Created By: Theriocephalus on September 17, 2017 Last Edited By: pyroclastic on September 24, 2017
Troped

Treants

A fantasy species resembling humanoid trees, often wardens of nature.

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This is a very specific type of Plant Person, usually found in High Fantasy worlds, resembling humanoid trees (often nondescript deciduous trees, but more specific or exotic types show up from time to time). They're typically very long-lived if not immortal, and if so will often be portrayed as very old and wise. You can expect them to be big, too — they'll usually be the same size as giants, when both races exist in the same setting. These kind of beings will often be incredibly strong, or have a Green Thumb that gives them the ability to control regular plants.

More often than not, their first and foremost concern will be protecting and caring for their home forests. As a result, indiscriminate logging and exploitation of nature (and, if the setting has it, pollution) will be the most surefire way to arouse their anger — and their anger is a thing to be feared. Outside of that, they're typically uninterested in what goes on outside their forest homes, although they may be on good terms with any local elves or fairies.

Depending on the work, they can be either a natural and self-sustaining race, regular trees that are "awoken" or transformed into humanoid creatures, or a mixture of the two.

Historically, they're based on Tolkien's Ents, which may also be the reason they don't show up in fiction as often as Tolkien's other races — since Tolkien straight up invented them instead of borrowing from mythology, his estate has a much stronger copyright claim than it does to his other races, which can explain both why they never gained the universality of elves or dwarves and why few are actually called Ents, with more lawyer-friendly names such as Treemen, Treefolk and Treants ("tree" plus "giant") being used instead.

Subtrope of Plant Person. See also The Lost Woods (where they'll often live), Wise Tree, Forest Ranger and Gaia's Vengeance. For when they turn hostile, see also When Trees Attack.

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    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Treefolk are a staple type of large Green creatures. For the most part fairly standard examples, they usually appear as reclusive forest dwellers and wardens of the wild, often on good terms with the local elves. Some planes have their own variations.
    • In Lorwyn, the treefolk are the most ancient and long-lived of the intelligent races, and are viewed with great respect by their younger neighbors. They reproduce by spreading large amounts of seeds that grow into regular trees, some of which eventually awaken into new treefolk. They also differ in size, physical and magical abilities and role in treefolk society based on the species of tree they resemble — for instance, oak treefolk are the largest and strongest of their kind, black poplars are healers and rowans are magicians.
    • In Lorwyn's dark mirror Shadowmoor, the treefolk become warped, skeletal mockeries of their old selves, often only barely humanoid and highly aggressive towards other beings.
    • In the Gothic Horror-inspired plane of Innistrad, most treefolk creatures are nothing like humanoid, appearing as little more than aggressive, mobile trees with woody, fanged slashes for mouths, but traditionally humanoid treefolk show up the Shadows over Innistrad block. Regardless of their form, some bits of flavor imply they're technically trees possessed by spirits. Innistrad is also home to the only spirit treefolk in the game so far, Yew Spirit.

    Comic Books 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Groot is a rare science fiction example of this trope, appearing as a towering, plant-like humanoid alien chiefly composed of wood. A bit of a borderline case, as he doesn't share many traits associated with this trope such as an association with forests, although he does posses some degree of control over plant life.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Shrek movies feature some humanoid trees, inspired by the Fighting Trees from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They are first seen in the second movie, arm-wrestling in a Bad-Guy Bar; in the third movie they are among the villains that become Prince Charming's henchmen.

