wood gatherer Profession in The River | World Anvil
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wood gatherer

Women rely on wood to burn as fuel, but because of their belief that they are descended from trees, cutting one down is taboo.  They must either wait for a tree to die from natural causes, or collect dead branches that have fallen to the ground.  The area surrounding the central village is regularly scoured of deadfall, so the women who make an occupation of gathering wood must venture farther out to be sure of finding enough to make the trip worthwhile.



Wood gathering provides the village with fuel, but also gradually expands the boundaries of forageable forest. While scouting for wood, gatherers remove parasitic vines, poisonous plants, and other nuisance growth, leaving useful trees and shrubs.

Social Status

Despite its importance, wood gathering is often viewed as a suspicious activity.  Since gatherers work in isolation, there is no way to know whether a piece of wood was collected from the ground, which is acceptable, or pulled loose from a tangle or off of a still-living tree, which is more of a gray area.


Because of the association with ancestor trees, most first girls refuse to collect dead wood for fear of angering the moon.  Gatherers tend to be women of later birth, sometimes assisted by mature girls.  Occasionally boys can be pressed into service as collectors in exchange for a promise of a meal and place to sleep.



Gatherers carry a hammer, axe, and stone wedge in case of large branches that need to be split.  The hammer doubles as a weapon should any predators threaten the wood-gathering team.


Bundling the firewood requires a great deal of rope and cord.


Wood gatherers work in teams of at least three and up to five. First, the team chooses a location as the center of their search. Second, they scout the area for deadfall. They meet back at the center point, report their finds, and plan a collection pattern. One stays to prepare the bundles whle the others head out again, this time with baskets to fill with wood. As the collectors return with their finds, the bundler wraps them into two wide cylindrical bundles, working on them alternately to keep them the same length. When the bundles are of appropriate size, the team lashes them to pipe tree supports extending from their back baskets, and with the use of a tandem tumpline carry the wood back to the village proper.

View from the future

When the women's worldview shifted away from trees as their ancestors, the taboo against cutting them also faded away, and so did the job of the wood gatherer.

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