This week: TreesEdited by: Robert Waltz
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Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
― Khalil Gibran
We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorours and pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent, and intimate hours.
― Marcel Proust
Sentimental, you say? Anti-social? Oughtn't to prefer trees to men? I say it depends what trees and what men.
― George Orwell
Long ago, I attended a book signing by a prominent author of fantasy and science fiction. As I recall, someone asked him what he thought the difference was. He said something like, "Look at the cover: fantasy has trees; science fiction has rivets."
That stuck with me and, while it's certainly not always true (in either case), trees do seem to be a big deal in fantasy.
Before someone comments, yes, I've seen Avatar, yes, it's science fiction, yes, it has trees. My point isn't to create a solid line where there's only a blurry boundary at best, but to talk about the importance of trees in Fantasy -- and in our world.
And trees are important.
Life on Earth is thought to have begun something like four billion years ago. But trees -- that is, plants with woody stems that reach significant height -- have probably been around for something less than 500 million years. Since then, they've been an important part of the ecosystem, existing not only for themselves but as habitats for wildlife and, once humans came along much later, a source for tools and structural support.
They're ubiquitous in most places where humans exist - with a few exceptions - and they're such an integral part of society that we can sometimes take them for granted unless we make the effort to appreciate them.
The same can be true in Fantasy writing. Unless you make a deliberate effort to exclude trees from a setting, in which case even their absence will be notable to a reader, in many cases, the trees and the forests are just assumed to be a pert of the world.
Trees in the real world provide shade, shelter, material, and food (directly or indirectly), and of course they contribute to atmospheric regulation (along with other plants). In Fantasy, they can go even further; Tolkien's Ents, for example. They can be symbolic or metaphorical, as in the Tree of Life or the World-Tree Yggdrasil in Norse sagas.
A forest of trees can also provide inspiration, because what mystical or horrific secrets can be concealed behind its impenetrable boundary?
When someone loses track of the "big picture," the cliché has always been something about not seeing the forest for the trees. But sometimes, you really do have to zoom in on the details - in other words, don't lose sight of the trees when looking at the forest.
Some Fantasy crawling out of the woodwork:
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Last time, in "Cats" , I meowed about cats.
Elfin Dragon - contest hunting : I love cats; big ones and small ones. I own one myself and she can be everything from sweet to devilish.
I also love novels in which animals are the characters. One of my favorite authors for this is Erin Hunt. The novels are series and they are:
1) Warriors - characters are cats
2) Survivors - characters are dogs
3) Seekers - characters are bears
4) Bravelands - characters are animals in Africa
I've currently read a lot of the Warrior novels and am in love with those. I've started reading the Seeker novels and have also fallen in love with those. I've read the first trilogy of the Survivor novels and have not formed an opinion yet. And I've not yet read any of the Bravelands novels.
The only thing I can say to this is: are you sure you own the cat?
JCosmos : I've added a new item to my portfolio:
Cats are already poetry.
So that's it for me for October - see you next month! Until then,
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