    Literature 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Trope Maker. In-universe, the Ents were explicitly created by the nature goddess Yavanna to protect the wilderness from the axes of civilization (and to keep the trees from becoming homicidal). They have an odd sort of immortality: they don't age and live more or less forever, but over time become stiffer, sleepier and more "treeish", rooting themselves and not stirring for increasingly long periods, eventually becoming indistinguishable from normal trees. They still live extremely long before this happens, giving them a very patient and long-term view on things: they consider reaching a decision after three days of continuous debate almost unseemly hasty.
    • In a mild case of Unbuilt Trope, they have a number of characteristics later imitations lack, such as a highly variable numbers of fingers and toes and a form of gender dimorphism: male Ents live in deep forests and guard nature like later examples, but the women, the Entwives, favor agriculture and farmlands and resemble various crops and domestic trees, and were the ones who taught agriculture to early Men.
    • There is also some debate about their appearance — while the Peter Jackson movies popularized the "humanoid tree" image, in Tolkien's writing they're more humanoid, generally being described as giant- or troll-like beings who come to resemble trees as they age. In fact, the word "ent" is derived from an Old English word meaning "giant", and is linguistically related to ettin and jotunn. However, they are stated elsewhere in Tolkien's writings to have originated as sprits that entered the world by inhabiting or mimicking trees, giving more support to an interpretation of them as literal humanoid trees.
    • There are also the Huorns, which are creatures that start out as normal trees and gradually "wake up" in a sort of reverse process to the Ents growing treeish, growing more mobile and aware. They're just as protective of their forests and distrustful of intruders as true Ents, but can be much more malevolent and dangerous. A part of the Ents' job is to corral and calm the Huorns and keep them from becoming too much of a danger to others, hence the Ents being also know as the Shepherds of the Trees.
  • The Fighting Trees from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are a take on this that predates most well-known uses: they precede Tokien's Ents by five and a half decades or so, and resemble trees with human-like faces and arm-like branches that attack intruders by grabbing them or throwing their own fruit at them. While they don't have the ambulatory nature of later treants, they still share their dislike for interlopers in their woods — their purpose seems to be to keep intruders from entering the enchanted forest behind them, as Dorothy and her group find out when they try to enter it and the trees attack them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
  • Pathfinder has Treants straight out of the Tolkien mold, with an extremely long-winded language, the ability to animate and control trees and gatherings called moots that can last for months. They also grow from acorns the size of a human head. There's a tropical variant called the tobongo, which lives in jungles and can turn people into trees.
  • Warhammer: The Treemen are the mightiest inhabitants of Athel Loren, formed when powerful spirits merge with living trees. Incredibly powerful and ancient, they command great respect from lesser forest spirits and the Wood Elves alike, and are rightfully feared by those outsiders who don't think they're myths or long extinct. They also inhabited Athel Loren long before the Wood Elves and are quite xenophobic, to the point that many see the Wood Elves, who have inhabited and defended the forest alongside the Treemen for millennia, as unwanted interlopers, and want them out of their woods.

