Transflormation

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A trope with its roots in antiquity.

Dendroo | δενδρόω
(vb.) turn/grow into a tree
In the Passive, it means "to be turned into a tree." Used surprisingly often.
Ancient Greek Word of the Day, Classics Enthusiast

One of the more extreme ways to get closer to Mother Nature is to become an actual plant.

This trope goes way back to the days of Classical Mythology, when turning people into plants was used as both a reward and a punishment by the various gods of the pantheon.

A Transflormation can be positive, negative, or even neutral under the right circumstances. Becoming a plant may be the result of a Baleful Polymorph in which the victim's consciousness is either rendered inert or forced to look on in silence. On the other hand, it may instead take the form of a species change from Muggle to Plant Person.

Because people tend to associate positive feelings with nature, a permanent transflormation can be an effective way to show that a dying character is "returning to nature" and thereby finding peace and dignity in death.

See also Cool and Unusual Punishment, Transformation Horror, Curse That Cures, and Metamorphosis. Compare its sister tropes Taken for Granite (an involuntary stint as statuary) and Animorphism (Voluntary Shapeshifting to take animal form.)

Not to be confused with Playing a Tree.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "The Little Tree", Lumberjack Smurf finds out that an elf's sister has been turned into an evergreen tree and spares her from being cut down.
  • The first-ever comic book adaptation of Star Trek (by Gold Key Comics) features a planet of Man-Eating Plants which reproduce through spores that can also infect animals and turn them into plants as well. Even worse, they can not only travel through space but also penetrate the hulls of starships like the Enterprise. After the landing party narrowly escapes the planet, during which a Red Shirt was transformed, Spock recommends destroying all life on it to prevent the spores from spreading to other worlds.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Head Heart & Soul when Harry thinks Ron has been killed, he transfigures Voldemort into a tree and makes it permanent.
  • The Oversaturated World explores the results of this trope with Fluttershy, who spends her summer vacation as a tree.
  • In Fallout: Equestria, Fluttershy mutates into a tree in the style of Harold from the game series.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the Disney version of Hercules, a nymph does this when chased by Phil as a callback to the myth of Daphne and Apollo. It's Voluntary Shapeshifting on her part, though: as he comments "they can't keep their hands off me" she indignantly whips him with a branch.
  • Near the end of Yellow Submarine, the Nowhere Man turns the chief Blue Meanie partway into a rose bush.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Whenever Audrey II in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) eats someone, it sprouts a flower with that person's face afterwards. After it eats Seymour, he becomes a flower that can exchange words with his love interest. This is preserved in the stage musical but left out of the film version of the musical.
  • The goblins of the town of Nilbog from Troll 2 do this to people so that they can eat them, by means of getting them to eat their evil food. Arnold gets turned into a plant thing by the goblins, complete with his own planter. Of course, he mostly just looks like a human with a couple of vines and pieces of bark stuck on, because the movie had No Budget.

    Gamebooks 
  • The Choose Your Own Adventure book "The Magic of the Unicorn" has this as one of its bad endings, even if it's rather And I Must Scream since you're stated to be still able to feel and think.
  • One book of the Star Challenge series too, as punishment for messing with ent-like aliens of the Andromeda Galaxy.

