tree with pink and white blossoms, very delicate looking. Then in the fall the blossoms drop off and a beautiful fruit appeared in their place. At first they are green, then turn to a beautiful frosty colour. And the rind looks much like frost, for when you look at it carefully you see all sorts of delicate little patterns all worked in silver. Then when the silver rind is peeled carefully off it revealed silver pulp, and little boxes of the core which are filled with purple and red juices, of all flavors and all sweet. The silver rind is cooked and drunk. Then another food, is a rough brown nut which is very common in the district of Sheheritzade, with a white kernel very sweet. Something like our Brazil Nut. They have a fruit with a yellow soft rind, inside of which is the juiciest pulp of any other fruit. Then there also is a fruit in a green rind with a little pale hard stone, inside of which is a sweet white kernel.

To be continued in About Farksolia, part 3.

About Farksolia, part 3

Continued from About Farksolia, part 2

The Farksolians had a peculiar cloth something like our crape, but not so heavy and not so rough. The eleven queens were supposed to be all dressed alike, in blue dresses of this material, with some leaf patterns in white, and a white upper part. Then they also had a material much like our silk only much softer. The handmaidens dressed usually in this material usually blue and white, and beautifully draped. The Farksolians uniformly were dark with reddish-brown hair, the young girls not putting their hair up for a long time. Each handmaiden of any queen had to wear an ivory bracelet which the queen presented her when she won service as a handmaiden. This was a true royal sign and no one else was permitted to wear that kind of bracelet. If a handmaiden outside the palace grounds asked someone to walk with her and the person mistrusted the handmaiden, why the handmaiden would only have to show the bracelet and the person might be sure that the girl was a handmaiden.

If Earthans went to Farksolia they would be sick; first from breathing the air. This is because the air is so thin that when you breathe naturally too much flows through the nostrils and into the lungs, it flows so freely there. The breathing movements of a Farksolian are hardly noticeable, and there is no swelling and rising of the chest and stomach in a Farksolian, at least not so much. Then you would be sick from looking at the sea and the sunset, you are so unused to the colours. Probably you would be sick from looking at the sky and from tasting the curious foods. But you would be used to it in no time.

The Farksolians have no division in time such as weeks, months, and years. All the division they have is a division something like seasons, longer than months. There are eight of them and the fifth is the loveliest of all. The first is snow beginning to drip; the second is buds and flowers coming, and warm weather; the third the yellow and crumply grass straightens itself and grows green; the third and fourth are much alike, more blossoms coming and still warmer weather while the birds and butterflies begin to come in the early third. Then the fifth comes with grass at the height of six inches while there is a wonderful wind blowing–a strong wind which blows through you marvellously, but not that cold fierce wind which pierces your bones. The grass in the fifth season is rich and warm and pale green, the flowers are at their highest beauty and haven’t begun to drop, the butterflies fly and sail, the sky is bluest, the sun shines more on the waves and they are a wonderful blue, all the world seems to be at its most beautiful period. Then in the sixth season the grass is much greener, dark green; it is cold and a few of the leaves come off. In the seventh season the grass turns yellow, a few more leaves blow off, but the temperature remains the same–about thirty by our thermometer. Then in the eighth months or season all the snow and ice comes. It is truly a wonderful series.

The Farksolians had one goddess, Virodine, who had charge of everything. They worshipped her more than any living creature. They would even sacrifice their lives to please her. They worshipped her marvellously on these mountains, which were around the city, the sacred Sheheritzadian mountains.

Now about the formation of the Farksolian constellation and stars, or at least some of them, seeing that they have many more than we have. The biggest and to some opinions the most beautiful constellation is called “Peen Flitterveen.” Now “flitterveen” is a Farksolian word meaning “butterfly” and the constellation has the form of a large butterfly showing  perfect wings and long graceful strings of stars curving outwards for the feelers. And the strangest thing about this constellation is that all the stars of it are of a golden colour, a marvellous golden [end of page: next page missing]

To be continued in About Farksolia, part 4.

More Notes on Farksoo

The Farksolia/Farksoo folder in the Columbia University archives is very full but there are unfortunately important pages missing. Also, the archives do not include the card catalog entries of Farksoo>English and English>Farksoo words that Barbara describes in her correspondence.

Barbara wrote a brief manual on the structure of the language, and here are two versions of it: an early, very-nearly-complete one and a later, not-quite-so-complete one (pages 4 & 7 are missing). The last page in the gallery is a List of Grammatical Words and Symbols.