Nature Spirit

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dryads.jpg

"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 Lorax, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax

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 naïads are tied to a specific body of water).

The exact origin and motivation of the Nature Spirit varies widely. One may be a kind and gentle Spirit Advisor living in peace and harmony, or it may be dangerous, uncompromising Well-Intentioned Extremist determined to defend nature against man's destruction. The most extreme example of the latter results in Gaia's Vengeance. Some may be disquietingly neutral, largely unconcerned with human affairs and living only in areas humans seldom tread. 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, that virtuous 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.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • In Nasuverse, this trope is integral to the setting. In fact, it goes out of its way to separate Nature Spirits (who came from Gaia) and Phantasmal Beasts (coming from Alaya).
  • Many of the demons in Amatsuki are connected to nature, particularly the tree guardians like Tsuyukusa.
  • Berserk: a lot of Schierke's magic has to do with summoning and manipulating nature spirits, and her strongest spells involve a powerful spirit possessing her and using her body as a medium to unleash their power. The magic items she gives to the rest of the party are also enchanted by numerous nature sprites, from which they derive their power. For this reason, Schierke tends to love nature and dislikes industry and cities, since there aren't a whole lot of nature spirits in urban areas.

    Fanfiction 
  • The Queen's Consort: The fairies act as this, charged with managing the four seasons and various other facets of nature (day, night, sky, etc.)
    • Elsa, current Queen of Winter
    • Queen Summer
    • Queen Autumn
    • Queen Spring
    • Maleficent, Queen of Night
    • Rapunzel, Queen of Daylight
    • Peter Pan, King of the Sky
    • Robin Hood, King of the Wilds
    • There is mention of a "Goddess of the Seasons", but she is never actually seen or given detail to, merely being a deity that the fairies worship.

    Films — Animation 
  • Crysta and the other fairies in FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Hexus on the other hand is a spiritual embodiment of destruction and chaos.
  • Aisling from The Secret of Kells is this combined with being one of The Fair Folk.
  • The Leafmen from Epic are guardians of their forest, although the actual magical one is Queen Tara, being capable of bringing countless plants to life with little more than a passing glance. Any plant in her immediate vicinity will move to grant her safe passage wherever she needs to go, she can control plants defensively and offensively, and even the trees shield her dying form from a thunder storm.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Folklore 
  • In Norse Mythology the spirits of the land were called landvættir. They protected and nourished their domain, which could vary greatly in size. Their appearance is also very different, some take the shapes of animals and fantastic beings, others of more humanoid figures.
    • Among the most prominent examples are the four great landvættir of Iceland, each of which has a quarter of the country as their domain. Their forms were those of a great dragon, a mighty bull, an enormous eagle, and a mountain giant, and each was followed by a considerable number of lesser landvættir. Today these four landvættir are depicted on the Icelandic coat of arms.
    • Ancient Icelandic law also dictated that ships should take down their terrifying figureheads upon approaching the coast lest the landvættir would take umbrage.

    Literature 
  • All over the place in the 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.
  • 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.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • They exist in the series, 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.
  • The Discworld has dryads, at least in The Colour of Magic. Since they're stated to be vanishingly rare, it's possible their absence from later books is because they're extinct. Discworld is unusual in that dryads aren't Always Female; as the female dryad Druella puts it "Where do you think acorns come from?" The Light Fantastic has a passing mention of Umcherrel, the Soul of the Forest, as one of the beings shamans believe in.
    • In addition, the Discworld has its own version of faeries. Forget Tinkerbell, though — the Discworld's fae are xenophobic, capricious and vain, constantly watching for an opportunity to invade the Disc and extinguish the 'inferior mortal beings' living there.
  • Prospero's servants Ariel and Caliban in The Tempest.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Several spren fit this mold, appearing around fire or wind. Most such spirits are unintelligent, but at the beginning of the series Kaladin is shocked when a windspren starts holding a conversation with him. It's not uncommon for windspren to speak, but never more than a few meaningless words as part of a prank. Kaladin quickly finds "Syl" becoming more and more intelligent, providing him advice and encouraging him to do the right thing. She is actually an honorspren, feeding off his own honor in exchange for Surgebinding. Without the bond, she is basically just a windspren.
  • Dryads in Everybody Loves Large Chests are powerful spirits present in the elven Ishgar Republic. Each one is tied to a mighty, magical Hylt tree, which acts as an extension of their own bodies, and vice-versa. Most Dryads are seldom seen, if ever, because they spend thousands of years at a time asleep until something rouses them, but once awake, they're so powerful that appealing to their wants and needs is a good way to get an eternally protective ally, and angering them is likely to be the last mistake you'll ever make.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Power Rangers Turbo; a mysterious young boy named Erutan (read it backwards) lives in the forest, using magic to drive away litterbugs and vandals, although he needs to be rescued when the Monster of the Week targets the forest itself.
  • 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.
  • Charmed has the Wood Nymphs — creatures that use their magic to make nature grow. Their presence causes flowers to bloom. They're also guardians of the Eternal Spring — whose waters make the drinker immortal. Other Nature Spirits such as gnomes and garden fairies are alluded to in various episodes.

