July 14, 2023

#08-326: The Green Man

A Green Man disgorging foliage (Wikipedia)

Note: This charming legend personifies nature and gives an ancient basis to the modern push for ecological awareness.

Get Ready: Do you think it's important to be "good stewards" of the earth and its occupants? Why or why not?

From Greece to the British Isles, all across Europe, traditional architecture has included a figure commonly called the Green Man. It depicts the face of a man with leaves growing around it, and sometimes even out of it. Some claim he was a sort of pagan nature god, or protector of the creatures of the forest. Others say he's specifically Christian. There are also modern stories about him, neither Christian nor pagan, but instead focusing on his ecological function. Here's one such story.

There once was a prince who thought the nearby forest--and everything in it--belonged to him. He could fell any tree, quarry any rock, drain any body of water, and even kill any animal he wanted.

The people, though, said the forest belonged to the Green Man, who cared for the forest creatures and for nature itself. The common folk would put out food for the Green Man in winter, as we do for birds today. In the morning it would be gone. (Of course, cynics would say the animals had eaten it, as there wasn't enough forage in the forest at that time of year.)

Anyway, one year the proud prince was out hunting in the woods when he became separated from his men. It being a hot day, he decided to bathe in one of "his" ponds. But he didn't see the hand come out from behind a tree and take his clothes, nor hear his horse being led away.

All he had left was a piece of rope and some leaves to make a kind of skirt. Ashamed to seek out his men, he found a nearby cave, which contained a goat that gave milk and a hen that laid eggs.

And so he began helping animals in trouble, scaring off those who would encroach on the land, and generally becoming a kind of custodian of the forest. One day he saved some children from an attacking boar, and one of them asked, "Are you the Green Man?" After thinking a moment, he replied, "Well, I guess I am!" After all, he had been eating the food the people had left out in winter!

After many years, he happened upon a young man bathing in the same pond where he had lost his clothes and horse. Thinking quickly, he did what had been done to him, and as he rode away in a new suit of clothes a new Green Man was born!

He returned to his palace a wiser and more caring prince, and the forest and all its denizens benefited from the change.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. boar
  2. custodian 
  3. cynics
  4. denizens
  5. drain
  6. encroach
  7. fell
  8. forage
  9. pond
  10. quarry
  1. food; provisions
  2. trespass; go beyond proper limits
  3. a small lake
  4. inhabitants; residents
  5. chop down
  6. doubters
  7. take the water out of
  8. a wild pig
  9. dig out rocks
  10. caretaker

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 14, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. j; 3. f; 4. d; 5. g; 6. b; 7. e; 8. a; 9. c; 10. i