I learned to read when I was four. Since then, I have a love affair with books. I am a reluctant user of my electronic reading device, as I have a visceral relationship with the smell and feel of books, along with the words on the pages. I also love trees, so I understand that publishing books in an electronic format save paper, which saves trees. I know I am not the only one who loves trees. In fact, if you look in works of fiction, you’ll find many writers paying homage to trees as characters and devices in their stories.
I am Groot! Ok, no I am not. Groot is the most relevant example I can think of from current popular culture. While Groot is most known for being an essential character in Guardians of the Galaxy, this sentient tree creature first appeared in Marvel comics. He was first introduced as an alien invader, looking to kidnap humans for experimentation. Groot was later reintroduced as the superhero we all enjoy watching on the big screen.
Yggdrasil. If you can pronounce it, you may know something about Norse mythology. Yggdrasil is a tree of Life, interconnecting heaven, the mortal realm, and afterlife in fantasy genres. In old poetry, Yggdrasil translates to “Odin’s Gallows,” and is where Odin sacrificed himself during a war by hanging himself from a giant Ash tree. Several Norse mythologies used Yggdrasil to represent different events in culture and history and were likely a carryover from days when tales were told orally and not written down.
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein created quite a controversy on first publication. Critics of the book thought the subject matter was everything from too simplistic, to abusive. The plot centers on a tree and a boy. The tree gives to the boy selflessly and watches the boy grow. At the end of the boy’s life, when he is an elderly man, he returns to the tree to rest. The tree feels fulfilled. If you need a good cry, this book is for you. Most choose to interpret the text as the importance of giving.
Many Native American cultures hold trees to be sacred beings. As a result, trees exist in many of their stories and act as parables of peace, wisdom, and even teaching the applications of trees throughout their world. The trees don’t always talk, but sometimes they do. In these stories, the use of symbolism, tree or otherwise, often relates to how connected we are all to each other.
I cannot end this blog without talking about Treebeard. The eldest of the Ents, Treebeard is a distinguished leader amongst fictional trees. I am of course talking about J. R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. While there is a lot to love about Middle Earth, Tolkien’s use of trees is an interesting one. Trees are seen as wise, if not frustratingly slow when a decision needs to be made. Compare this to the growth of real trees, and you may never look at a real tree the same way again. I know I often wished Treebeard lived in my backyard as a child.
There are more examples of trees in fiction and literature. These are just a smattering. Feel free to let me know what other trees have played an important part of your love for reading too.