"I speak for the trees! Let 'em grow, let 'em grow!
But nobody listens too much, don't you know?
I speak for the trees, and I'll yell and I'll shout
For the fine things on Earth that are on their way out!
They say I'm old-fashioned, and live in the past,
But sometimes I think progress is progressing too fast!
They say I'm a fool to oppose things like these,
But I'm going to continue to speak for the trees!"
The Nature Spirit is a mythical being with a direct tie to nature. This includes your standard fairies, sprites, imps, dryads
, nymphs, and occasionally even deities. Usually found in Ghibli Hills
, and they may be a type of Genius Loci
if they're tied to a specific places (frequently a valley or a forest, though dryads are traditionally connected to a particular tree and naďads are tied to a specific body of water).
The exact origin and motivation of the Nature Spirit varies widely. One may be kind and gentle Spirit Advisor
living in peace and harmony, or it may be dangerous, uncompromising Knight Templar
determined to defend nature against man because Humans Are the Real Monsters
. The most extreme example of the latter results in Gaia's Vengeance
. They may also be very old, to the point of being a Time Abyss
, to emphasize how insignificant human affairs are
For the human version, see Nature Hero
. Mix the Nature Spirit with Anthropomorphic Personification
and you get Mother Earth
dressed in a Garden Garment
. Occasionally, a virtuous and nature-loving human may be promoted to a Nature Spirit
upon death, or when the plot demands it.
If there's non-nature spirits
for other natural forces, they can make up the Magical Underpinnings of Reality
This is Older Than Dirt
; any of the oldest human myths feature magical beings with a direct tie to nature, such as several cosmic and riverine Egyptian gods.
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Anime and Manga
- Princess Mononoke has the deity version of this, though the title character was actually a Nature Anti-Hero who was Raised By Wolf Gods.
- Another Ghibli example is Totoro. Although only mentioned once as being "The Keeper of the Forest", he certainly shows it.
- Celebi is this in the fourth Pokémon movie, as well as an episode each of the main anime and the Chronicles spinoff.
- In a more general sense, most of the Pokemon in general have qualities of Nature Spirits.
- The Floor Guardians from Tower of God are beings bound to governing their respective floor of the Tower, an artificial biome built way over 5000 years before the plot begins. Outside of the Tower, folklore knows them as Fae. They take the form of various animals, for instance a humanoid rabbit and a gargantuan beaked eel. On their floor, they govern the Applied Phlebotinum known as Shinsoo, which fuels the series functional magic.
- Tsukihime: the True Ancestor vampires, who were considered to be the perfect existences created by the Earth (in order to defend against humanity's contradiction against nature, as humans are capable of being able to survive after the planet's death), had near-limitless power due to their connection with the planet. Arcueid (the last remaining True Ancestor) is very possibly the most powerful being on the planet... She can defeat virtually anything that comes against her, despite having to use 70% of her power just to hold back her vampiric blood-lust.
- All over the place in Mon Colle Knights.
- Many of the demons in Amatsuki are connected to nature, particularly the tree guardians.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the elf-prince Nuada sends out a forest god against Hellboy & co. It begins as a bean, and grows substantially when it hits the water...
- The nature deity in Avatar starts off in harmony with its indigenous people, but becomes ticked off when humans attack and rallies the forces of nature against them.
- The Last Unicorn's title character.
- All over the place in the Chronicles of Narnia, emerging from the background mostly in Prince Caspian and The Last Battle.
- The Wraiths of Andelain in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are noncorporeal beings that help to safeguard the region of Andelain from harm.
- In Thomas Burnett Swann's contemporary fantasy story The Dryad-Tree a newlywed bride becomes convinced that the tree in her husband's garden is possessed by a jealous dryad.
- Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings.
- Mercedes Lackey adores nature spirits, and they appear in almost all her works.
- Also found in Tanya Huff's Quarters novels as representations of the four quarters (elements).
- "I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees!"
- The Dark Tower has the twelve Guardians of the Beams, who manifest as a bear, turtle, lion, hare, elephant, bat, horse, snake, fish, bird, wolf, and rat.
- And they're apparently cyborgs.
- It's left ambiguous as to whether the cyborgs are the original spirits (and thus inspired the legends), or are replacements for the beings which departed when the magic went away.
- Algernon Blackwood was fond of this trope; his variants tend to fall somewhere between The Fair Folk and Eldritch Abomination.
- Following the ancient Greek myths, there are many nature spirits in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. There are of course dryads and water nymphs, as well as satyrs who are tied to nature as a whole. However, Pan, God of the Wild, has gone missing, so these nature spirits are suffering, and have put their last hopes on finding him. Grover eventually does; Pan explains that it is up to him and the rest of life to protect the environment, and dies.
