There is something inherently magical about trees that has given them a special place in roleplaying games, perhaps that is why several authors, filmmakers, and others have brought trees to life in their books and on movie screens. Forests, whether they’re eerie and filled with savage monsters waiting to devour travelers or home to elves and centaurs, are present in almost every fantasy setting. The fairy tale forests filled with monstrous wolves waiting to gobble up pigs and little wolves have grown into more expansive settings such as the Forbidden Forest in the Harry Potter series and Mirkwood. It’s also interesting to see how many approaches have people have taken to actually bring trees to life.
As a child I forced my parents to watch the Wizard of Oz until the video cassette wore out. Then they bought me another one because they’re wonderful. In one of the more memorable scenes in the film Dorothy and the Scarecrow find themselves face to face with several talking apple trees. Watching the trees start shouting insults and hurling their fruit after Dorothy picks one of their apples made you wonder if the apples trees in your backyard could spring to life just as easily.
Who could forget the Whomping Willow? Harry Potter and Ron Weasley first encountered this magical tree on the grounds of Hogwarts during their second year. After crashing a flying car into its branches they quickly learned how the tree had earned its name when it tried to smash them and their car to pieces.
Treebeard and the rest of the Ents who appear in the J.R.R. Tolkien’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy and the films based on them made the plight of the forest and the tree herders come alive. As the fallen wizard Saruman brought down the forests surrounding his towers the enraged Ents made war on him aiding the fellowship.
The trees of C.S. Lewise’s Narnia could think and speak to anyone who cared to listen. When Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and Susan first emerged in Narnia they found themselves in a clearing at the heart of a great snow covered forest. The trees marked the presence of the White Queen whose reign over Narnia had blanketed the land in an endless winter, but the children wouldn’t learn that until later. These same forests sheltered the talking animals and other magical creatures of Narnia in their times of need.
Of course with so many fantasy settings filling their forests with life Dungeons and Dragons could hardly be left out. Trees with clutching limbs waiting to snatch up inexperienced adventurers can be found in many Monster Manuals.
Just from these examples it’s clear that the forests of our imagination are green and growing. Treetop cities filled with Fey, paths with cloaked bandits waiting to pounce upon passersby,and the wondrous creatures that dwell beneath leaf and branch are still thriving in a world filled with concrete and science. That in and of itself is magical.