Trees

Here and on the subpages, tree stories and information will be collected. Expect a somewhat confusing treasure-chamber to be filled with tree folk-tales, biological facts, experiences of trees etc. Feel free to ask in a comment here for something you need in telling and teaching on trees!

Just as an example, here is a “bare-bones” version of a swedish local legend from Per Gustavsson et.al. “När träden valde kung” (When tress elected a king). It could also be used to illustrate scandinavian history where Sweden and Denmark were arch-enemies, in the time of Erik XIV. (Now there is even a bridge connecting the two countries)

Many hundred years ago when Denmark and Sweden were at war, Arild and Tane were in love. They lived in Ugerup in Scania which at that time belonged to Denmark. Arild was sent to fight in the war, but was captured and sent to prison in Stockholm. Tales parents told her to forget him and get another man for a husband. She wouldn’t hear of it, but her father chose a man for her to marry. Now Arild was a nice young man and soon won the trust of the prison guards. When he asked to go home for the wedding, the king agreed. On the condition that he promised to return when he had finished harvesting what he sowed that spring. However, as winter was coming closer, Arild still hadn’t returned. The angry king sent a message that Arild should stand by his word as an honorable knight. Arild answered that he had planted pine (sv – tall, no – furu) seeds and thought it might take some time before they grew up, and even longer before they were ready for harvesting. The king thought that was a clever and amusing trick. So he let Arild stay in Ugerup with his Tane. And even today, you can see the pine trees growing in the forests around Ugerup.

So which are your suggestions and favorite tree stories, myths, experiences and ideas? Please share them in a comment!

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8 responses to “Trees

  1. Dear Ulf: Thanks for the first story about trees. We will look through our archives and send some to you for posting. In the meantime we are doing a program on water, and would like to collect stories that have to do with springs, rivulets, streams, rivers, bays, lakes, and the oceans. We have quite a few and can share them.
    Robin Aurelius and Mary Lynne McGrath
    Stories and Music Live
    3279 D Street
    Sacramento CA 95816 USA

  2. Please share! As water was the theme for 2010, I’d like to build an archive of those stories too.

  3. The Upside-down Tree

    When Nkulunkulu first created Africa, one of the first trees He created was the baobab. Baobab was quite a short tree, but it had a very wide, strong trunk. It was also a rather vain tree. “Look at me,” it used to say to the birds of the plains. “I’m the strongest tree in the land. Not even an elephant could push me over!”
    Next Nkulunkulu created the slender, graceful palm tree. When Baobab first saw the palm tree, it felt very smug and pleased with itself, because it was so much stronger than the palm. “Look at that skinny palm tree,“ Baobab said, “one puff of wind could knock it down.” However, as Baobab watched, Palm tree continued to grow and grow, until it was much taller than Baobab. “Oh Nkulunkulu,” cried Baobab, “I also want to be tall. Please can’t I grow more?” And so Nkulunkulu helped Baobab to grow until it was one of the tallest trees in the land.
    Then the beautiful flame tree appeared, with its bright red flowers. Baobab was showing off its great height and strength to the birds when it suddenly noticed this new comer. Immediately Baobab was envious of Flame Tree’s gorgeous flowers. “Oh Nkulunkulu,” cried Baobab, “I also want to have flowers. Please give me some,“ begged Baobab. Nkulunkulu sighed and gave Baobab beautiful large white flowers. Well, you can imagine how Baobab bragged then. “Look at me,” it would say. “I’m the tallest, strongest, most beautiful tree on the plains.” And it would wave its branches gracefully.
    Baobab was very satisfied with life, but one day Nkulunkulu created the magnificent fig tree, which bore the most delicious fruit. Many birds, insects and animals gathered round the fig tree to eat its figs and once more Baobab was jealous. “Oh Nkulunkulu,” cried Baobab, “I also want to have fruit. Please can’t I have fruit?” By now, Nkulunkulu was becoming most impatient with Baobab. “Alright,” he said angrily, “but this is the last request of yours that I’m granting. Don’t ask for anything more.” And Nkulunkulu gave Baobab large, greyish, green fruit, which people found very useful.
    Well, Baobab continued to boast to anyone that would listen about how tall, strong, beautiful and fruitful it was and many insects, birds and animals lived in the tree. One day, Baobab heard the birds discussing one of the acacia trees that had the most attractive scent. The more they talked about this lovely smell, the more envious Baobab became. Eventually Baobab could stand it no longer. “Oh Nkulunkulu,” cried Baobab, “I also want to have a lovely scent. Please can’t I smell sweet?”
    At this Nkulunkulu became very angry. “I told you not to ask for anything more!” He shouted. “You are a vain, boastful tree and you are never satisfied with what you have and I am tired of hearing your voice!” And with that, Nkulunkulu pulled Baobab up by its roots, and replanted it upside down! “Now you will keep quiet!”
    And that is why, to this day, Baobab looks like a tree that has its head in the ground and its roots in the sky. And it is called “Baobab” because this name in Tswana means “great roots”.