- An extremely dark portrayal in Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan: Helen Vaughan is the daughter of Pan, the Greek god of nature. Machen depicts him as an Eldritch Abomination linked to Satan. Don't go in the woods with Helen.
- The Green Mouse from Robin Jarvis's Deptford Mice series.
- They exist in The Dresden Files, their exact power range varies from entity to entity. Harry occasionally summons one for information.
- However, the Summer Court and Winter Court are all extremely powerful. Summer's magic is mostly earth, fire, and light based, but also related to life and renewal. Their royalty are just as powerful as the Winter Court, who rule water, air, and darkness. Harry despairs when he has to match wits with a gruff sorcerer (of the Three Billy Goats Gruff tale and an agent of Summer) who has three trophies from three Senior Council wizards he has killed.
- There are also wyldfae, those spirits who don't live and follow under the Queens specifically. Instead, they follow the Erlking, king of the goblins, for more Summer aligned fae, and Kringle, a truly Badass Santa, for more Winter aligned. Both, however, represent the hunters in nature and every year ride out on Halloween in The Wild Hunt.
- The Belgariad had the Dryads that live in Southern Tolnedra.
- Power Rangers Wild Force — like its Japanese counterpart, Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger — had the Rangers receive the power of the Great Beasts, powerful spirits representing nature and animal-kind, to fight against the Orgs, spirits of corruption and pollution. Gaoranger was more explicit about this, with the Orgs basically being corrupted nature spirits.
Mythology and Religion
- Classical Mythology has nymphs such as naiads, dryads, and gods such as Helios and Luna; all the way up to vast cosmic gods like Gaia (the earth), Ouranos (the sky), Nyx (night), and Hemera (day).
- Some of the Japanese kami are nature spirits.
- All pagan and shamanic mythologies feature nature spirits in one form or another, since they are important holdover from animism, an earlier form of spirituality upon which shamanism and paganism are based.
- White Water has the Spirit of the River, who grants a random award to the player.
- In the Forgotten Realms, Rashemen has a high density of such creatures.
- In the Oriental Adventures setting of Dungeons & Dragons, there is a race known as Spiritfolk who are essentially Half Human Hybrids of humans and Nature Spirits.
- Nature Spirits are what makes the Magical Native Americans...magical...in Deadlands. Such spirits occupy a moral middle ground between The Legions of Hell and The Heavenly Host. In-keeping with a shamanistic magical religion, Native Americans who know how can attract the attention of the spirits and convince them to lend aid.
- Nature is not immutable, though. Some of the Nature Spirits are still around in Deadlands: Hell on Earth, while some others have been...warped. If you ever wanted to play something called a "smog shaman", now's your chance!
- The Garou of Werewolf: The Apocalypse consider themselves soldiers on behalf of Gaia, a goddess-level spirit representing Earth as a vital entity. They also consider the Wyld, the embodiment of primal chaos and growth, an ally in their fight — though, in a bit of a subversion, most werewolves hold the Wyld at arm's length because it can be... unpredictable.
- In Warhammer the Wood Elf army includes Dryads. Who apparently are quite pretty and sylph-like off the battlefield, but when outsiders meet them tend to be horrible spiky tree monsters. And then there are the actual Tree Men. And the sprites used as personal weapons. And the Wood Elf king, who leads The Wild Hunt. On foot.
- In Dragon Dice, Naiads and Dryads are an essential part of the Treefolk race/army. They are the cavalry and mages for the race, and are quite likely to be found in most Treefolk armies.
- In Nobilis, the Mythic World operates entirely based on these. According to the rules there are approximately a trillion trillion nature spirits in the world - this is a big deal because instead of the universe being "some big uncaring thing you must deal with" it is "a big uncaring people you must deal with" - one can convince a car to keep moving even without gasoline, converse with mountains and many such things. Granted, in most games only the most important spirits play a big role, but just knowing they are there is important.
- Samurai Shodown's Nakoruru became one.
- So did Aeris, according to some interpretations.
- Wisps—and, indeed, many Night Elf units—in Warcraft III.
- The Harvest Sprites and Harvest Goddess in the various Harvest Moon games.
- The Thief games are rife with nature spirits, from almost literal spirits like the fire elementals, to weird humanoid rat-monkeys and bug beasts.
- One of the main characters, Viktoria, is a typical dryad / wood nymph.
