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Tree Vessel

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Not just made from wood...a ship that's literally a tree.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Shnakepup on Sep 18th 2013 at 8:40:59 PM
Last Edited By:
Morgenthaler on Jul 12th 2016 at 4:50:56 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

YKTTW now sponsored by Morgenthaler per Up for Grabs rules.


http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/1311001043_364589_2968.jpg

This is a trope, mainly in science fiction, where a ship or vessel of some kind is literally made out of a tree. Not merely made out of wood, or that a tree was used in the construction, this ship actually looks like (and possibly functions as) a giant tree. A key element is that the tree should be living, and was grown/created/transplanted specifically for the purpose.

Most often used in Science Fiction, though not necessarily limited to it. In certain cases it may be used to show a race as basically Space Elves who have both high technology and still are in tune with nature.

A Sub-Trope of Living Ship. Compare Genius Loci and World Tree. See Lily-Pad Platform and Leaf Boat for more terrestrial examples of plants being used for transportation.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film

  • The Tree of Life in the "space traveler" sections of the film The Fountain.

Literature

  • In the Hyperion Cantos, the Ouster "Treeships".
  • In Raft by Stephen Baxter, one of the strange lifeforms in the high-gravity universe is a species of mobile floating trees. Humans turn them into vessels and steer them through space.
  • Alastair Reynolds has a version of this in his Revelation Space Series. The "Greenfly" infestation that is depicted taking over the galaxy in Absolution Gap is shown to be billions of self-contained biospheres containing trees and tree-like plants.
  • The Last Continent does this with a tree that's been made into a boat by the local god of evolution. The leaf is a sail, the hull is a floating seed, etc.
  • Animorphs: Pemalite ships use huge trees as computers for their spaceships. Even Ax (whose species' ships have giant biodomes filled with forests and plains) finds it ridiculous.

Tabletop Games

Web Original

  • Orion's Arm has what are called "Dyson Trees". They grow into vast orbital habitats. They're genetically engineered giant plants that can survive in vacuum and synthesizes nutrients from ices found in a comets or icy asteroids, into which they're rooted. Inside there is a sealed hollow filled with air, inside which other lifeforms, including humans, can live.

Western Animation

  • Non-space example: In Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, the animals have to find a boat at the end of the valley before the ice dam breaks. The "boat" turns out to be a gigantic hollow log.

Feedback: 44 replies

Sep 18th 2013 at 10:44:57 PM

Four examples seems like enough.

The name could use tweaking, as some might think this is shipping with plants as part of the couple.

Also, what are the parameters? Is this a hollowed out tree like a canoe? Does it stand up like a tree? Can it be sat on like a log?

Sep 19th 2013 at 1:24:00 AM

I think one key element here is that the tree should be living, and be grown for the purpose. At last that's the case in Hyperion, and how I envision things.

As for ships, the shippers will have to deal.

Sep 19th 2013 at 3:59:38 AM

Tree Boat would be a good alternative.

Sep 19th 2013 at 4:59:23 AM

Boat implies a much smaller vessel than ship.

Though I imagine a tree boat in this context would be made out of a bush :-)

Sep 19th 2013 at 6:28:09 AM

The Last Continent does this with a tree that's been made into a boat by the local god of evolution: The leaf is a sail, the hull is a floating seed, etc.

Sep 19th 2013 at 7:48:19 AM

...I'm going to admit that the title made me picture dendrophilia. Tree Vessel, maybe?

Sep 19th 2013 at 8:10:18 AM

The description should have more about the significance of the trope. In my experience, it tends to be used to show a race as basically Space Elves who have both high technology and still are in tune with nature.

m8e
Sep 19th 2013 at 8:12:53 AM

Tree Ship is a good name, we shouldn't name it something else just because the shippers have kidnapped the word ship.(There might be different reasons, though.)

And we have Cool Ship, Drop Ship, Ghost Ship(not Ghost Shipping), Sapient Ship, Spy Ship, Generation Ships(not May December Romance) and so on, so using ship isn't really a problem.

Sep 19th 2013 at 8:19:35 AM

Tree Ship is fine, I think. There's not a lot it can be misinterpreted as.

Though I still think Generation Ships wasn't the best choice, since as much as I hate shipping and its tropes, it sounds like Intergenerational Friendship in shipping form.

But I do have to say, unless someone establishes some reasoning behind this, it's just The Same But More Specific to Organic Technology, thus not tropeworthy on its own.

Sep 19th 2013 at 11:08:57 AM

I think Tree Ship is good and clear. How would you interpret a Shipping that involves trees, anyway? (Do I really want to know?)

Sep 19th 2013 at 1:29:49 PM

There is a real-life concept called a Dyson tree. Basically, a gengineered giant plant that can survive in vacuum and synthesizes nutrients from ices found in a comet or icy asteroid, into which it is rooted. Inside that plant there is a sealed hollow filled with an atmosphere, inside which other lifeforms, including humans, can live.

