Tough Travels with . . . Unique Flora

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: UNIQUE FLORA

Self-explanatory. If you know of a plant that is either not on earth, or doesn’t act the same way in fantasyland as it does on earth, then you can consider it unique. Have fun.

You want a tree that's not a tree, but is also infinitely more than just a tree? Well, look no farther than Rhapsody, the first book of Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages series. There are five World Trees scattered throughout Haydon's world, with roots that connect to one another through the centre of the planet. Rhapsody, Achmed, and Grunthor must pass into the roots of the World Trees for a magical journey that not only takes them to the other side of the world, but which changes them in the process. It's a long journey too, as you might expect, comprising the first half of the novel, but utterly fascinating.

How about some hungry, poisonous, carnivorous trees? The Coldfire Trilogy from C.S. Friedman features trees that initially seem normal and innocuous. They don't walk or talk, they don't wave their limbs around, and they don't have massive gaping maws in their trunks. Instead, they give off a noxious chemical that drugs passing animals into paralysis, at which time the trees send out creeping tendrils to pierce the terrified beasts and basically suck them dry. Oh, and just because horror always tops horror, there's also the Forbidden Forest - "the Forest is alive, it tears them apart, it strews their blood upon the ground to nurture its foul growth."

Okay, okay, so you really do what those magical, animated trees that possess human-like qualities. The Illearth War, the second book of Stephen R. Donaldson's original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. In it, Caerroil Wildwood is an immortal Forestal of Garroting Deep - a kind of male dryad - who is responsible for protecting the forests of the Land from Lord Foul's Ravers. During the climactic battle, he literally brings the forest to life, sending an unstoppable army against the forces of Lord Foul. Unfortunately, it's neither an easy victory nor a cheap one - there's a price of eternal servitude to be paid for the assistance of Garroting Deep (a forest of trees that, as you might guess, like to garrott their victims with their branches).

An older, creepier portrayal of trees that aren't quite trees, but something deeper and darker, comes from Stormbringer, the last of Michael Moorcock's original Elric Saga. Mordaga's castle, which lies upon the topmost crag of a tall and lonely mountain, is protected by 139 steps are 49 ancient Elder Trees. As Straasha explains to Elric, "Each elder contains the soul of one of Mordaga's followers who was punished thus. They are malevolent trees-ever ready to take the life of anyone that comes into their domain." Upon approach, each tree releases a shower of leaves that latch onto the flesh of those walking below and begin draining their blood, while sharp branches help keep the victims immobile for feeding.


  1. Good choice going with the Coldfire Trilogy. Excellent series.

  2. Some great trees here. I don't know how I forgot them. The shame is too much, must go hide. :)

  3. Haha who knew trees could be so malevolent? :D I'm glad I'm not the only one who went for a 'trees only' theme this week.

    Friedman and Donaldson are both on my TBR. I might have to bump them up the list a bit. :D

  4. I love all the tree examples. I guess Nathan could have done a week with just trees, LOL! Great picks.

  5. Trees, huh? :) These sound awful. I hate going into the forest at night (especially alone) and stories about evil trees never helped the matter!

  6. Excellent list - I like your tree focus. I was trying to think of the Feist book where there is a search for a small flower - think it was the Riftwar Saga (maybe No.2 or 3). But, could I think of it? No.
    Lynn :D

  7. Great list! I hadn't realized how many 'unique' trees there were before this week. And I really need to read Moorcock one of these days

  8. I need more Elric. So much in fact that I have the second book on my audio player right now!

  9. All the books are totally new to me this week, but at least not the authors - have read Moorcock, Friedman and Donaldson...but I really should go back to read some of their older stuff.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum


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