    Myths & 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).
  • 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.

    Pinballs 
  • White Water has the Spirit of the River, who grants a random award to the player.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
  • Nature Spirits are what makes the Magical Native Americans... well, 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.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In Warhammer, the Wood Elf army includes a number of different Nature Spirits who protect the ancient woodlands of the Old World, including minor spirits used as weapons and shapeshifting Dryads who appear exceptionally beautiful off the battlefield but turn into tree-like monsters when angered. The greatest of the Warhammer world’s Nature Spirits are the Treemen, powerful spirits who have bonded with a living tree and who are revered by the Wood Elves and forest creatures alike.
    • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the woodland spirits of the World That Was have developed into the Sylvaneth, an entire race of Nature Spirits. Ranging from the small insectoid spirits known as Spites through the capricious Dryads and the warrior Tree-Revenants to the mighty Treelords, the Sylvaneth are the living embodiment of life magic and have a deep connection the natural cycles of the Mortal Realms.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Wisps — and, indeed, many Night Elf units — in War Craft III.
  • World of Warcraft's Shamans get their power from elemental spirits. How powerful the spirits are can vary from place to place. This has no effect on Shamans in-game of course.
  • 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).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • 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.
  • World of Mana:
    • The Elementals/Spirits 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.
  • 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.
  • Guild Wars has Melandru, the goddess of nature.
    • Guild Wars 2: the Sylvari, one of the playable races, 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.
  • Pokémon:
    • This is not an uncommon archetype among Grass-types.
      • Celebi, a legendary Pokémon that travels through times, is essentially a woodland fairy. According to its Pokédex entries, as it travels through time and space, forests and wildernesses flourish in its wake.
      • Shaymin, another legendary resembling a hedgehog with turf and flowers instead of prickles. Its reason d'être is essentially to purify the land of toxins and pollution and leave blooms and flowers where there was wasteland before.
      • Trevenant, trees inhabited by the ghosts of humans who died deep in forests, take on this role as well, becoming vengeful protectors of the wilderness against any that would despoil it.
    • 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).
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Y'ffre, the God of the Forest and the Spirit of the Now, is the most important god in the Bosmeri (Wood Elf) religion. In the early world, Y'ffre brought forth nature (referred to as "the Green") and was one of the strongest pre-creation spirits, being the first to transform into the Ehlnofey, the "Earth Bones", which allowed for the laws of physics, nature, and life on Nirn. Y'ffre bound the Bosmer to the "Green Pact", which prevents them from harming plants and eating living plant matter in their homeland of Valenwood, which leaves them on a heavily carnivorous diet.
    • The series has Spriggans, which are particularly tree-like Plant People. They have a Gaia's Vengeance tilt and are known as "Nature's Guardians." Depending on the game, they either must be killed three times before they'll stay dead or they come with a rapid Healing Factor that kicks in when they are near death. One of their favored methods of attack is to blend in with surrounding trees and plants, then ambush their unaware targets.
  • The Witcher series has Nymphs and Dryads (which are a type of nymph in this series) that Geralt can romance, as well as an Empowering Lake Lady (who is also a nymph).
    • The third game also has Leshens, which are a species of humanoid tree-like monsters that can control plants and animals, and attack any humans that harm nature within their territory. On one occasion Geralt encounters one referred to as The Woodland Spirit that is worshipped by the people in a nearby village, teaching them how to hunt in exchange for receiving sacrifices and leeching off their life force like a parasite. When it starts killing hunters for not killing their game the way it wants them to, Geralt must choose to either kill or appease it.
  • Final Fantasy IX features Nymphs in two categories - antagonists who appear as enemies in battle and benevolent creatures, that give the party money and AP in exchange for ore.
  • Gigantic has the forest lord Voden, a bow-wielding personification of the woodlands who hunts those who would despoil the wilderness.
  • The Lady of the Forest/ Witherfang from Dragon Age: Origins, a shapeshifting being who's sometimes a dryad and sometimes a wolf, and rules over a clan of former humans cursed with lycanthropy by a vengeful elven mage.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's 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.
  • There's quite a few of these in Moonflowers: Artio the bear-goddess and Maidin the river-spirit are both friendly and helpful. However, Artio is protecting Alima Song from the Horned Hunter, who is the story's Big Bad and a literal force of nature, which obviously means he embodies predators. The Hunter is called a stalker and a serial-killer by other characters, and his cruelty towards the Song family has pissed off a growing number of gods. They're severely hamstrung in their efforts to help Alima, since not only is the Hunter smart enough to set up the ENTIRE STORY, angering him too much will result in the deaths of even more people for upsetting the balance of nature.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 the reincarnation of a regular human who bonded with the Big Good of all spirits.
  • And in The Legend of Korra, we have Avatar Korra, Aang's reincarnation.
  • 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.
  • Littlebark Grove in Harvey Beaks has a few nature spirits who usually appear as incidental characters. One part of the setting is the community of the tree spirits who are said to have created the forest in ancient times and resemble ghost pieces of wood. There's also a huge dragon-like water spirit who dwells in Wetbark Lake.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NatureSpirit