They were all around me, murmuring and swaying. Though I was frightened at first, I soon realized I had nothing to fear, at least not yet. They made no move toward me, and most of their low, slow speech seemed simply to be in agreement with what the old oak had said. Some of them at least heard my story as I told it to the beech, and the rest seemed to be passing it along to the others. All around me there was a gentle sound with voices in it, not unlike a breeze through the leaves, but with words in it. Once I got used to it I thought it rather pleasant.

After a time I turned again to Old Man Oak and asked, "How will you help me with shelter? If all the trees of the forest are alive, with spirit and soul, how shall I make my shelter? Must I dig a hole in the ground and crawl into it?"

There was a sound among the trees I took for laughter. "Root and twig, no! You need not dig," said Old Man Oak, "not unless that suits your kind, as it does some creatures, like the badgers and the dwarfs. Not all of the trees are talking trees. Indeed, most are not. But you are in a special place, a wonderful place. This is the Western Glade. It is not far from here where this Kingdom of Narnia was founded, not far from here where the Tree of Protection once stood. And a child of your own world sowed the seed for that Blessed Tree, perhaps. For are you not a Son of Adam? Are you not from the world of men? This clearing has been used on the first full moon of spring and autumn for all the years since that time. The moon will be at her full in six days, and we have begun to gather from all over Narnia for the great dance.

"Help you we can, and help you we shall. We know which trees to cut, and which to leave stand. Many a tree have I watched from when the acorn fell to the ground. And other help will be called, help that can give more than just good advice, help with two hands and strong, and help with strong teeth and eager. For this is a land where we indeed help our neighbor, and even the sojourner and stranger as well, providing he behaves himself."

I thanked him sincerely, though I was not sure yet what I was thanking him for. At this point, the promise was all I had, but it was more than I began the day with. It also seemed apparent that I had lost what I thought to be the perfect place for my little cabin, since it was obviously a very special place to the trees. Old Oak seemed surprised by my assumption that my clearing would somehow be off limits for my shelter. "Why should you go elsewhere," he asked, "unless of course you don't like dancing and merriment. But that only happens twice a year. Besides, the Western Glade is larger that you know." He made that funny sound again that I thought was a laugh, or a chuckle. "You have only seen it when all of us are here. It is much larger without us."

At that point one of the other trees, a young sapling of a birch, interrupted the old oak. "But Master," he said to the oak. "Shouldn't we send him down the great river? Why should he live here in the woods? The great castle at the shore has been empty all these many years. Is this not a son of Adam? Are not our kings all sons of Adam? Should he not be King?"

Now, for the first time since learning that the trees could talk, I was truly scared. You may not understand it, since for many men, to be king is all they long for, but for me it was a frightening and unwelcome prospect. The other trees began to murmur with one another again, and in that sound I could occasionally hear the words "king" and "castle." I began to panic. I began to protest! I wanted no part of being a king. Old Oak tried to quiet them as well, but they would not listen to either of us. The other trees began to sway and dance around us, a very solemn dance, and began to sing a song about a king. I stomped and screamed, but all in vain.

Above the din of the talking trees I gradually became aware of another sound. It was the sound of hooves, getting louder, approaching. I could not see far, due to all the trees gathered around me. The sound was like that of a great draft horse, heavy and firm, but quicker, like that of a fiery stallion. The trees parted, making an open lane, and down the lane toward me, and toward the great oak he rode. I had never seen anything so magnificent in my life. He came slowly down the lane, and all the trees became silent before him. He stopped right in front of me, but did not look at me. Instead he spoke to the old oak tree.

"Mighty Oak," he said, "old and wise: many years have you and I shared this land, and for long we have served at council together, for your concerns and mine are for this great land that Aslan has created for his people. Today our concern is for this one whom Aslan has sent to us from the world of Adam's race. This one you have before you, son of Adam though he be, is not to be a king in Narnia. I am a seer and a prophet. I speak with the stars and observe their great dance, as do all of my species, for it is the gift of Aslan to us. Many years and many trials shall pass before Cair Paravel is a royal habitation. The acorn that takes root today shall be full-grown before that joyous time occurs. This is not the man. This is not the time."

All the trees were completely silent. Not a breath of air was stirring. He turned his face toward me. "Hail and welcome, son of Adam! You may not be a king in Narnia, but you shall have good fortune nonetheless. Help is on the way and shall arrive soon. I have sent for it myself. I am Evening Thunder, centaur and prophet. Hear what I say. You shall outlive the acorn that takes root today and many of his descendants as well. You shall see the Royal Banner over the Cair Paravel, though it be from afar. It is true. I have spoken it." Then he turned and began to gallop back down the lane, but turned his head and shouted in a deep voice, "we shall meet again, son of Adam!"

There was a breathless silence as he disappeared down the lane, and then all began to speak at once. And almost instantly beneath and between the trees there were other voices. "We have come," they said. "What is the job," said others, while still others said, "where is this son of Adam, and what does he need." There were creatures of all kinds, some that I knew immediately: dogs and rabbits, beavers and bears, moles and squirrels. There were dwarfs, bearded, gruff of voice, and bearing great burdens of tools and supplies. There were some that I would not have known, for there are none such in my world: fauns and satyrs. And all had come to help, all apparently sent by Evening Thunder.

Old Oak immediately began to explain my situation and what I would need. I soon felt almost as if there were nothing for me to do. Old Oak showed them where I had first staked out my cabin, but advised moving it many yards back toward the "real" woods, to leave more room for the great dances. The dwarfs and the beavers made short work of cutting and shaping the timber needed for the job. The bears and the squirrels and the rabbits kept everyone supplied with food. The cabin turned out larger than I had planned, and nicer than I could have made it myself. Dwarfs are wonderful craftsmen and eager to work, as I quickly learned. Indeed, all who came were busy and bustling and there was not an idle hand or paw to be seen.

As night approached I assumed that everyone would go home, but nobody did! Everyone stayed, and when they stopped working for the day, they all joined in a great feast with bonfires, wonderful foods, and plenty to drink. I asked what the occasion was, since their great dance was nearly a week away, and was told they were celebrating because I was there. I couldn't believe it! And I almost couldn't take it! I had lived alone for several years, and had done everything for myself. To be suddenly surrounded by so many people, and especially people bent on doing everything they could for you was both strange and difficult. I was trying to explain my feelings to those I was seated with, when a young faun named Tumaus said, "well, you are a Narnian now, and this is the way of Narnia. You will just have to get used to it."

Copyrightę2001, John Nelson



Copyright © 2001 John Nelson, Hermit of Lantern Waste.
Created - March 25, 2001 ~ Revised April 21, 2001