Examples of Symbolism in Literature


symbolism of trees in literature

Tree Symbolism Symbolic Meanings of Trees. For the longest time, trees have been planted around the world in many cultures in honor of an accomplishment or an important event like a graduation, wedding or the birth of a child. We tried to prove with this document the fact that the ties between trees and people go back thousands of years and have been kept in many cultures in religious rites, folk tradition or literature. Therefore, trees and forests have become part of our society’s imagery, sometimes symbolising the lost garden, unattainable and primitive nature. May 08,  · Symbolism is a literary element used in literature to help readers understand a literary work. Learn more about the definition of symbolism and.

Tree Symbolism and Meanings | Symbols & Interpretations

Consequently, most civilisations have appropriated them with care, consideration and respect. They have been included in the collective imagination trying, maybe, to identify the referent, to turn them into a different space, ascribing characteristics and attributes to them other than the primary ones, with no limit other than imagination.

The cultural appropriation of trees ranges from the most positive meaning of the exquisite, almost motherly, embrace, to the dreadful location of misfortunes. Between these two extremes, there are many nuances which helped to create very diverse religious rituals in amazing natural cathedrals with supernatural or mystic connections.

The trees are the protagonists of initiation rituals and rites of passage during those moments in which human life requires special and unique conditions. Woods have also been the space for contemplative stays to learn about tangible and intangible realities outside oneself. Throughout this article, we will analyse the role of trees as symbol and part of our societal imagery at different historical points.

The appetiser to a fascinating world of colour and fragrance with one of the most fruitful, long, faithful and intense relationships in the history of humankind: the relationship between nature and culture.

The first symbolic tree in Mediterranean religions is the Tree of Life, the first reference to which we can find in the ancient poem of the hero Gilgamesh. Going even deeper into its origins, we have to go back to the first tales about Gilgamesh, written in Sumerian more than 5, years ago.

Later, Babylonian tradition compiled a large corpus about Gilgamesh with some of these primitive Sumerian tales in twelve clay tablets. Despite the fact that tablet number eleven refers to a plant instead of a tree, it is the first document in which life is associated to a plant species, so we think it can be considered the precedent to the Tree of Life.

In this chapter, Gilgamesh realises his frailty as a symbolism of trees in literature who will inevitably die. In order to find him, our hero travels to the twin mountains on the eastern limit of the inhabited world and, after many ups and downs, Gilgamesh finds Utnapishtim and asks him he became immortal, because he also wants to achieve this condition to elevate over his own frailty and, especially, over the rest of humans.

The man symbolism of trees in literature that he survived the flood by mere chance, because a god granted him, and only him, that privilege. However, he tells Gilgamesh about a plant at the bottom of the sea, which will not give him eternal life, but has the power of rejuvenation. Let us look at the fragment:. There is symbolism of trees in literature plant… like a boxthorn, whose thorns will prick your hand like a rose. If your hands reach that plant you will become a young man again.

Gilgamesh,p. Once Gilgamesh discovers the secret, he dives into the sea to find and uproot the plant.

When he comes out of the water, he tells Urshanabi the ferryman:. I will bring it to Uruk-Haven, and have an old man eat the plant to test it. Then I will eat it and return to the condition of my youth. And he started the way back, symbolism of trees in literature. But before he arrived to the city of Uruk, he stopped to rest and suffered the following misfortune:.

Seeing a spring and how cool its waters were, Gilgamesh went down and was bathing in the water. A snake smelled the fragrance of the plant, silently came up and carried off the plant. While going back it sloughed off its casing. Ancient Mesopotamia was located in a series of lush valleys between deserts. There emerged the first cities, between trees, symbolism of trees in literature, rivers and deserts.

It is not — and was not — only a matter of watering and pruning. Cultural and emotional ties were woven that created the symbolism of trees in literature and importance we can observe in religious, folk and literary texts.

Let us consider the mythological value of some of the main Mediterranean trees. We will do this by grouping them according to their mythological origin.

From this point of view, there are two clearly organised groups. The first group is constituted by trees consecrated to Olympus gods, and the second is formed by trees that are the result of the metamorphosis of people, symbolism of trees in literature, product of divine intervention. We can see that the olive tree Olea europaea was sacralised due to its divine origin.

According to Greek mythology Graves,the first king of Athens hesitated when naming the city. Athena and Poseidon fought for the name they preferred; none of the two gave in. Thus, the Olympic gods decided who offered the best present to humanity would win. Poseidon created the horse and Athena, the olive tree.

Since then, the tree spread across the fields of Greece honouring the goddess. Another fact regarding the olive tree as a sacred tree was that olive oil was used to anoint kings and symbolism of trees in literature and that dense olive branches symbolised abundance, glory and peace; consequently, symbolism of trees in literature, they were used to crown the winners of games and wars, symbolism of trees in literature, who accepted it as an extraordinary honour.

