Suspended high in the trees of the Redwood Forests of California, the dense canopy woven together with blackberries and vines is filled with plants and animals only seen by those brave enough to climb these old growth giants. This wonderful ecological niche is the natural home of our friends, the Toves.
Rumors of these wonderful beings have been with us since the dawn of time, however, even today, many people have never met a Tove. But I have seen and talked with Toves on many occasions and every spring and summer the same Tove family, the Quix, visit my garden to harvest snails and enjoy my husband’s home- made potato bread.
Since I have a touch of telepathy and synesthesia, I have been able to learn the Tove language. One day while talking to my friend, Shrume Quix, she explained to me about their unusual bodies. After telling tales of how Quips and Meeps, two proto-Tove Tricksters, gathered parts from other beings to add to their own bodies, Shrume described and demonstrated her acquired parts. As she said, “duckbill platypuses are an animal by committee. We Toves are an animal by acquisition.”
Starting at the top of her head, she explained.
Here’s to the Top
The waving tendrils on top of a Tove’s head are called filiforms. Filiforms are used for mental sharing and hearing sounds. Humans would call this telepathy. Two inch long and hair-like, the filiforms are attached directly to the Tove’s brain. Toves also use filiforms as accents to their spoken words and for passing of sensory information. When using them for speech, the filiforms, much like human face muscles, form hundreds of combinations that pass meaning to another Tove. Easily damaged, a Tove will pull them in and close his tams when he is flitting through the trees or in battle. When at rest, a Tove will let his filiforms wave in the breeze sifting the thoughts and mood of his environment. Before Toves were given world citizenship, their filiforms were used in posh restaurants in Tove Noodle Soup. Hunted for their filiforms and other body parts, many Toves were slain. Schrume told me the sad story of Mimsy in the borogroves.
Shake It Up Baby
The nose of a Tove looks like a miniature elephant trunk and although like elephants, Toves have an exceptional sense of smell, the trunk is of no use for grasping. Easily scratched and torn, Toves shape napkin ring-like decorations called scopples around their noses to protect the delicate skin. A talented Tove can shake the scopples which clack like castanets and blow through his nose to make oboe-like bow-woomping and horn-like hooting sounds. This shaking is referred to as Dissonant Percussion and is a tactic used in battle to confuse their enemies.
While enjoying a spot of tea in my backyard, Shrume Quix told me more about how she and other Toves were put together. Carefully running her claws through her filiforms, she then lowered them into her head and closed her tams. When she did this, I was no longer able to understand her even though she clicked and clacked her teeth. Then she opened her tams and the filiforms rose from her head.
On top of the head, tams surround the filiform opening. Tams are hinged bone pieces that can be pulled closed creating a tight protective cover over the filiforms. Originally, before the acquisition of filiforms, the tams were part of the skull and were never part of another being.
Seeing is Believing
Tove eyes are on short pleated stalks that can be pulled flat to the head. When the eyes extend, pleats called crimples unfold and the eye moves like a rotating gun turret on a tank. Since the eyes move individually, Toves can see in all directions at once. Toves oil the crimples daily, rubbing the oil into the creases. Given a choice, they will use warm acorn or hazelnut oils.
The irises of Toves are beautiful shades of amber, mahogany, emerald and sapphire. In the dark the huge pupil expands and Toves have eyesight better than humans, although not as good as normal night predators.
It’s On the Tip Of My Tongue
When at rest, the tip of a Tove’s long tongue hangs out his mouth, and like a snake, tastes the air. With practice a Tove can snap out his tongue and catch a fly in the air. All Toves have a wide lipless mouth and, except for three sets of back molars on each side, sharp pointed teeth. The front teeth are used for tearing and are a primary weapon when fighting. Their back molars are, of course, used for grinding hard foods like nuts and grains.
The Rest of Me
Toves stand on their long hind legs and use their tails for balance. They run and hop like dancers when they want to cover a short distance. I was fortunate to attend a Tove coming-of-age celebration in the town of Honefoss in Buskerud County, Norway where hundreds of Toves gathered to dance in joy while others bow-woomped and hooted to the music of the river Begna. After the celebration, the Toves and the human population of Honefoss trekked to nearby Lake Tyrifjorden to enjoy a day of fine foods and merriment.
Ever tried climbing a glass mountain or run up and down a tree? It is not an easy thing to do if you are human. But Toves have a trick up their fingers and toes when they climb and jump. You would think the structure of their wonderful hands and feet would be enough, but the pads on the tips of their fingers and toes have thousands of setae or hair-like structures that are split on the ends. These setae curl into microscopic cracks in a surface and provide a thousand times more contact, giving the Tove traction and grip. When the Tove releases pressure, the setae straighten and the Tove releases his grip. Although the setae work well when dry, if they get wet they loose their ability to grip. This is only a minor inconvenience to a Tove, since along with the setae, the Toves long fingers and toes are all opposable. This allows the Tove multiple ways to grasp a branch. Adding to this, a Tove has retractable claws which snap out when she lands on a tree branch and retracts when he jumps. Like their crimples, Toves oil their ruby red claws so they will slide smoothly and silently.
Another interesting fact about Tove hands and feet are the number of digits. This may vary from three to six and even the same Tove may have four fingers on one hand and six on the other. Since Toves play rough, sometimes they may lose a finger or toe to injury. One of the attributes acquired from amphibians is the ability to regenerate the digit, so sometimes you may see a Tove with a finger or toe stub.
Tove families and clans vary in size and weights from barely two feet to over four feet. The taller and heavier Toves are usually recruited by The Queen for her guards and armies. Since the lighter, smaller Toves are better able to sneak through vegetation, they are often used as scouts for The Queen’s troops. All these positions are considered a high honor by The Queen, but some Toves are not happy when they receive this call to duty.
Like the Alaskan Malamute, an undercoat and an overcoat cover a Tove’s body, except for around the face, hands and the feet. The undercoat is fine and silky and mats or clumps when it gets wet. To a Tove, this is what it is supposed to do for like wool, the undercoat provides insulation when either wet or dry.
The long hair of the overcoat not only is coarser, but is usually a different color than the undercoat. This coarse hair is one to two inch long and provides protection to Toves, as they flit through the branches. It also is like thousands of cat’s whiskers in that it provides a sense of spatial positioning as it touches the surroundings.
Both the undercoat and overcoat comes in many shades from ivory and creamy white to gold and deep rich mahogany. Toves may dye their hair with berries and vegetation. This is done for either decoration or as camouflage for sneaking through the forest.
With all these differences in Toves, some humans presume there are problems between the clans and families similar to those harbored by humans. On the contrary, Toves, themselves, have no problem with their differences and just see it as an individual uniqueness.