Novgorod or Veliky Novgorod, is one of the major historical cities of Russia, and it started out as a trading station for the Varangians who traveled from the Baltic region to Constantinople by (possibly) late 10th century AD. But as it turns out, this historically significant settlement of northern Russia is also home to around thousand personal ‘tomes’ that are inscribed on bark of birch trees and are almost preserved in perfect condition. In fact, historians hypothesize that there are 20,000 similar specimens still waiting to be salvaged from the conducive anaerobic clay soil layers of the city environs. And among these documents, there are doodles of a 7-year old boy, thus suggesting how childhood imagination and playfulness were quite universal in human history.
The sketches we are talking about hark back to circa 13th century AD, and they were made by a child named Onfim. It seems daydreaming and heroism-fueled reveries intervened with this 7-year old boy’s spelling lessons, so much so that he went on to draw himself as an imposing warrior with a sword and spear, after just writing the first eleven letters of his alphabet in the upper-right corner. And on closer inspection, one could also discern the horse upon which the ‘hero’ is mounted, along with the extended spear slaying his adversary – while the label of ‘Onfim’ makes the artist’s name clear.