“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman – read by Amanda Palmer with music by Jherek Bischoff
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“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman – read by Amanda Palmer with music by Jherek Bischoff

January 15, 2020


Science, as you know my little one, is the study of the nature and behavior of the universe. It’s based on observation, on experiment and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed. In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run, to hurdle blindly into the unknown, and then to find their way back home when lost with a slain antelope to carry between them. Or on bad hunting days, nothing. The women, who did not need to run down prey, had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them left at the thorn bush and across the scree, and looked down into the bole of the half fallen tree, because sometimes there are mushrooms. Before the Flint Club, or flint butcher’s tools, The first tool of all was a sling for the baby to keep our hands free and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in, the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers. Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break. And sometimes men chased the beasts into the deep woods and never came back. Some mushrooms will kill you, while some will show you gods and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify. Others will kill us if we eat them raw, and kill us again if we cook them once, but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away, and then boil them once more, and pour the water away, only then can we eat them safely. Observe. Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts, and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world. Observe everything. And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk and watch the world, and see what they observe. And some of them would thrive and lick their lips, while others clutched their stomachs and expired. So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate. The tools we make to build our lives: our clothes, our food, our path home… all of these things we base on observation, on experiment, on measurement, on truth. And science, you remember, is the study of the nature and behavior of the universe, based on observation, experiment and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts. The race continues. An early scientist drew beasts upon the walls of caves to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms and on berries, what would be safe to hunt. The men go running on after beasts. The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs. They are carrying their babies in the slings they made, freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

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  1. Scientists are funded people , and that is the base of their work …not the real laws … that is why there are so many falls laws and "discoveries" that costs people lives … for ex. cure for cancer ??? they invented it like aids , pushing out to the world by vaccines and now they do not have a cure ??? commonnnn …

  2. Amanda, you nailed it when you said Neil was 'such a good feminist'. Indeed. Thanks so much to both of you for all the wonderful light you shine in the world. And well done to the animation team and the musicians. The animation is amazing as is the music. You just feel transported. So very privileged to be able to be one of your patreon supporters. Well done everyone 🙂

  3. Fantastic on so many levels! The words of Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer. The artwork, music all all involved in the production. Breathtaking. You brought Neil's poetry to life!

  4. Lots of mixed emotions about this, but I guess that's the point of a good poem. Beautiful truths about the strength of women and their search for safety and truth. I didn't enjoy the insinuation that all men do is kill and hunt and destroy. Listening to the text only, I wouldn't have assumed this insinuation quite as much, though it was there. The imagery definitely emphasized the idea that men are the destructive sex and women the creative. As a guy that was raised in a way that criticized traditional masculinity and had to learn to embrace what is good about it as an adult, and knowing there are many other men out their grappling with their own Identity in a similar way, it hurts to see the negative stereotypes perpetuated.

  5. @Amanda Palmer We are profoundly moved by the story of our women scientists (and their babies). Extraordinary art, narrative performance = perfect teamwork. Sharing with everyone

  6. Observe, measure, experiment, explain, repeat, fail, improve, fail, imagine, repeat, improve more. Celebrating survival and evolution, including all the interdependent web of life.

  7. Despite all the pain, physical, emotional and otherwise, I feel my life is made richer by being a woman. Thank you for this.

  8. Amanda does a great job narrating this, the animation is superb, and Neil is a great writer. I like it. However, I am a little disappointed that this poem obviously placates to modern feminism by putting down men as useless violent hunters of beasts, either by design of the author, or by interpretation of the feminist audience. As if men were not observers, not scientists, nor explorers; as if the packs used to carry babies were not made from the leather men provided. Every single depiction of men in this is negative, full of violence. Finally the imagery of atomic energy in the form of the atom bomb. A genius addition to be sure as it fits the mushroom theme. A product of the same science the author praises throughout the poem, yet her ascribed solely to the masculine as a negative; as if the atom bomb did not keep Japanese and Axis soldiers from raping their way through the world, as they did in Asia. Women help build the world, but sure as hell didn’t do it alone, and sure as hell aren’t the sole paragons of observation or reason this poem panders towards the modern feminist audience.

  9. Neil Gaiman. He's British. The Brits. are all into that hunter gather thing. Men, women, our roles, regardless of their political views, or religious beliefs. They got tha hunter gather thing hard wired in their limey heads. Artist lean heavily on convention, easier to sell that way. Sell to the masses. Artist say, cats are never completely tame, their feral heart live on top, always want to be wild. A scienetist studied the evolution of cats his whole life. He said, "My cat is as domestic as my wifes silver spoons. He sleep on the couch, next to a dedicate canine, while a great ape walks by in slippers, and a news paper. My cat is as wild as a Morning thank you on spring morning, or butter on toast. He was born to live in a house, and sleep night and day, in the comfort of central heat. One thing is true, people are more domesticated than cat. Mushroom are in stores, doctors give us medicine, cats, dogs, and people need houses to live for long happy life. Our wild days are dead and gone, and science is base on the fact we don't know the truth, and hardlly ever do. We have to test our ideas, or we never know.

  10. I followed Neil Gaiman in DeviantArt before I became inactive in that site because I love his sketches. And I fell in love with Amanda Palmer's wit in her songs. Now, I couldn't stop replaying this for the nth time because I am just in love to the poem, the art, and the way it is being read.

  11. Amazing that somehow Amanda Palmer shows up in my feed whenever I need her most, and on subjects I find incredibly interesting/relevant.

    💛 The Art of Asking helped me so much when I was… well, "lost".

