“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” – Martin Luther.
For millions of years, trees have stood as sentinels, weathering the elements to bring shelter, food, clean water, and fresh air to the flora and fauna that depend on it.
The length of time that humans have walked the earth is but a mere drop in the ocean compared to how long trees have covered the earth, but even in the 190,000ish years that humans have been around, trees have been revered by countless civilizations all over the world. Take the ancient Mayans of South America for example, they believed in the ‘World Tree’ and that it reached up into the heavens to hold up the cosmos, or there were the ancient Germanic tribes that used to believe that mankind came from tree stumps.
Even today, trees are held in high esteem, with many real and fictional trees finding fame in film, TV, and literature. The Sycamore gap tree next to Hadrian’s Wall is a great example, made famous by its feature in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Seeing how trees have been such an important element in human culture for so many years, it’s easy to see why they appear in our media so much. So, to celebrate our love of trees, we wanted to give some special attention to some of the most famous trees in the literary world. Of course, we couldn’t talk about every fictional tree, so here are a few of our favourites.
"I told you, months ago, that the Whomping Willow was planted the year I came to Hogwarts. The truth is that it was planted because I came to Hogwarts." - Remus Lupin.
If you have read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, then you will have heard of the Whomping Willow. First mentioned in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron crash into it, the Whomping Willow is a partially sentient tree that tends towards violence. The occasional violent outburst isn’t its only purpose however, it is revealed later in the series that the tree hides a secret passage that leads to the Shrieking Shack.
“Some of my kin look just like trees now, and need something great to rouse them, and they speak only in whispers. But some of my trees are limb-lithe, and many can talk to me.” – Treebeard.
While technically not a ‘tree’, Treebeard is well deserving of a place on our list. First appearing in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Treebeard is introduced when he saves Merry and Pippin after they manage to slip away from their orc captors. Treebeard is an Ent – a sentient creature that looks almost identical to a tree and is described as a sort of “shepherd of trees”.
It was a silver-gray and it was higher than the farm-house. It was the most beautiful tree Shadow had ever seen: spectral and yet utterly real and almost perfectly symmetrical..” – Shadow.
First appearing in chapter fourteen of American Gods, Yggdrasil (‘the World Tree’) is the site where Mr. Nancy, Czernobog, and Shadow lay the body of Mr. Wednesday after getting it back from the New Gods. Yggdrasil is represented as a perfectly symmetrical silver-grey tree and according to legend, is supposed to connect the nine worlds of Norse mythology.
“At the bottom was a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence. Here one could wander unseen.” - Charlotte Brontë
The Horse Chestnut Tree featured in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane is Eyre isn’t just a tree, being the site at which Rochester proposed to Jane, it is the symbol of their relationship. This symbolism is cemented when, on the very night of said proposal the tree is sundered and split in two by a violent storm.
George R.R. Martin
"At the hill. A great weirwood tree." – Jojen Reed
Weirwood is a type of tree that is found all over the continent of Westeros. They are described as being almost completely white with blood-red leaves. It is said that the wood of a weirwood tree is as hard as stone, which would explain why the faces carved onto every tree have managed to withstand the elements for thousands of years. The trees also bear strong links to the Old Gods.
Over the grand tapestry of human history, trees have been revered and celebrated in mythologies, folklore, and religion. Over the centuries mankind has grown and progressed to new levels of ingenuity and as a result, our admiration for trees has been transcribed into our literature. These five trees are just a few examples of where that admiration has been woven into our culture, but there are countless other examples, and there will no doubt be countless more in the future. However, for trees to continue to exist on this planet, we need to start looking after them.
If you are like us and want to see our trees properly looked after, there are loads of things you can do. To get started, you can head over to our blog to discover a whole bunch of new ideas for helping the environment or you can help promote the reuse of your books by selling them with the WeBuyBooks app.