Some years ago I wrote down a story that my husband dreamed, when he was 9 or 10 years old, which seems to fit the theme for the upcoming 50th festival of trees: through a child’s eyes so I thought I would re-post it.
The woodcutter’s tale
Once upon a time there was a village of woodcutters. It wasn’t a large village but it was close to several forests and the inhabitants had naturally become woodcutters and had cut down trees for centuries. In the fullness of time, due to an increase in demand for wood, they had cleared the forest and replanted it but the new trees had not grown well and now the woodcutters were all out of work. Only one forest remained untouched and legend had it that it was enchanted and therefore dangerous to go into; so nobody ever did. Some of the woodmen sought work elsewhere and some stayed and did other things and the village became very poor.
One day, a woodcutter travelling from another area, arrived in the village and saw the enchanted forest and did not understand why it was still there. The villagers patiently explained that the forest was enchanted and nobody dared enter it. The new arrival scoffed at this and thought he would have a bit of a laugh. He didn’t believe in enchanted forests so he made himself a grotesque mask and declared to the villagers that he would show them that he could go and cut down some trees and that nothing would happen to him. So he strode off to the forest. At the edge he put on his mask and walked in among the trees and, a short while later, strode out again. All the villagers, seeing his grotesque face, fled in terror. He thought this was hilarious and made his way into the village.
By now his face was getting sweaty from the heat of the mask so he walked up to the water fountain in the middle of the village and took off the mask to wash his face. When he looked in the water to wash his face, his face under the mask was exactly the same as the mask he had just removed…
Thinking about this story reminded me of how many of my childhood books were about trees. One of the most memorable was Enid Blyton’s “the faraway tree” about a host of characters living in a tree and the illustrations in Cicely Mary Barker’s little book entitled “flower fairies of the trees” never ceased to enchant me. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet have many adventures in the woods and Edmund famously makes his entrance into the woods of Narnia through a wardrobe. JR Tolkien’s “the hobbit” and “lord of the rings” also feature adventures in the woods and meetings with tree creatures.
Trees capture the imagination in the way that ordinary flowers do not. You can climb trees, sit in their branches hidden away and watch the rest of the world go by, swing from their branches, dig under their roots and investigate the lives of all the animals, birds and insects that inhabit trees.This huge magnolia tree near the harbour on the Greek island of Kos is home to hundreds of feral cats – in the evening the cats come from all around to “roost” in the branches like so many birds.