April 3rd – The Union of Sawyers’ Museum Expansion Festival

Somewhat surprisingly, the Union of Sawyers’ Museum is one of the most popular museums in the City. Today, outside the long wooden cabin beside the miniature forest (which only has one hundred trees) in northern Buentoille, hundreds of visitors will come to see the unveiling of the new exhibits, and the (often dramatic) sawing display.

Trees change so quickly at this time of year, and people’s thoughts are drawn to them by the springtide blossoms. Perhaps this is part of the reason that the day’s festival is so popular, but most likely it is because of the strangeness of the exhibits and the excitement of the sawing display. The Museum has two exhibits: the first is a small side room, barely looked in on, in which a number of historical wood cutting tools are held. Of interest to the specialist, perhaps, but not so much to the general public. The second exhibit is officially called the Forewoman Danielli Collection (so named after Tinye Danielli, who was the first to gather the items exhibits together), but most often referred to as the Collection of Weird Things Found Inside Trees.

Whilst the Museum has been around for much longer, the festival is relatively new. In 1868 Foreman Danielli first gathered together five items to make the exhibit: a ceremonial sword, a metal box full of newspaper clippings, a cannonball, a metallic ‘duck’s-head’ umbrella and a small corkscrew shaped like a pig. Each item had been somewhat damaged in its journey out of their tree’s innards, from where they had been extricated with much confusion by a band or circular saw. All the items had come from trees in different forests, and were originally in the private ownership of other sawyers. Danielli herself found the corkscrew, a find strange enough for her to seek out similar examples with fellow Union members. It wasn’t until 1920 that the later exhibits started to arrive.

The oldest tree in the one hundred tree forest is one hundred years old, and will be felled and sawed into planks today. The youngest is a sapling that will be planted shortly after. The forest was originally planned to be a teaching device, where new sawyers would be shown the proper way to saw a tree as part of their initiation each year, but in 1920 this changed. In 1920 people started finding things in the trees, strange metallic objects that had no right to be there. First was a bust of an old Buentoilliçan king, his face now obscured by the marks of the band saw, the second was a trumpet, and the third was a small brass plaque that read: ‘I imagine by now you may have noticed that something is up. I’m sorry, this is going to wreck a lot of saw blades, but I’ve attached an object to the side of thirty of these trees, which by the time you cut them down should mean the tree has grown over them nicely. Happy hunting!’ On the back side it was signed ‘T. Danielli’.

When they read this, a number of Union members went into the little forest and more closely looked at the trees, and lo and behold, there were a number of metallic objects strapped or nailed to the side of the trees, high up hidden by branches or surreptitiously planted in little nooks and crooks, many partially subsumed by the tree. They held a meeting before leaving the forest, deciding two things: that they would tell nobody and make no record of what they had seen on the trees, and that they would build a fence around the forest into which nobody could enter except on official business. The items they had already found were added to Danielli’s exhibition, and a new item was added to a twenty year-old tree, ready to be grown over with woody callouses. The modern festival was born.

The yearly festival sparked City-wide interest in these odd artefacts, and soon additional donations began to be offered to the Museum, requiring an expansion of the original building to house them all. Each item is in its own cabinet with a small bit of information about where it was found, in what sort of tree, often with a piece of wood from said tree placed beside it. There is a cabinet that houses fifty six spiles (taps for extracting sap from a tree), sixteen axe-heads, a box of over three hundred nails, and twenty five musket balls. A similar cabinet holds eighty-six unidentified pieces of metal, including what is presumably a good deal of shrapnel. More exotic finds, from both the one hundred tree forest and the wider world, include a small anvil, a large pram, a gravestone, the casing from a firework that went off mid-cutting, automobile engines, a green meteorite, three throwing knives, an ornate gatepost and a metal garden flamingo.

The sawing of today’s tree will be performed with a portable sawing machine, behind a protective toughened glass wall, due to the potentially highly dangerous nature of the activity. As soon as the sparks begin to fly (to great celebration from the gathered masses), the machine is shut down and a group of skilled sawyers prise out the object, holding it aloft for the public to see. The item, whatever it will be, is then cleaned up and placed in a new cabinet in the Museum, alongside any new finds from the wider world. A vote will then take place, as to who can enter the one hundred tree forest and place there a mystery item for an audience eighty years in the future.

This year there are rumours that another dark pot will be added to the collection. These ceramic artefacts, almost metallic in appearance due to the high shine of their black glaze, have been found in a few ancient trees. They seem to occur in the central rings of the cross-section, and invariably contain the bones of a small, unidentified primate. Despite extensive scientific study, nobody is quite sure who placed the pots in the trees, or why.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Feisty Festival of Fire Swallowers
  • The Festival of Good Garden Sheds