Document Type



Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Conference Title

Mythcon 33

City and State

Boulder, Colorado

Conference Date

July 26-29, 2002

Publication Date



Trees have held a special place in literature and mythology--so special that Sir James Frazer chose a tree limb as the name of his monumental compendium of mythology, The Golden Bough. Trees have served as the sacred symbol of various fertility goddesses and as the sacrificial site of resurrection divinities. In addition to these mythic functions of trees, great writers have used them for both practical and symbolic purposes. Shakespeare used trees in tragedies and comedies, immortalizing Birnham Wood and the Forest of Arden in MacBeth and As You Like It, respectively. A tree becomes the prison of Sycorax, the absent mother of Caliban, in The Tempest; a forest shelters a band of outlaws in Two Gentlemen of Verona and houses the fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream; a branch serves as a badge of knighthood in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Tolkien also uses trees, woods, and forests effectively in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion: trees can capture unwary hobbits or house nervous ones, march to a battle, cast down fortifications, identify a royal house, or (in two special cases) cast light on a newly-created darkling world. This paper will catalog the major functions of trees in the works of Shakespeare and Tolkien and induce from those examples the prevailing role of the tree for each writer.

Publication Title

Mythcon XXXIII: A Midsummer Night's Dream


This paper was presented at Mythcon 33 (July 29, 2002) in Boulder, CO.
A Works Cited List is not included because this paper was intended for a conference presentation only. The author did not expect to formally publish it.



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