  12. The part where there are soldiers and a woman's corpse in the landscape… Was that intentional or am I seeing things?

  13. This is just stunning, thank you Amanda and Neil and all the amazing creatives working with you on this. Medicine for the soul.

  14. I had a terrible week, but this video made my day and lead me to tears. How beautiful is the human spirit, and how patient, firm and feminine is science. What a little and precious masterpiece.

  15. love this- has some similar ideas/imagery to ursula le guin's carrier bag theory of fiction. almost as if they know each other!

  16. Oh I wish this was a published book with these beautiful pictures and a cd of the music and narration in the cover!!! Perfection! Thank you for this!

  17. Such honor and beauty. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am full of tears of hope, love, inspiration, wonder, and heartbreak.

  18. Love this but I would not be so sure nature is ruled by laws…I feel like it might just be very set it is ways with very deep habits. https://www.sheldrake.org/books-by-rupert-sheldrake/the-science-delusion-science-set-free

  19. I just watched this video 5 times in a roll and sent it to all my main girl friend. Thanks for thissss

  20. Damn you Neil, this short story was a lot more complex than I can understand unfortunately. Great story though.

  21. This is so beautiful! Like Tolkien, I believe Neil Gaiman is deeply spiritual and can not help but put profound truths in all his stories.

    The animation is divinely inspired to fit perfectly. 🙏🏼

  22. It's as if Amanda is casting a spell with her mesmerizing voice and the words, so carefully handpicked by Neil… As many people said before me, it is so beautiful!

  23. So this random I showed up in my for you page on my suggested and right now I'm going through a very emotional moon cycle and I didn't even click play it just started playing and it was exactly what I needed to hear even though it was a mini story/book it change something with in me and I want to say thank you so much for creating this because it gave me comfort in being a woman so thank you

  24. Mushroom gathering was and still is a co-ed activity. A family activity. This view of men from the 20th century intelligentsia is so bleak … yikes.

  25. Thank you very much for creating this wonderful masterpiece. It made me cry with love in my heart for the beauty that this life is.

  26. Nicely done! I will just say though, there is plenty of archaeological evidence that “men hunted, women gathered” is much too simplistic, and it was actually extremely common for women who had no babies to care for to be an important part of the hunt— in fact women have better peripheral vision on average, which is a pivotal quality to have during hunting, especially pack or herd animals, to detect if something is coming at your side or behind you to kill you. Likewise, men’s so-called “brute” strength has also been pivotal with harvesting as well, to help carry larger baskets when foraging took hours and pounds of plant food was found. Likewise, male strength would have been pivotal for defense from predators at the home base and while out foraging. Both hunting and gathering were very much mixed-gender activities in most early human cultures. Yes, there are cultures where women specialize in gathering while men specialize in hunting, but the extreme segregation of these activities is mainly a post-neolithic phenomenon that only became popular after the advent of farming communities and their adversarial relationships with nomads. At this point, specialization became more common as rudimentary male-centric militaries were formed to protect the tribe from raiders from other human groups, and settlements became forced as fewer places were left unclaimed to wander.

    For example:
    “Unlike settled, patriarchal societies like classical Greece, where women stayed home to weave and mind children, the lives of nomadic steppe tribes centered on horses and archery. Men and women shared the vigorous outdoor life and everyone rode fast horses, shot arrows with deadly accuracy, hunted game, and defended the tribe. The combination of horse riding and archery was the equalizer: a woman on horseback is as fast and agile as a man. This ancient way of life—embracing gender equality—was essential for tribes migrating across oceans of grass, and egalitarian traditions persist in their descendants today.”

    https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/eagle-huntress-ancient-traditions-and-evidence-women-eagle-hunters-part-i-020797

    Obviously Siberian and Mongolian nomads didn’t only hunt, they lived on foraged food that they gathered in mixed-gender groups as well.

    Further evidence:

    https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1983.85.2.02a00040

  27. Everything about this piece embodies what the world needs right now: knowledge from the past, slow living and nature.

  28. THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS
    Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
    of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
    It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
    and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.
    In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
    designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
    to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
    and then to find their way back home when lost
    with a slain antelope to carry between them.
    Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.
    The women, who did not need to run down prey,
    had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
    left at the thorn bush and across the scree
    and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
    because sometimes there are mushrooms.
    Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
    The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
    to keep our hands free
    and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,
    the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.
    Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.
    And sometimes men chased the beasts
    into the deep woods,
    and never came back.
    Some mushrooms will kill you,
    while some will show you gods
    and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
    Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
    and kill us again if we cook them once,
    but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,
    and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,
    only then can we eat them safely. Observe.
    Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,
    and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.
    Observe everything.
    And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
    and watch the world, and see what they observe.
    And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
    While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
    So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.
    The tools we make to build our lives:
    our clothes, our food, our path home…
    all these things we base on observation,
    on experiment, on measurement, on truth.
    And science, you remember, is the study
    of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
    based on observation, experiment, and measurement,
    and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.
    The race continues. An early scientist
    drew beasts upon the walls of caves
    to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
    and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.
    The men go running on after beasts.
    The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
    and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
    They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
    freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

  29. Well done! Though I remember hunting the mushrooms and berries with my father. It isn't as gender-specific as this implies.

  30. Wow… 🍄😢 this is AMAZING im in tears, this is the moment to realize that we must come back to the knowledge of our old, loving and living Mother earth ✊

  31. English subtitles are now up, as are Norwegian ones because who could resist translating Neil when given the chance.

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