Mythological tales are an explosion of many of the desires, passions, envies and fighting of humans, but the protagonists are gods who often fight for prizes that can make our contemporaries smile, symbolism of trees in literature. Regarding the second group of trees, what they have in common is the fact that they are the result of metamorphosis; that is, of the transformation of people into trees. An example of this is laurel Laurus nobilisthe tree dedicated to Apollo.

The cunning Eros shot two arrows, one to reject love and the other to make it sprout. The first one hit Daphne, the second hit Apollo, and conflict ensued. Apollo, madly in love, chased Daphne, and she earnestly cried for the god of Peneus river, who took pity on her and turned her into a laurel tree. When Apollo opened his arms to embrace her, he was desolated to find the trunk of a laurel tree.

Apollo then claimed that laurel would always be his tree. Therefore, laurel crowned the forehead of inspired poets, of winners, of outstanding people…. In The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religionwritten in by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer and translated to a large number of languages Frazer,we find many examples of tree veneration and worship from around the world.

Here are some examples. The indigenous people from Siau island, in Indonesia, believed the tree spirits could wander around the villages. The inhabitants offered their most precious possessions, especially food, to keep them from doing evil. In Africa, some tribes believed every tree had a spirit. For example, the coconut palm Cocos nucifera was seen as the nurturing mother and chopping it down was seen as matricide.

We must note here that, despite looking like one, coconut palms symbolism of trees in literature not technically trees. Frazer explains other examples of tree veneration, such as ornamental offerings stuck to the trunk with a palm-leaves belt, sacrificing birds at its foot…. The psychoanalyst and scholar of botany-religion relations Jaques Brosse published Mythologie des arbres in Symbolism of trees in literature are many other examples in the book of the role of trees in the mythology of many cultures Brosse, See, for instance, the Yggdrasil ash tree Fraxinus excelsior.

It was the cosmic tree of Germanic mythology. The tree is described in a twelfth-century text as the largest and best of all trees, symbolism of trees in literature, unique, grand and strong. The text stated symbolism of trees in literature its robust roots kept it upright and connected it to the underworld, symbolism of trees in literature.

Its trunk elevated it over the ground and its leafy boughs covered half the world. A spring at its foot gave the eternal life, symbolism of trees in literature. And the river coming from it supplied all of the land. We move now to the symbolism of the trees in Genesis.

This book from the Bible shows two different creation myths. The first, that of the priestly school, narrates the symbolism of trees in literature of the world in seven days.

The second, by the Jahwist symbolism of trees in literature, explains the creation of humans and places them in paradise, in the Garden of Eden. According to this first tale, the whole creation is good and beautiful. There are important differences between this and the first tale: the first one is that it mentions that the trees were pleasant, that is to say, the aesthetic function is present in the garden.

Therefore, the Garden of Eden is primarily conceived as the garden of delight or paradise. Secondly, the garden was created by God to be shared happily with the man and the woman. This coexistence space symbolism of trees in literature filled with a variety of trees, especially fruit trees, and a river was born there which irrigated the entire space. The main three attributes of the garden were: the shade of the trees, the fruit and the water.

On the other hand, the Garden of Eden was full of symbolism, as it kept within, as we mentioned above, the two great symbolic trees of Christianity: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which gave the forbidden fruit, associated over time with the apple, maybe because the Latin genus of the fruit is Malus.

But the bible does not mention any particular fruit. The result is that the garden turns into a space to live happily with the creator. However, it is also the field for the first great spiritual battle, because God asked for obedience and loyalty and, consequently, for a life of restraint and rejection of the chant of the serpent, who tries to tempt them with the forbidden fruit. Woods and trees have always been economic and environmental resources for society, but also a space for emotional, cultural and spiritual contact and, evidently, a place for artistic inspiration.

We tried to prove with this document the fact that the ties between trees and people go back thousands of years and have been kept in many cultures in religious rites, folk tradition or literature. Viaggio tra gli alberi da frutto mediterranei fra scienza e lettteratura. Milan: Oscar Mondadori. Brosse, Symbolism of trees in literature. Mythologie des arbres.

Calvino, I. Barcelona: Edicions Frazer, J. Gilgamesh Millet, Eds. Gordi, J. Els arbres mediterranis. Un recorregut pels seus valors culturals i espirituals. Graves, R.


Tree Symbolism and Meanings of Trees


symbolism of trees in literature


Nov 15,  · Your trees may offer sources of whimsical storytelling for visiting friends and family, especially if they have children. Meanings and Symbolism of Trees. Consider a tree gift, with a tale to tell, for a new homeowner, to which they can add stories of their own. This brief listing of the meaning of trees may offer interesting ideas. Tree Symbolism and Meanings with photos of the trees, symbols and symbolic interpretations of trees - discover the ancient mystical and magical meaning of trees from all over the world. Symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature. Symbolism in literature evokes interest in readers as they find an opportunity to get an insight into the writer’s mind on how he views the world, and how he thinks of common objects and actions, having broader implications.