^ Ent/Entwife, maybe?

Sep 19th 2013 at 1:41:05 PM

  • Space vessels created by elves in the Spelljammer D&D setting are grown, not built, from living, leafy trees.

"A Tree At Sea", maybe?

Sep 19th 2013 at 10:17:36 PM

Usopp from One Piece is an expert on seeds of bizarre plants, and has a seed suited for every situation, including the seed of a boat-plant, useful to cross rivers.

Sep 19th 2013 at 11:33:59 PM

@Larkmarn: A Tree Ship can be made out of magic, not only Organic Technology.And I think the concept is common enough to warrant its own trope page, especially as there are cases where the Tree Ship is the only organic technology shown (I eg think that's the case in the Hyperion books).

Sep 20th 2013 at 10:07:07 AM

In Ice Age 2 The Meltdown, the animals have to find a boat at the end of the valley before the ice dam breaks. The boat turns out to be a gigantic hollow log.

Sep 25th 2013 at 7:01:27 AM

Updated the description a bit. Added an image. Had a hard time finding a good "treeship" picture, since a lot of what I could find was fan-art and didn't often look very tree-like. If someone else can find a better image, or think one of the other ones I linked are fine, let me know and I'll change it.

Sep 25th 2013 at 7:18:31 AM

  • In German, the word for "dugout" is "Einbaum", which literally means "one-tree".

Sep 25th 2013 at 7:39:16 AM

Sorted the examples by media.

Sep 25th 2013 at 7:50:18 AM

Not sure if this counts, but:

  • In the Dragaera novels, Vlad once makes passing reference to some odd-looking trees as being shaped that way because they're "shiptrees, for designs no longer used". It's implied that the trees are Organic Technology that grow naturally into the shapes of ships or ship parts, but whether they'd be harvested alive or dead isn't stated.

BTW, the hull of the boat from The Last Continent is a floating gourd, not a floating seed. We do see its seeds a bit later in the novel, but they were surfboards, not ships.

Sep 25th 2013 at 2:32:05 PM

Not quite sure if this would count: In Larry Niven's novel, The Integral Trees, human descendents of a spaceship crash live in giant tree-like plants floating in a gas torus orbiting a neutron star.

Sep 26th 2013 at 6:15:53 AM

I remember thinking of that one, but I've never read it. Do the trees move in any way? Like, guided by the humans as vessels?

Sep 26th 2013 at 6:58:55 AM

  • The ships grown in the Rocketship Forest in Sa Ga. Granted you can't really steer them, but they are open to suggestion.

XYZ
Sep 26th 2013 at 2:54:45 PM

The observatory in Dragon Quest IX could count as this.

Sep 26th 2013 at 3:22:46 PM

Worth mentioning World Tree in the "see also" line maybe?

Oct 7th 2013 at 6:33:56 AM

I say you can keep the name Tree Ship, and mention in the description that it has nothing to do with Shipping that involves trees.

Aug 7th 2014 at 10:17:34 AM

  • Two of Jim C. Hines' "Princess" novels, The Mermaid's Madness and The Snow Queen's Shadow, feature a ship called the Phillipa captained by a dryad named Hephyra.

Aug 7th 2014 at 10:43:18 AM

I added the word transplanted because I think some examples where the tree was already in existence but relocated would qualify. The point of this trope is that the tree remain a tree and not just a source of wood. It doesn't have to have been created for that purpose as long as it remains still a tree.

Aug 7th 2014 at 12:38:00 PM

Take Tree Ship. It's about ships that look like trees, not boats that look like trees.

Aug 7th 2014 at 5:33:22 PM

I'll give it another hat when it has more examples. Till then I think we can afford to sit for another four or five.

Aug 11th 2014 at 10:38:17 PM

^^^^^^^^^^^ The trees aren't guided, no. Although one drifts out of orbit and breaks apart...

Jul 11th 2016 at 7:07:17 AM

Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

And seeing as this already has 7 hats, I'll give it a few more days before launching this.

Jul 11th 2016 at 8:16:36 AM

I vote for the name Tree Vessel, since the word "ship" is a Loaded Trope Word which is about Shipping.

Jul 11th 2016 at 11:18:38 PM

Animorphs: Pemalite ships use huge trees as computers for their spaceships. Even Ax (whose species' ships have giant biodomes filled with forests and plains) finds it ridiculous.

Jul 12th 2016 at 4:11:40 AM

I agree with @snicka "Tree Vessel" could fit better and avoid the confusion. I thought in a shipping relationship with a tree character. Also in a lot of sci-fi works, the transport are vessels.

Jul 12th 2016 at 4:48:41 AM

Adjusted the title accordingly.

^^ Added, but namespaces next time please. This isn't the first time I've noted this either.

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