    Literature 
  • In the third book of the Duel of Sorcery trilogy, Serroi is turned into a tree as the price of defeating Ser Noris.
    • In the subsequent trilogy, Dancers, she turns back.
  • In the second book of Tamora Pierce's Immortals quartet, black robe Numair manages to change Book Two Final Boss Tristan Staghorn into an apple tree, which is treated as a near-impossible feat.
    • And in a later anthology book, it is revealed that this was inverted at the same time. When Numair turned Tristan into a tree, a tree somewhere else in the world turned into a man. He's very confused by this, but eventually takes the name Qiom.
  • Kabumpo in Oz. In the backstory, the Princess of Sun Top Mountain was turned into a tree by the evil magician J. Glegg when she refused to marry him.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Pre-series, Zeus turned his daughter Thalia into a pine tree to save her life.
  • In Speaker for the Dead, this is revealed to be part of the natural life cycle of the aliens known by the human colonists as "piggies." The piggies, or pequeniños, are the highest form of animal life on their planet; the humans discover (after some tragic misunderstandings on both sides) that when they die they are "planted" and then metamorphose into the planet's large (sentient) trees, the dominant vegetable life, as a natural part of their life cycle. The human scientists eventually discover that this is a common theme for all life on the planet; everything from insects and grass to birds and fish have two distinct stages, many of them switching from animal to vegetable. It turns out that this is not a natural state but that the planet's native life had been altered by an alien race's genetic engineering virus in the distant past.
  • Which Witch?:
    • Ethel Feedbag imprisons a family of three Muggles in three different trees as part of a black magic competition.
    • When Terrence is recaptured by Matron and finally realizes he has magic powers, he turns her at least partially into a tree in order to root her to the ground and halt her threatening advance.
  • In the world of Piers Anthony's Xanth, the Magician Trent won the Superpower Lottery with the power to transform any living organism into any other living organism. During his reign of terror, he hits quite a few of his enemies with Baleful Polymorphs of every size and shape. Then he figures out that trees are living organisms too, and just starts turning his enemies into trees.
  • The title character of "The Girl Who Loved the Sun" by Diana Wynne Jones ends up as a beech tree; the story is modeled on Greek legends, but with a more English and less Mediterranean ecosystem.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Court Of The Air, an ancient and evil civilization escaped a terrible disaster by moving underground, and coped with the lack of food by transforming the enslaved majority of its vassal-states' population into plants that lived off the caverns' thermal energy. The elite classes lived off their human "crops", which were helpless to resist or even protest.
  • In Rebecca Reisert's novel The Third Witch (a retelling of Macbeth), the main character Gilly prays at one point to be turned into a tree, and if that desire is granted she promises to abandon all thoughts of revenge against her nemesis, Macbeth. It doesn't happen.
  • This happens to Amberle at the end of The Elfstones of Shannara: she was chosen to transform into a new Ellcrys, the magic tree that keeps the demons trapped in the Forbidding.
    • It also happens to Grianne Ohmsford in a different and more limited way at the end of Tanequil, a later book in the Shannara series. She becomes one of the people that feeds the eponymous magic tree's roots, which frees her spirit to live in the air around the tree's branches.
    • In the Magic Kingdom of Landover series also by Terry Brooks, Queen Willow is a Plant Person who periodically transforms into an actual tree, but only temporarily. No points for guessing what kind of tree.
  • John Collier's 1931 novella "Green Thoughts" has an exotic, carnivorous orchid whose blossoms resemble what it ate (flies at first, then a cat, then its owner); it is thought to have been the inspiration for Little Shop of Horrors above.
  • In Sorcery & Cecelia, Cecy's brother Oliver gets turned into a tree by an evil magician. He gets better.

    Live Action TV 
  • Dinosaurs: In "If You Were a Tree" a bedtime story Grandma Ethyl tells Baby Sinclair, Earl, who works as a tree pusher for the WeSaySo Corporation, magically exchanges souls with a tree. At the end of the story Earl and the tree switch back, each having learned the importance of the other. But it's just an in-show story so there are no long term effects.
  • In the Lost in Space episode "The Great Vegetable Rebellion", Dr. Smith was turned into a plant by an anthropomorphic carrot. (He got better.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Both "Mission to the Unknown" and "The Daleks' Master Plan" feature Varga Plants, the thorns of which contain poison that transforms victims into other Varga Plants.
    • In "The Seeds of Doom", anyone infected by the Krynoid will be transformed into a murderous plant monster.
    • In "The Mark of the Rani", the Rani has mines that transform anyone who steps on them into a tree.
  • At the end of Edge of Darkness, Craven turns into a black flower with no attempt at an explanation.
  • The sisters in Charmed invokes this trope with a spell to bypass the recently acquired Complete Immortality of an episode's villain because trees are immortal too.
  • The pilot episode for the Swamp Thing TV series has the title character fuse a bad guy into a tree as punishment for killing one of Dr. Arcane's escaped test subjects.
  • In one episode of Power Rangers Mystic Force, Xander falls victim to this when he drinks a potion that he mistakenly believes will make him more attractive.

    Music 
  • From Tori Amos' "Beauty Queen/Horses": "But will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?"

    Music Videos 
  • Radiohead's music video for "There There" ends with frontman Thom Yorke becoming a tree as his apparent punishment for stealing some enchanted clothing he found in the woods. It's a lot more graphic than it sounds.
  • The music video for Japanese singer DAOKO's Girl features a sequence where the main character turns everyone around her into giant flowers.