    Videogames 
  • Age of Wonders: The Treeman appears as a unit for the Elves in Shadow Magic. It gets concealment, which means that if this wall-crushing behemoth stands in a forest, foes will not see it until it's one step away.
  • Battle for Wesnoth: Woses, large humanoid trees allied with the elves and thought to be wardens of nature. Their ambush skill also makes them effectively invisible in woodlands.
  • Don't Starve: If a player chops down too many evergreen trees, there's a chance of a nearby evergreen turning into a Treeguard, a powerful monster resembling a humanoid pine that will try to kill the player unless pacified by planting pinecones. The Shipwrecked DLC adds Palm Treeguards, which resemble a cluster of palm leaves with a face and arms mounted on two trunks serving as legs. They spawn when palm trees are cut down and are pacified by planting coconuts.
  • League of Legends:
  • Mo' Creatures: This Minecraft mod includes ents in the form of giant, humanoid birch or oak trees. They can create clusters of grass, ferns, saplings, mushrooms or flowers and don't take damage from any weapon but axes. Oak ents have hollow boles in their legs with the eyes of small creatures peering out.
  • Pokémon: Trevenant are Pokemon resembling humanoid trees that inhabit the Winding Woods of Kalos. Highly protective of their forest, they can control regular trees and show great kindness to the Pokemon that inhabit their land and nest in their bodies, but will ruthlessly attack anyone who exploits their woods. Physically, they're a bit unusual, being about human-sized, walking on six roots instead of legs and being technically the ghosts of humans who died lost in the forest.
  • Total War: Warhammer: Treemen appear in the Wood Elf army roster with a couple of tweaks from their tabletop version, such as legs ending in a tangle of roots instead of feet. The subfaction of Argwylon, led by the Treeman Durthu Oakheart, focuses on Treemen and other forest sprits above the Wood Elves — for instance, only Ancient Treeman generals and not elven Glade Lords can be put in your council — in contrast to the main Wood Elf faction, which does the opposite.
  • Smite: Sylvanus, the diminutive god of forests and the wilderness, goes into battle on the back of Grover, a massive treant. A couple of unlockable skins turn Grover into more exotic variants on this trope, such as a treant covered in giant blue-and-red mushrooms or one based on a cactus.
  • Warcraft:
    • Warcraft III:
      • Treants are human-sized treemen, usually summoned by the Keeper of the Grove by targeting a forested area. Corrupted Treants can be seen in some maps, where they also have poison attacks or the Entangling Roots ability.
      • The giant trees that serve as Night Elf buildings are known as Ancients, and while they can attack and move around, it's very much a last-ditch option, as they do both very, very slowly.
    • World of Warcraft:
      • The Treants and the Ancients from Warcraft III make an appearance in this game too.
      • Druids with the "Restoration" specialization have the ability to shapeshift into the "Tree of Life" form, which gives them enhanced healing and plant-based attack abilities, as well as higher armor. Initially they looked identical to treants; however, they were given a unique appearance in Mists of Pandaria. An item called Glyph of the Treant was added for players who prefer the appearance of the old treant form, which is a purely aesthetic spell.
    • Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars:

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Silly Symphonies short "Flowers and Trees" has three treants, two lover trees and one evil tree who pines for the female tree, out of a larger population inhabiting a forest also home to animated flowers and woodland critters. Out of rage after his attempts to woo the female tree fail, the evil tree tries to burn the forest down but gets burned by his own mechanisms. The lover trees continue on to their business like nothing ever happened.
  • In a direct parody of Lord of the Rings, the Futurama episode "Bender's Game" also featured a giant tree person called Treedledum. The fellowship ended up using him for firewood.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Tree Man of Arbora", a tree-like being brought to life near a meteor crater grows arms and legs and begins wandering about, consuming enormous quantities of water. It displayed enormous physical strength, easily ripping the hood off of a car to get at the water in its motor and breaking a dam apart with its bare fingers. It at one point disguises itself in a forest by standing still and becoming indistinguishable from normal trees, until a boy carving letters into its trunk angers it back into motion. At the end of the episode, Superman takes the creature to the planet of Abora, which is entirely populated by tree men.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • September 17, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    The zero-context examples are for works that I'm aware have what I'm talking about, but for which I haven't been able to dredge up enough info from memory, elsewhere on Tv Tropes or the works' own materials/fan wikis to draft good examples. I would appreciate help in filling these gaps out.

    In terms of indexes, I figured Tree Tropes and Fantastic Sapient Species Tropes would be the most obvious places to put this.

    As for why I think these examples warrant a separate page instead of being lumped in with Plant Person as most are currently, I think they warrant a subtype in the same sense that, say, Lizard Folk warrants a separate page from Beast Man. I find that these specific beings tend to be used in a different manner in narrative and worldbuilding than more generic sapient plants are.
  • September 17, 2017
    foxley
    • The New Adventures Of Superman: In "The Tree Man of Arbora", a tree being brought to life near a meteor crater consumes enormous quantities of water. At the end of the episode, Superman takes the creature to the planet of Abora which is entirely populated by tree men.
  • September 17, 2017
    Chabal2
    • Warcraft III:
      • Treants are human-sized treemen, usually summoned by the Keeper of the Grove by targeting a forested area. Corrupted Treants can be seen in some maps, where they also have poison attacks or the Entangling Roots ability.
      • The giant trees that serve as Night Elf buildings are known as Ancients, and while they can attack and move around, it's very much a last-ditch option, as they do both very, very slowly.
    • Something Positive: During a D&D game, the party encounters hillbilly rapist treemen. This gets their Asshole Victim to quit the roleplaying group, for which the other members send the GM thank-you notes.
    • Order Of The Stick: Durkon does not like trees, viewing them as Combat Tentacle-equipped Stone Wall Giant Mooks that aren't moving yet. However, when he faces actual treants (that have been made resistant to everything but Sonic damage) he figures out a way to deal with them.
  • September 18, 2017
    Snicka
    World Of Warcraft:
    • The Treants and the Ancients from Warcraft III make an appearance in this game too.
    • Druids with the "Restoration" specialization have the ability to shapeshift into the "Tree of Life" form, which gives them enhanced healing and plant-based attack abilities, as well as higher armor. Initially they looked identical to treants; however, they were given a unique appearance in Mists of Pandaria. An item called Glyph of the Treant was added for players who prefer the appearance of the old treant form, which is a purely aesthetic spell.

