Decoded message, which now needs to be solved)

Here is the riddle from decoding the message from the tree

We cannot hear them, don't see them come,
Beneath the moon, and with their drum.
Gnashing, slashing, munch and crunch,
They've come again for midnight lunch.
Friends and Family here we stand,
Until their hollowed homes be damned.

Amongst the trees one stands alone, Through the ages he's aged and grown, Here to tell all that see, Of their desperate, despairing plea. So look at all he's come to be, And heed the words of the riddle tree.

The poem about the tree is basically fluff. all necessary info is in the spoilered riddle above. Or in the tree image below if you want to solve the cipher.

enter image description here

What is the tree telling you about?, and what was the reasoning behind the cipher

The strings are given below for ease of use.


To add some information to the riddle I've added another picture with the same message encoded using the same method.

Eternal Sun You've helped me grow,
Now Come on out and help me show,
The message that I seek to spread,
Of which I fear will see me dead

enter image description here

And the strings found in the image


Hint 1

A branch with spaces is just a broken limb.
(There are no spaces in the encoded or decoded message)

Hint 2

The circle of life goes around and around.
But youngest and oldest in the puzzle are found.
(The cipher wraps and both the highest "value" character and the lowest can be found in the puzzle)

Hint 3 (riddle)

Through ice and snow they wont be stopped
I fear we will be dropped and lopped.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Creative, hope the cipher is not too easy $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2016 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ I hope so too, first puzzle so I guess we'll see. $\endgroup$
    – gtwebb
    Sep 12, 2016 at 20:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ First puzzle with 2.3k rep? $\endgroup$
    – Matsmath
    Sep 12, 2016 at 20:48
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @Matsmath, I'm on 11k or thereabouts and haven't posted any puzzles yet. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 12, 2016 at 20:52
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan, you've answered a lot of puzzles so you know what makes a good one. You should try making one, I'm pretty sure it would be very good $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2016 at 10:26

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure I've understood everything here, but I have the solution to the cipher and a semi-plausible solution to the riddle.

We have an "alphabet" of size 90, with characters from ! to z ordered by ASCII code. Each "branch" is cyclically shifted by some amount. I have paid no attention at all as yet to how the branches fit together, nor to how those amounts are selected. But if we choose the shifts appropriately, here are the results:

2)Beneath ,andwitht^ 'formidni" _ilyhere] $eirhollo! sandFam_ .g,slashin* \thearthem( (,don'tsee[ [themcome, 1Wecanno\ ) themoon,, ^heirdrum. 3Gnashin. *g,muncha+ +ndcrunch, 4They've& "ghtlunch. &comeagain' 5Friend` ]westand, 6Untilth$ !wedhomes/ /bedamned.

It may be worth remarking that the two versions (tree and sun) have

exactly the same "branches" with different cyclic shifts.

I notice that on the "tree" (I haven't checked the "sun")

there is one branch that has been shifted by 2, one by 3, ..., one by 25. I don't see any relationship between shift amount and location on the tree.


Each of these consists of (1) a prefix consisting of either a digit or some other character; (2) some ordinary English text; (3) an optional suffix. The non-digit prefixes and suffixes can be paired up with one another, and the digit prefixes ordered in the obvious way, so that we get this:

1 Wecanno\
\ thearthem(
( ,don'tsee[
[ themcome,
2 )Beneath
) themoon,,
, andwitht^
^ heirdrum.
3 Gnashin.
. g,slashin*
* g,muncha+
+ ndcrunch,
4 They've&
& comeagain'
' formidni"
" ghtlunch.
5 Friend`
` sandFam_
_ ilyhere]
] westand,
6 Untilth\$
\$ eirhollo!
! wedhomes/
/ bedamned.

Or, rearranged more sensibly,

We cannot hear them, don't see them come,
Beneath the moon, and with their drum.
Gnashing, slashing, munch and crunch,
They've come again for midnight lunch.
Friends and Family here we stand,
Until their hollowed homes be damned.

I see from gtwebb's comment that we're supposed to be treating this as a riddle and solving it. On the face of it it looks as if it's talking about

zombies or vampires or some similar ravenous undead nasties

but that might be misdirection and indeed gtwebb has confirmed that

all parties concerned are neither supernatural nor human and that (as one might have guessed) "we" are in fact trees.

My current best guess is that "they" are

beavers (which are nocturnal, cut down trees with their teeth (and to my surprise do actually eat the softer outer parts of the wood), and are often found in cold climates as per hint 3) -- and "damned" / "dammed" is suggestive.

but I am not 100% convinced because

I don't see where the "drum" comes in; so far as I know beavers don't slash anything.

  • $\begingroup$ Decoding looks good, just the riddle to answer. Added notes on the cipher in a wrap-up post below. $\endgroup$
    – gtwebb
    Sep 16, 2016 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ (Some comments on the riddle added. I suspect I'm being not quite clever enough with the riddle, though.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 16, 2016 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing otherworldly in the riddle. $\endgroup$
    – gtwebb
    Sep 16, 2016 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ And I take it also none of the worldly options I mentioned either? OK, more thought required. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 16, 2016 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the other ones aren't right either. $\endgroup$
    – gtwebb
    Sep 16, 2016 at 22:11

Since I don't think I'm getting a line by line breakdown, here were my thoughts. Thanks to Gareth for sticking with it to get the final answer.

The answer is:


We cannot hear them, don't see them come,

Trees don't hear or see

Beneath the moon, and with their drum.

They are nocturnal, and they slap their tails on the water as a loud warning sign.

Gnashing, slashing, munch and crunch,

Basically saying they are coming to eat the trees. Gnashing their teeth and crunching wood. They do have claws for digging which could be construed as slashing (although it could be that trees just overstate the danger a bit)

They've come again for midnight lunch.

Again nocturnal and eat trees

Friends and Family here we stand, Until their hollowed homes be damned.

A stand of trees is similar to a grove as well as the trees that are individually standing. The trees will be brought down "no longer standing when the beavers have built their lodge (home) which is hollow. They are better known for building dams to create still water where they tend to build their homes.


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