  4. Thanks! A tree like the Baobab demands the best tree story in the world 😉 I might substitute that as the last request, if that is alright with Nkulunkulu …

  5. Why Evergreen Trees Keep Their Leaves in Winter.
    One day, a long, long time ago, it was very cold; winter was coming. And all the birds flew away to the warm south, to wait for the spring. But one little bird had a broken wing and could not fly. He did not know what to do. He looked all round, to see if there was any place where he could keep warm. And he saw the trees of the great forest.
    “Perhaps the trees will keep me warm through the winter,” he said.
    So he went to the edge of the forest, hopping and fluttering with his broken wing. The first tree he came to was a stinkwood tree.
    “Big stinkwood tree,” he said, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
    “Dear me!” said the stinkwood tree, “what a thing to ask! I have to take care of my own leaves through the winter; that is enough for me. Go away.”
    The little bird hopped and fluttered with his broken wing until he came to the next tree. It was a beautiful pom-pom tree.
    “O beautiful pom-pom tree,” said the little bird, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
    “Dear me,” said the pom-pom tree, “what a thing to ask! If you stay in my branches all winter you will be eating my flowers. Go away.”
    So the little bird hopped and fluttered with his broken wing till he came to the bushwillow-tree by the edge of the brook.
    “O lovely bushwillow -tree,” said the little bird, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
    “No, indeed,” said the bushwillow –tree, “I never speak to strangers. Go away.”
    The poor little bird did not know where to go; but he hopped and fluttered along with his broken wing. Presently the wild Cape chestnut tree saw him, and said, “Where are you going, little bird?”
    “I do not know,” said the bird; “the trees will not let me live with them, and my wing is broken so that I cannot fly.”
    “You may live on one of my branches,” said the Cape chestnut tree, “here is the warmest one of all.”
    “But may I stay all winter?”
    “Yes,” said the chestnut, “I shall like to have you.”
    The yellowwood tree stood beside the spruce, and when he saw the little bird hopping and fluttering with his broken wing, he said, “My branches are not very warm, but I can keep the wind off because I am big and strong.”
    So the little bird fluttered up into the warm branch of the Cape chestnut, and the yellowwood tree kept the wind off his house; then the waterberry tree saw what was going on, and said that she would give the little bird his dinner all the winter, from her branches. Waterberries are very good for little birds.
    The little bird was very comfortable in his warm nest sheltered from the wind, with waterberries berries to eat.
    The trees at the edge of the forest remarked upon it to each other:
    “I wouldn’t take care of a strange bird,” said the stinkwood tree.
    “I wouldn’t risk my acorns,” said the pompom tree.
    “I would not speak to strangers,” said the bushwillow. And the three trees stood up very tall and proud.
    That night the North Wind came to the woods to play. He puffed at the leaves with his icy breath, and every leaf he touched fell to the ground. He wanted to touch every leaf in the forest, for he loved to see the trees bare.
    “May I touch every leaf?” he said to his father, the Frost King.
    “No,” said the Frost King, “the trees which were kind to the bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves.”
    So North Wind had to leave them alone, and the Cape chestnut, the yellowwood, and the waterberry trees kept their leaves through all the winter. And they have done so ever since.
    (Adapted to South African trees from Florence Holbrook’s A Book of Nature Myths. (Harrap & Co. 9d.))
    from How to Tell Stories to Children, and Some Stories to Tell , by Sara Cone Bryant

  6. Very interesting to imagine the Frost King in a South African setting, like the meeting of fire and ice in the old norse creation myth 😉

  7. I love to learn about trees through story. I wonder if the stinkwood the pompom and the bush willow might have envied the others more than a little as they stood there naked? Would the cape chestnut the waterberry and the yellowwood envy the deciduous ones when they got their new leaves in spring time or their fancy fall coloured leafcoat?

  8. Pingback: Baobab trees of Madagascar | World Storytelling Day – Education Resources

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