  • September 18, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    • Oglaf has occasionally featured an unnamed tree-species. Their males look like Treeants while their females are humanoid Plant People.
  • September 18, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Detective Eddie Valiant, sleuthing Who Framed Roger Rabbit, enters the district of Toontown via the access tunnel. He emerges in a rural setting where the animals and the trees smile at him and sing "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile." Also, a pair of trees hug in celebration once the toon passenger train demolishes The Villain's dip-mobile.
  • September 18, 2017
    Snicka
    • The Fighting Trees from The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz are the Unbuilt Trope versions of this: trees with human-like faces and arm-like branches that attack intruders by grabbing them or throwing their own fruit at them.
    • The Franchise/Shrek movies feature some humanoid trees, inspired by the Fighting Trees from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They are first seen in the second movie, arm-wrestling in a Bad Guy Bar; in the third movie they are among the villains that become Prince Charming's henchmen.
  • September 19, 2017
    Snicka
    A minor comment regarding Groot: he originated from the Guardians Of The Galaxy comic books, rather than the more recent and more famous film adaptations.
  • September 19, 2017
    Snicka
    Characters like this will occasionally have Green Thumb superpowers.
  • September 19, 2017
    alnair20aug93
  • September 19, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    All right, a thought on my part now that suggestions have started coming in.

    When I first thought up this trope, I generally had in mind humanoid trees with at least some of a certain set of characteristics:
    • A Green Thumb
    • Super Strength
    • An association with forests
    • Very large size
    • Protective of nature
    • On good terms with other nature-loving races, factions and/or individuals

    Now, I was not expecting that every example should have to fit every one of these requirements or even a large majority, but the more the better in my mind.

    Right now, I'm kind of torn over how strict or loose I should be about this. On the one hand, I don't want to be too anal and smother this trope in the metaphorical cradle, but on the other I don't want it to lose focus and just become a set of The Same But More Specific Plant Persons that also just happen to be based on trees. Any ideas?
  • September 19, 2017
    MetaFour
    Another possible sub-bullet for that The Lord Of The Rings example. Not entirely sure if it belongs here or When Trees Attack.

    • There are also the huorns, which are a halfway point between Ents and ordinary trees. It's not clear how intelligent/sapient they are, but they can speak to the Ents. It's implied that they're trees that have become Entish through centuries under the Ents' care—and possibly some of them are Ents that have become treeish.
  • September 19, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    I would hazard that it belongs, by association with the ents if nothing else. This is mostly about humanoid or at the very least mobile and ambulatory trees ideally associated with nature and the wilderness, whereas When Trees Attack is about when the trees want to kill you. The two things are not mutually exclusive, so I expect there to be overlap.

