|nce upon a time, a little girl named Sam lived on a hill near a small wood. There wasn’t anything unusual about Sam. Nor was there anything unusual about the hill she lived on. A little house sat on top of it, and the small wood was at the base of it. There was, however, something unusual about the woods.
Sam liked to play outside. Often she would play in the woods at the bottom of the hill. There were lots of trees to climb, a stream to splash in, and interesting things to see. Sometimes she liked to just lay on the grassy bank of the stream. She would just stare up into the pretty blue sky, with it’s fluffy white clouds, and see what shapes they made.
On one particular summer day, after a particularly large tree had been climbed, Sam lay on the grassy bank resting. She was thinking about how very white and very fluffy the clouds looked today. Almost like they were dressed up to go somewhere important.
As she lay there, she gradually became aware of a soft music coming from somewhere deeper in the woods. She sat up and listened more carefully. Oh! Someone was singing! And a wonderful song it was, too. It almost seemed like the music was calling to her…
Slowly, Sam got up and made her way steadily towards the lovely music. She went deeper and deeper into the thickest-growing trees, always following the sounds of the song. When she felt sure she’d tracked the beautiful voice to a tree deep in the forest, she began to feel puzzled. How could the singing be coming from a tree? As she approached the tree for a closer look, the song suddenly stopped!
Immediately, Sam felt a strong feeling of sadness at the loss of the wonderful music. She almost felt like crying. After a moment, she turned and looked around and realized that she had come much further into the woods than she’d ever been before. In fact, she wasn’t quite sure which way was the way out. She was also beginning to feel a little bit hungry and a little bit tired from the long walk. Now she began to notice that the sky was edging towards darkness. It must be getting quite late. Sam began to feel scared, and this time she did cry, just a little bit.
There came a gentle touch on her shoulder and a soft voice said, “Please don’t cry. I’m sorry you’re lost. But I’ll help you find your way back home.”
Sam turned around, startled, and there stood a lovely, strange, young maiden. The lady was looking at her with sympathy in her large, vivid green eyes. She had the most beautiful face Sam had ever seen. Her skin was sort of dark and faintly patterned, like the bark of a tree. In fact, she almost seemed to blend into the tree behind her. Her long, dark hair reminded Sam of the reeds by the bank of her stream. She wore a simple, pale green dress and bits of leaves and flowers peek through the strands of her hair.
“Wh-who are you?” asked Sam, uncertainly.
“My name is Deidre, and I am a dryad,” the lady replied. “This is my tree. You followed our song deep into the woods and now it’s my fault that you’re lost.”
She looked sad.
“Oh was that your song I heard?” asked Sam in delight. “It was the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard!”
The woman smiled, “Actually it is my tree’s song. I am just the voice of my tree. Sometimes it likes to sing through me.”
“Uh,” Sam began uncertainly, “how does it do that?”
Deidre laughed. It was a musical, tinkling sound.
“Well,” explained Deidre, “I am the spirit of the tree. Since trees can’t walk or talk, sometimes certain special, magical ones separate their spirits from their bodies. Only very old trees with strong magic can do this. And then a dryad is born. A dryad is in a very real way a part of the tree. Her job is to take care of the tree and do the things it cannot such as bringing it water when it is dry, and tending to the roots so they have plenty of room to grow. And in my case, my tree likes to sing.”
“Oh,” said Sam, and then she paused a moment. “That’s neat,” she smiled. Then she added, “I like to climb trees.”
Deidre grinned, “Trees are certainly good for many things. They help clean our air and water, provide us shade on hot summer days, and make homes for all the forrest animals. I love my tree!” And she put her arms around her tree and lay her face against its bark.
After a moment, Deidre turned back to Sam and held out her hand.
“Come, we must get you back home now before your family gets too worried.”
“Oh, I’d almost forgotten,” said Sam. “Yes, it’s getting late.”
And so Deidre led Sam back through the woods until Sam could see her hill with its little house on top.
“Thank you Deidre, for helping me find my way home,” said Sam turning to face the dryad.
But Deidre was no longer there. Having delivered her charge, she had silently returned to her tree deep in the woods. So Sam ran up the hill, to the little house, and into her waiting mother's arms.