Thursday, March 09, 2006

Growing Symbols

I've been struck lately about the use of plants (specifically trees) as symbols in Mythology and Fantasy. I recently picked up a copy of Robert Graves "The White Goddess" at The Strand in Manhattan.

I've been busy lately, so I haven't had time to really start reading it in earnest yet, but I've flipped through it several times. Graves attempts to define a "grammar" of myth. He focuses primarily on the Celtic (and maybe UK-wide) myths and how they descended from the tree-based Germanic mythological tradition.

Graves goes so far as to offer tables and charts indicated the symbolic weight of the various types of trees.

His work has sensitized me to plants in literature. Thinking back, I've noticed that most of the works of fantasy that I've found truly effective have been seeded with plant references throughout.

When I was reading a novel over the weekend, I saw mention of a linden tree as part of the description. Why a linden tree, I wondered. Does it have some special significance? Why not some other type of tree?

Watch for plants (and especially trees) as you're reading this week.
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