The Green Moss Code

5 June 2006

He was staring at me, his face emerging from the rock, his cheeks covered in silky moss, his lips puckered green and glistening, his eyes sad and tearful. I stared back him at him, amazed. I hadn’t expected this. I hadn’t expected to go on what I felt would be a mundane tramp around the Cheshire countryside to find something, someone alive in the rock. He was so human that I wanted to talk to him, to ask him what it felt like to be trapped and yearning in the rock for so many centuries, looking down on this wooded escarpment, watching the hikers, the birds, the leaves, the sky, the clouds, the stars drift by. It was his sadness that grabbed me.

Alan Garner pointed his hiking stick up at the face. His eyes twinkled. His family have been on the Edge for generations. His great-grandfather’s name was still visibly carved in the rock. He explained that the Green Man was an important symbol around here, a symbol of fertility and rebirth. He also told us that the rain took five hundred years to pass through to the bottom of the rock where it fell in a single drop into a carved basin.

I looked down and saw a little tear drop into the muddy water. Tourists and walkers hustled by, some stopping to look. For the first time, I realised that Alan Garner was onto something, that he knew something that I didn’t, that he had access to some sort of knowledge that I didn’t possess. I thought about the Da Vinci Code and all its fake codswollop. Dan Brown and countless others had convinced the public falsely that there was a truth to be found there. Brown is now the most of popular author in the world because of his powers of persuasion. Alan Garner is in every sense the opposite. His secret is wrapt up in mysterious, creepy narratives that take great effort to unlock. Every sentence has to be read very slowly. But I think he knows more than Brown. I think there is definitely a genuine code to be discovered, which hitherto has remained hidden.

Garner doesn’t deal in laborious, explicit exposition, he rather prefers the elliptical, the suggestive and the arcane. But he has seen something that most of us have missed.

Seeing the Green Man there, carved in the rock on the Edge, has made me think that I need to find out more. The Green Man is a central image in European iconography: he is an embodiment of nature’s mysteries. In many ways, he is a personification of nature. When Gawain chops off his head in Gawain And The Green Knight, he remains alive. He gets up and picks up his head and walks off with his head under his arm. Gawain has lost his bet that he can kill the Green Knight, and as a result has to present himself at the Green Knight’s court a year later in order to have his head chopped off. The poem has many meanings but perhaps one is that Gawain represents man trying to subjugate nature, only to be horrified when nature gets up off the floor and claims restitution.

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