The Staff in the Tree is an epic poem set in a future landscape inhabited by mythological beasts and spirits. Through a series of encounters with these creatures and their master, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his father must learn nobler motives as he seeks to deliver this land from dark and oppressive forces.
While the topic of mythological beasts and spirits is of genuine interest to me, I think it is obvious by now that I have been using it to shill (shamelessly, I might add) my own poem, The Staff in the Tree. The poem is now available on Amazon. This week’s post is a summary of those creatures from this series which appear in my story. It is primarily pictorial (ouch – alliteration) and is accompanied by some written excerpts.
I apologize for the repetitious reference in each caption. To save time, I simply took from my media file some of the images I had included in previous posts. More details about the book can be obtained by clicking here.
Dryads are among my favorite characters from mythology and folklore. From Greek mythology to modern times, their interpretations in art and literature are varied. They are tree spirits, certain versions of which can emerge from their arboreal homes as human beings. Most of the representations I have found are female.
In other versions, they are so bound to their homes that they die if their trees are cut down. I wish I could credit the following painting, but I could find no information on the artist. If anyone knows and can tell me, I will gladly update this post (artist: Emile Jean-Baptiste Philippe Bin – many thanks to Colin Smith for the information). I was intrigued by the idea of a dryad emerging to prevent a woodsman from cutting down her tree. The painting implies a story.
In this painting by Edward Burne-Jones, the female figure is not a Dryad proper, but rather a woman temporarily transformed into a tree. She transforms back when the lover who neglected her repents of his actions. Though I haven not yet read the story, I think it comes from The Metamorphoses by Ovid. Still, the painting is reminiscent of the original concept of tree spirits.
They are sometimes portrayed as males. For The Staff in the Tree, I envisioned them as giant warriors, spirits that can emerge from their trees and take on solid form. This gave me good imagery around which to work some verses. In the story, the Dryads are forest guardians who are shrewd, severe, and entirely not to be messed with. I must cop to being influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien’s portrayal of the Ents in his Ring trilogy.
Juvenile though my drawing at the top of this entry may seem, it was a hard one for me to make with my limited technique. It certainly pales against the other images I have shown. I will end with a painting relevant to this post and last week’s as well.