One year he did not come, and this was bad because his wisdom was sorely needed. The mountain snows had been too light. Not enough runoff was available to keep the plateau irrigated, and hauling water from the lowlands was time-consuming. Nor had the traditional cold of winter kept away insects which could damage crops.
When the Green Man did appear, he found the Plateau elders scowling over their situation. The farmers and shepherds and goatherds and mountaineers were despondent. The Green Men gave them a selection of hardy seeds from his own supply, and promised he’d return in three months’ time.
Three months came and went, and the Green Man returned to find the farmers at a loss. Sudden storms had come. The fields had been drowned. Draining and re-planting was all they could do. The previous years had been bountiful, at least. There was enough food to feed the farmers, but many couples had taken advantage of the good yield to bring new children into the world. There would be lean times, and hunger.
The Green Man heard much and spoke little. He spent much time among the children, and taught them a song from his travels. The farmers bitterly wished that he had wisdom for them instead, but in their hearts they knew there was nothing to be done. Not even the Green Man could save them. It was hopeless.
The time to re-plant came. The farmers toiled wearily in their fields. Their actions were mechanical. Their faces were stone. They retired to their homes at dusk, threw themselves down on their beds, and slept the dreamless sleep of the defeated.
One morning the farmers heard singing. They walked outside to investigate. The children were having a game of something. A procession followed along behind one girl, who wore a crown of flowers and vines. She bore aloft in her tiny hands a basket of seeds. Curious, the parents followed their children out to the fields. They watched each young boy and girl form a circle around their “queen”, who invested the simple act of planting the seeds with great formality. Then every child applauded, and laughed, and whooped. And they resumed the song, the one the Green Man had taught them. And they sang, as they marched around the spot of soil.
The girl’s father and mother watched this curious spectacle, tears forming in their eyes. Their daughter’s joy was infectious. They, too, began to sing. And they sang as they walked back to the barn to gather their equipment. They sang as they returned to the fields. And they sang as they toiled. When they went home, they sang to their children, who laughed and clapped.
When the harvest came, they marvelled. The yield was excellent. The soil was good. The crop was healthy. And when the Green Man came again to see it, he didn’t stop. He just smiled, and nodded his head, and waved to the farmers. And he kept walking, humming a tune to himself.