    Mythology 
  • Happens a lot in Classical Mythology, often serving as a "Just So" Story about the origin of a particular plant.
    • The nymph Daphne was shot by one of Eros' lead-tipped arrows, which caused her to spurn Apollo's amorous advances. Desperate to escape Apollo, the fleeing Daphne cries out to the gods to save her and is changed into a laurel tree.
    • Baucis and Philemon from Ovid's The Metamorphoses are the only ones in their town to welcome the disguised Zeus and Hermes into their home. Part of their reward for upholding Sacred Hospitality is that when one of them dies, the other will die also; when death comes for them, they are changed into a pair of intertwining trees to symbolize their Eternal Love.
    • Persephone turned the nymph Minthe into the mint plant as revenge for trying to sleep with her husband.
    • The myth of Narcissus is sometimes recounted as Narcissus being changed into a narcissus flower as a punishment for being such a, you guessed it, narcissist. In the earliest recorded versions, though, the flower simply sprang up on the bank of the spring where he died, and was named in his memory.
    • Myrrha, Adonis's mother, was transformed into a myrrh tree after sleeping with her own father. She then gave birth to Adonis while a tree.
    • Philyre, who got turned into the linden tree after giving birth to Chiron, a centaur.
    • Smilax got turned into bindweed after slighting Krokos (who got transformed into saffron after his death).
    • When the Argonauts encountered the Hesperides, the sisters transformed themselves into an elm, a poplar, and a willow tree.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Polymorph Other and Polymorph Any Object spell can change a living creature into a tree or other plant.
    • In an old Dragon magazine article a wizard was challenged to a duel. He snapped his fingers, cast a Polymorph spell on the challenger and changed him into a plant, then said "Next?"
    • The Shape Change spell allows the caster to change into a plant, such as a bush.
    • The Barkburr is a small limpet-like monster that lives on trees. It jumps onto an opponent and injects them with a poison that causes lignification — it turns the victim into a tree.
  • The oldest Ganymedians in Rocket Age eventually root into the soil of their home and become trees, venerated by their descendants.
  • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar the Goddess of Life Magic, Alarielle the Everqueen, is able to cast Metamorphosis, a spell that causes the target's arms to twist into branches and their feet to form roots until they become a tree. In the game, if this spell kills the last model in a unit then the player can replace the model with a wood.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, one of Catachan's many terrifying flora is the Spiker, a plant which shoots needle-like stingers at living things to turn them into other Spikers.

    Video Games 
  • In the 6th grade level of The ClueFinders, Joni starts turning into a plant while held hostage by the denizens of the polluted underground civilization.
  • In Conquests of the Longbow, if you pass the Green Man's riddle game he will grant you the ability to temporarily turn yourself into a tree. If you fail (or deliberately attack him otherwise), he'll make you one permanently.
  • In the Dark Souls series, the second game features giants whose life cycle seems to involve turning into trees (even after death) and dropping seeds. The third game sees this happen to humans as well after spending too long as hollows (minus the seeds).
  • Flonne was turned into a flower as punishment for aiding Laharl's invasion of heaven in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Whether or not she gets changed back depends on which ending you get.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, a curse not only covers an entire kingdom with thorny vines but also turns almost everyone into statue-like plants.
  • Over the course of a few hundred years, Harold from Fallout slowly goes from oddball FEV product, to Plant Person with a bonzai tree on his head named Bob, to a fully fledged talking tree completely rooted in place by Bob. He's not really happy with the last bit when your character first encounters him in that form, but depending on how you play it he can come to terms with being involuntarily made a Fisher King slowly restoring plant life to the wasteland.
  • Golden Sun: The population of a lumberjack village is turned into trees due to a forest spirit's curse, then restored after the heroes break the curse.
  • Kid Icarus has monsters that can turn the player into a mobile eggplant.
  • The King's Quest series has several examples.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask begins with Link forced into the form of a Deku Scrub by the Skull Kid. Once the player figures out how to reverse the transflormation, they can initiate it at will by donning the Deku Mask. The Transformation Sequence still looks excruciating, though.
  • In Quest for Glory II, Julanar is a woman who, while fleeing from brigands, is discovered by a djinn who transforms her into a tree in order to save her from her pursuers.
  • World of Warcraft: Druids can learn a Tree-of-Life form.
    • And in Warlords of Draenor, players are introduced to the Botani, plant-people who will inflict this in a distinctly Body Horror and mind-controlling way on orc (and in one dungeon, human mage) NPCs. The very concerning part is that it's hard to tell if the orcs are simply reanimated corpses or enthralled and mutated, but still alive. As for the humans? One of them begs for you to flee as her body and magic tries to kill you.
  • The heroine in Sword of Mana transforms into (or fuses with) the Mana Tree to restore it after its power is drained.
  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has Potions of Lignification, which temporarily transform you into an animate tree. In this form, you are incapable of movement, including teleportation, but have improved defensive capabilities, although attacking and spellcasting are still possible. This is usually beneficial, but drinking an unidentified potion and unexpectedly turning into a tree in the middle of a difficult battle can also be very bad.
  • In Undertale, Flowey is actually Prince Asriel Dreemurr, who was inadvertently brought back from the dead (minus his soul) as a flower thanks to an experiment by the royal scientist, Dr. Alphys.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Flute Boy is slowly turned into a tree by the power of the Dark World, and the transformation completes after you play the flute for him one last time, though he gets better in the ending thanks to the Triforce.