    To expand a bit, I would feel that, say, the trees from "Flowers and Trees" would belong here instead of on When Trees Attack, since they're not harming anyone. Same with the ents, since besides the Last March they're a pretty peaceful lot. Things like the huorns or Don't Starve's Treeguards, which are more innately aggressive, are more likely to be examples of both depending on their actions and attitude. Things like carnivorous trees, or otherwise standard trees that don't do anything besides beating you with vines or branches (like the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter), or poisonous trees, or trees that launch thorns, or things like that, belong strictly on When Trees Attack and are not this trope.
  • September 19, 2017
    NotOnAnyFlatbread
    I would suggest making the trope name either Treemen or Treants (or Treefolk), not both. The combo "Treemen and Treants" implies to me that the two names are not synonyms and that they are the only two names for the creatures in question. Writing it in that form would also make the trope name more difficult to use naturally in text.
  • September 19, 2017
    WaterBlap
    My issue with the name is that "Treemen" is a bit on the nose and also unnecessary. I've seen "sylvan" (referencing Silvanus) as a name for these kind of creatures, so I'd suggest replacing "Treemen" with "Sylvans" for Sylvans And Treants.

    I don't think the "and" and "or" distinction is that big of a deal. See Basilisk And Cockatrice for a similarly named trope of a thing (i.e. the basilisk) that's essentially the same kind of mythical creature as the other thing (i.e. the cockatrice).
  • September 19, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ , ^ ^ I can see where you're both coming from, but I'm not certain how I feel about changing the name. If nothing else, I can't say I have ever heard the term sylvan used in this context before, however. To me, at least, it brings to mind half-feral hermits and wild men of the woods more than humanoid trees, really. @ WaterBlap, could you expand a bit on your complaints about the term "treeman"? I'm not entirely sure I understand what you mean.
  • September 21, 2017
    NotOnAnyFlatbread
    ^^Basilisk And Cockatrice has a reason for naming both in the title. It clearly describes two similar but distinct mythological creatures which are sometimes but not always conflated. It also specifies that some works of fiction include both as separate creatures, and do so consistently enough that the trope page can compare and contrast the typical portrayal of the basilisk with that of the cockatrice.

    If works including Ent-like beings had copied Tolkien more completely, so that the trope would be "Ents and Entwives" (or whatever it became with the serial numbers filed off, e.g., "Treants and Treantwives"), that would be a perfectly good reason to use the "and" construction. Ents and Entwives are distinct from one another and would serve different roles in the story, despite being closely linked—it's also quite plausible that a story might include Ents or Entwives or both.

    However, the current draft indicates that "Treemen" and "Treants" and "Treefolk" are all synonyms for the exact same concept—a race of treelike beings inspired by the Ents. So what is the benefit of putting two (and only two) of the three synonyms in the title and consequently making the title clunkier.
  • September 21, 2017
    NotOnAnyFlatbread
    Personally, I'd favor just "Treeants," because it strikes me as the least likely to be mistaken for something else. It's not a term I'd heard before, but it makes sense once explained, contains the word "tree" right up front to give some context, and is unfamiliar enough that I'd know I needed to look it up. "Treemen" or "Treefolk" on the other hand, could fairly easily be mistaken for some other type of tree-related creature or group (e.g., dryads could be described as treefolk, but have nothing to do with this trope).
  • September 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ Hmm, I see your point. I'd gone with Treemen and Treants because a multi-word trope name is more convenient for making a wiki word, but I'm thinking now that it might make more sense to just change it to Treants. I'll make the change now, I'll probably keep that as a title unless someone comes up with a better suggestion.
  • September 23, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    All right, there doesn't seem to be any more input incoming. If nobody else has anything to add, I'm going to launch this tomorrow.
  • September 23, 2017
    Snowy66
  • September 24, 2017
    WaterBlap
    It does not feel like five days, haha. But yeah, my point was that — for the purposes of troping — X And Y can work as a name if both X and Y are equivalent. And that is the situation with Basilisk And Cockatrice (there was a relatively long TRS discussion on this matter) and I was saying that Sylvans and Treants are equivalent with one another. But now that the name is just "Treants" I'd say that works just fine.

    (Also, for what I was saying about "Treemen" see Flatbread's comment above, which I agree with. I'd also add that it isn't creative or interesting, like calling a superhero who's made of water "Water-Man".)
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