The Sylvan Historian


There are not the sounds within the forest that there used to be.

Though the Historian can conjure up all that was – the poplar children, shy yet bold, the ageing men within the oaks, the rowan women who pretended indifference – this is but the virtue of a mind wed to the past.

And what the Historian conjures, like the lightest of veils, drifts away when a wind sweeps past without a mutter of leaves or the scurrying of small things.

The leaves have fallen, and the forest is empty. Though an interloper in the present, the Historian forces her passage through this lonely place, resisted at every step by the echoes and by her own singularity, which paints her like the crimson cardinal calling out from his branch.

Yet if the forest fills again, for a brief time sheaves of paper might make her a cardinal in truth.

The Historian finds her hill of paper beneath the bare bones of a willow, an ancient lady who disappeared as her tears dried. The papers are coloured for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They are impervious to the wind that slips through brittle boughs, and they do not fade with sun or melt under the rain.

Here the Historian takes her pen and writes through the growing cold and heavy quiet. The papers flit in and out between her hands, filling with once-plentiful sights and smells, sounds and omens.

Ice forms without acknowledgement, for she is the last being in the forest.

The Historian reaches, and there is not another paper to be found. As she looks up, it is as if there is nothing to see and nothing to hear, nothing but a blank canvas of trunks and earth. She is dazed and her hands ache; yet the papers are ready for their sleep.

She sighs, and lays herself down.

There are not the sounds within the forest that there used to be.

For Lucy, the Sylvan Historian

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31 comments

        1. It is possible, I can’t deny it! I’m about 70% done a novella which grew out of an earlier story, and it never would have happened if people here on WordPress hadn’t said that it should be part of something larger!

          Lily

  1. WOW! This is fantastic! I love the line “The Historian finds her hill of paper beneath the bare bones of a willow, an old woman who disappeared as her tears dried.”….. what a journey it’s been to read this piece. 🙂

    1. I felt like I could never to justice to whatever she might write of the forest, for future people to find. So I didn’t try to sketch out what she would say, hoping that readers might imagine some things greater than I could make up!

      Lily

  2. Wow Lily! I feel so honoured to be mentioned alongside this beautiful piece of writing. It definitely did remind me of Middle Earth and all its ethereal sadness, hinting at the glory of ages gone. As always, your imagery is haunting and deftly phrased. I love the stillness you capture within the forest, which would usually be a place of life and sound. I’ve never really thought about Sylvan Historian as a character or an entity before, but she is perfect.

    -Lucy x

    1. The name “Sylvan Historian” sort of took off and I ran along with it! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      I was thinking of the empty forests in Middle Earth when the elves sailed away, and things went from there. It was a lot of fun to write!

      Lily

      1. That’s exactly what I was thinking of! If you’ve read the appendices of LOTR, there is a description of Arwen after Aragorn’s death, which I was reminded of whilst reading this:

        ‘But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star…she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lorien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees under winter came…There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.’

        It’s gone 1am, must stop quoting Tolkien and go to sleep!

  3. I love what you evoke here especially: ‘Here the Historian takes her pen and writes through the growing cold and heavy quiet. The papers flit in and out between her hands, filling with once-plentiful sights and smells, sounds and omens.’ Such lyrical writing, which really helps create a powerful atmosphere.

    1. Oh boy, it really seems like I should be making this into something! I’ll try to finish my current WIP first though 🙂 Thank you very much John, I’m glad you liked it!

      Elizabeth

  4. I just love it… It’s magical and would easily blend into more. Sorry I haven’t been by much lately… I thought I was following you, sorry I wasn’t. I’m trying to go back and read those I missed while mom was in the hospital… I’m slow. Love this though!!! 😀

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