The wood so softly singing
In a language strange to hear
And the song it sings will find you
As the twilight draws you near

20090930

Benevolent and Malevolent Trees

Stories about benevolent and malevolent trees are widespread in British folklore.
Here's one from Derbyshire:


A man has to make a journey late at night along a stretch of road which crosses a river at a place where the torrent is particularly fast and rocky. He is afraid because this stretch of road is haunted by a malevolent ash tree known as 'Crooker' who causes people to drown in the torrent. So although the way is dark, it is important to get to the bridge before moonrise when Crooker become active. But more important still is to gain the protection of a benevolent tree. This the traveller does and the beech tree appears to him in the form of three separate women dressed in green and each of them gives him a posy of flowers "for Crooker". He is also given a beech nut for a talisman.

Once on the road he moves through the darkness as fast as he can go but sees the Moon rising before he has reached the bridge. As he gets close the shadow of a crooked branch begins to move towards him threateningly, so he offers one of the posies of flowers which is taken a thrown into the river. Further on the crooked shadow looms up before him so he offers the second posy and this too is cast into the river. Almost on the bridge the enormous shadow with branches like clasping arms bars the way. He offers the final posy and it is cast into the river. Can he now pass onto the bridge? He takes the beech nut and thinks of the rustling leaves of the beech tree. The shadow withdraws and he steps onto the bridge, passing safely across it.

***

These stories of animated trees with a variety of dispositions towards humans might be compared to the dryads of Greek mythology, though these are often represented as spirits inhabiting the tree which takes human form. Here, the tree itself may appear in human guise to humans but remains a tree. It is said that the greeks had a tendency to personify such spirits while the Romans were more likely to think of them as 'presences' of indeterminate form. But the British folklore record does very much indicate the attribution of both animation and particular intentions to the trees themselves.

2 comments:

little lightening bolt said...

I have actually seen this happen. Its a real phenomena. Several men who where abusing a glen with their four wheelers nearly got killed by the trees there. One had to be helicoptered out by the coast guard. They all said it was as if the trees hard arms that swooped down and hit them off their bikes. I met these same trees and they shared with me the entire experience of the men on ATVs which I later had validated by a few other people who verified the story the trees told me.
I would like to cross post this on the bioregional animism blog if thats ok with you?

Heronmist said...

Yes of course.
Thanks for your response.