    Webcomics 
  • Ava's Demon: Maggie gains the ability to transform her arms into vines and branches as an effect of forming her pact with the demon Tuls.
  • Erstwhile: In "A Tale With A Riddle," based on the very short story by The Brothers Grimm, three women are changed into flowers.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, staying as a tree for six months to three years is one of the first step of training in shapeshifting magic: One has to learn to appreciate other shapes to master them.
  • In The Gamer, the druid warrior Horpitia Aholting, partner to the Witch of Slaughter, is capable of transforming into a tree that gathers life force to power the Witch's spells.

    Web Original 
  • Funny Or Die's parody series of Captain Planet where the Captain snaps and starts turning the human race into trees.
  • "I will save you! Tree powers, activate!" *poit*

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: Tummi steals a fruit off a cursed tree, eats it, and then slowly transforms into a tree himself. The rest of the Gummi Bears need to find the cure.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: There's an episode where Poison Ivy attempts to turn rich people into trees.
  • Darkwing Duck: Dr. Reginald Bushroot went a step further than Poison Ivy and injected himself with his experimental serum. This resulted in chlorophyll going through his veins instead of blood and plant tissue growing from inside his body: His feet turning into roots and leaves sprouting thanks to sunlight. He is now more plant than duck since even getting shredded leads to his regeneration.
  • Ben 10: The alien forms Wildvine and Swampfire are Plant People. Well, Plant Aliens.
  • Catscratch: In the episode "Core-uption," Waffle becomes a potted flower as a result of Gordon turning the world turning into a Sugar Bowl.
  • Defenders of the Earth had an episode where an Absent-Minded Professor accidentally creates a super plant fertilizer that turns him into a plant. The villains plan to conquer Earth by turning humans into plants using the professor's formula.
  • Gravity Falls: The episode "Northwest Mansion Mystery" has the Monster of the Week turning the party guests into tree-like statues.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight Sparkle's Power Incontinence once resulted in her turning her parents into potted plants.
    • Fluttershy has expressed interest in becoming a tree (most likely so she can commune with her animal friends on a more intimate level).
  • The MGM cartoon The Tree Surgeon has the titular surgeon sprouting roots and branches after accidentally poking himself with a syringe meant for a sick tree.
  • Over the Garden Wall: The shadowy soul-stealing Big Bad known as The Beast can turn people into edelwood trees if they're close to death or passing the Despair Event Horizon. He then uses the oil from the resulting trees to keep his lantern lit.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Raphael is turned into a plant in the first episode of Season 3 when the turtles battle The Creep, a mutant plant monster.
  • One episode of Ultimate Book of Spells has Gus and Cassie afflicted with a curse that brings out their ancestry; Cassie slowly turns into a tree, as apparently witches originally came from "witchwood" (though the specifics aren't explained).
  • Winx Club:
    • Halfway through the first season, Wirta is changed into a pumpkin by Icy, and Flora spends the rest of the season trying to figure out how to change her back.
    • Miss Faragonda is turned into a tree at one point, but she gets better.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: The episode "Demon Seed" features a Haylin Seed turning Jack Spicer, Vlad, and all the Xiaolin Warriors save Raimundo into plants.
  • In Rudolph And Frostys Christmas In July, destruction of the King Winterbolt's ice scepter resulted in him turning into a tree.
  • In The World of David the Gnome's Grand Finale, David and Lisa become trees after death, a possible reference to Baucis & Philemon.

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