- Every nature commune in Lusternia has two nature spirits: a patron animal and an aspect of the earth. Serenwilde has Mother Moon and White Hart (a stag); Glomdoring has Mother Night and Mighty Crow (a crow, obviously); and Ackleberry has Sister Lake and Brother Bear (natch).
- After saving Dragon's Roost Island (or that's how you're supposed to do it), Link meets the god of winds, Zehpos, who rewards him with his first melody for the The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Later Link meets Zephos' ill-tempered brother, Cyclos.
- Link of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess needs to save the spirits of the Sacred Springs, who guard not only their springs but the regions that the springs feed into.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time features the Great Deku Tree and Lord Jabu-Jabu, who evidently guard the forests and Zora's Fountain, respectively. They make cameo appearances in Wind Waker as well.
- The Quest for Glory games use this trope several times. There's the Dryad and the forest fairies in the first game, the Guardian of the Heart of the World in the third, and the Leshy in the fourth. Many of these will kill you if you attempt to harm any part of the environment.
- Fairies are this in Touhou. They're a somewhat unusual take, as they're not particularly concerned about nature, preferring to play around and attack player characters.
- Oh, and Perfect Memento in Strict Sense suggests that Yuuka is something similar.
- The Elementals/Spirits from the World of Mana series. Sprits of the various forms of the life-energy known as Mana. Each one represents a different element, and they usually can be found guarding Cosmic Keystones that personify their elements (Whether that is seeds or stones depends on the game). In the games in which they appear, they are generally responsible for the main character's magic abilities. They include Salamander/Salamando, Undine, Gnome, Djinn/Sylphid, Shade, Wisp/Lumina, Luna, and Dryad. Legend of Mana replaced Luna with Aura, but no other game has done so.
- Seiken Densetsu 3 also introduced the eight God-Beasts, renamed Benevoldons when they returned in Children Of Mana. They also personify the elements, but they have a much more dangerous reputation. When the Mana Stones are broken, they are prophesied to run amok, potentially destroying the world for throwing the balance of nature off-balance.
- Sakuya in Ōkami and arguably Amaterasu as well.
- In Dragon Quest VII, the heroes have to awaken and round up all four Elemental Spirits throughout the course of the game. They can be fought as Bonus Bosses, as well.
- In "Neverwinter Nights", there is a "Spirit of the Wood" that looks like a white deer.
- The Sylvari, one of the playable races in Guild Wars 2 are essentially this - a race of plants united by an unconscious Hive Mind who mimic the humanoid form only out of convenience and have an innate ability to manipulate nature, especially other plants.
- In a twisted variation, The Gohma from Asura's Wrath are Embodiments of the planet's rage, and thanks to Chakravartin that rage was able to take form as Vlitra.
- Viridi from Kid Icarus: Uprising, the goddess of nature. For the first arc after Medusa's defeat, she becomes the Arc Villain after trying to kill humans due to them exploiting nature.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, there's the Voices of Life, guardians of nature who embody its will to survive and take a physical form as a Pokemon when there's a grave threat that needs to be addressed. The sole one who plays an active role in the story is Hydreigon, who is far kinder then his appearance would imply.
- League of Legends, given the nature of the game, has more than a few as playable champions. Udyr in particular is host to four different spirits (Tiger, Bear, Turtle, Phoenix).
- Iri in Wayfarers Moon gets very unfriendly when people torture those for their own ends.
- They interact with certain members of the Clan of the Hawk in The Wandering Ones. Some, like First Man and Flame's leafy friends, are benign. However, Coyote also shows up to teach Bobbie and Max, and let's just say he lives up to his reputation.
- In The Gamers Alliance, nymphs are agile female creatures with ebony skin and cat-like eyes who are in tune with nature, live in Libaterran forests and have intimate encounters with travellers, which makes books of lore refer to a nymph as the "ranger's fondest conquest". It serves as a plot point once it's revealed that the nymphs are seducing travellers because they need them to become pregnant; a magical curse makes nymphs only give birth to females of their kind and thus they need males from other races to keep their bloodline going. The Faerfolc are the forefathers of the elves who also reside in Libaterran forests, and they act as protectors of the earth and see themselves superior to elves and thus fit to rule elvenkind.
- Captain Planet could be seen as a form of this; the show also featured Gaia, who definitely counts.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender is rife with this. Guest stars include the spirit of a local forest, a river-goddess, and the spirits of the Moon and the Ocean. Aang himself, the Avatar, was originally suggested to be this in and of himself, but it turns out he's just a regular human who's bonded with the Big Good of all spirits.
- Barbie Presents Thumbelina has the tiny Twillerbees, who live in a field of flowers, have the power to make plants grow at an alarming rate, and regularly converse with animals.