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The Trees Have Faces

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"The trees in this forest are weird, aren't they? I've heard sometimes they smile wickedly... I'll tell you, if I see a tree smiling, I'm gonna run in the opposite direction!"
Goombario, Paper Mario 64
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It's fairly common in fiction to see trees depicted as having faces, or at least face-like structures, in their trunks. This is typically inspired by how real trees can often seem to have faces due to patterns of knots, scars, holes or broken limbs suggesting eyes, noses and mouths, often in scowling, leering or exaggerated expressions.

Fictional takes on this often exaggerated the resemblance of these features to human faces, giving trees much more detailed features and faux expressions. Often, trees may be depicted as entirely hollow, with breaks in their trunks forming their faces. Other times, a jagged mouth-like opening may reveal a dark space from which gleaming eyes peer out at the world. It isn't unusual to also have low-growing, leafless branches sticking out from these trees and bearing remarkable resemblances to clawed or skeletal hands, further adding to the anthropomorphism.

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More often than not, this is only a visual detail, meant to make a particular place seem eerie, spooky or otherwise unsettling. Some depictions may however go further and have the trees actually be able to see and speak. In some cases they may well become actively aggressive, overlapping with When Trees Attack, but more often than not they'll simply be harmless, if creepy, parts of the background. Occasionally, people who are turned into trees may retain twisted versions of their former faces as the only mark of their former state.

Some cases will depict this as taking place largely in a character's head, with the exaggerated faces and menace of the trees being a byproduct of confusion, fear and suggestive shapes and shadows; in this case, what's seen on screen isn't "really" what's present in the fictional world, but rather the character's perceptions displayed as the work's point of view. Once things calm down or day breaks, the monstrous trees will return to the much less frightening shapes they actually hold.

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While stands of these trees can be found growing wherever spooky vibes gather, they are especially common in Halloweentown and The Lost Woods. If the trees have functional limbs in addition to the faces, you're likely dealing with Treants. More benevolent and aware specimens are likely to be a Wise Tree.


Examples

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    Fairy Tales 
  • "Mother Holle": When she arrives in Frau Holle's domain, the main character stumbles upon a talking apple tree with a long-nosed face.

    Film — Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment, Ichabod Crane imagines the trees having monster faces as he becomes increasingly scared as he rides alone through the forest (and one of the trees has an actual monster-face-shaped hole, but the "eyes" that are staring at him from it are only a couple of fireflies).
    • Pocahontas: Grandmother Willow is a sentient willow tree that talks to the protagonist by morphing part of its trunk into the face of an old woman. Unlike most cases of this trope, she's a kind and benevolent being.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: When Snow White is fleeing through the dark depths of the forest, the trees appear to take on monstrous, menacing faces, leering down at the frightened girl and seeming to reach for her with gnarled, arm-like branches. As the forest becomes much more sunny and idyllic at the end of Snow White's flight and once she meets the forest animals, this seemingly represents a young girl's panic and confusion when lost in the forest at night turning her surroundings into horrifying parodies of themselves.
  • The Brave Little Toaster: When the appliances stop for the night in the woods, Lampy finds a hollow tree they can use for shelter. But when he shines his light inside it, it reveals a scary face on the tree which scares the others. Lampy then sees it from outside and runs away as well.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy and the Scarecrow encounter some apple trees that are intelligent, can talk and move their branches, and have human faces. The Wicked Witch of the West is shown nearby before this happens, implying that she animated the trees.

    Literature 
  • The Midnight Library: "An Apple a Day" concerns a young boy steals an apple from a neighbour's orchard, turning out to belong to a local witch, then he starts his horrifically slow transformation into an apple tree with his face on it.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Weirwood trees, rare plants usually only found in sacred woods and in the Haunted Forest, do not naturally have faces, but followers of the Old Gods traditionally carve them into their trunks. These are usually snarling, scowling or otherwise meant to be frightening or unsettling. In addition, the wierwoods' naturally bone-white bark and red leaves naturally make for an otherworldly appearance even absent the faces, and the trees' dried, blood-red sap gathered around the roughly carved features further adds to their unsettling effect.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In Grandmothers and Other Fearsome Encounters a character is turned into a tree with a facelike pattern on its bark.
    Upon the the trunk of the newly grown tree, the bark was formed in the shape of a face, with blind eyes and a mouth set into a silent scream
  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: When Torak and Renn go to the Deep Forest in Book 5, they encounter many trees in which faces have been carved and [[Squick human teeth have been placed]].

    Live-Action TV 
  • H.R. Pufnstuf: There are talking trees on Living Isla. In the series crossover with Mutt And Stuf, Pufnstuf gives two talking trees named Sid and Marty to the dog school.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba!: Everything talks, including the trees in Brobee's realm. In one episode, a tree thanks Brobee for cleaning up a mess.

    Video Games 
  • Broken Age has a sentient tree near Shellmound. However, it doesn't have a mouth until Vella chops one into its trunk. It's not too happy about that, though.
  • Commander Keen: In "The Secret of the Oracle", the trees in the background of the forest areas have faces.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy:
    • Epic Battle Fantasy 3: The Haunted Tree enemies have dark patches for a mouth and eyes.
    • Epic Battle Fantasy 5: GLOBs look like tree stumps with a big hole in the trunk for a mouth and two smaller ones with orange pupils for eyes.
  • Fran Bow: The titular character turns into a tree with a face when she lands into Ithersta, a land inhabited by anthropomorphic roots and insects. Initially, Fran can't move in this state, but Palontras, the medic of Ithersta, helps her gain legs and arms to use until she turns back into a human.
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: The trailer for the Witchwood set shows trees developing glowy, menacing faces whenever the protagonists look away.
  • Kingdom Rush: The Rotten Forest tower is a grove of malevolent trees with glowing green eyes.
  • Kirby: The recurring boss Whispy Woods is an apple tree with a face. Its trunk has two holes that act as eyes, a third hole that functions as a mouth, and a branch that doubles as his nose.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the trees in the Dark World all have faces. Most of them are inanimate, but some are Baleful Polymorphs. The living ones will happily talk to you if you interact with them, but if you dash into them they'll spit bombs at you.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: The trees of the Tabahl Wasteland are grey-barked, gnarled things with short, leafless branches and trunks split by jagged holes that give them impression wicked, grinning faces.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The trees of the Lost Woods have wide, leering faces formed by jagged eye- and mouth-like openings in their hollow trunks. This comes into play in one of the three Korok trials, where Link must follow a precise path and leaving it will warp him back to the beginning; the correct path is found by following the "hungry trees", which have large iron nuggets jammed into their "mouths". At the end of the same trial, Link must also "feed" one such tree by placing a shield into its mouth.
  • Mortal Kombat: The Living Forest is a forest made up of trees with faces that frequently growl.
  • Moshi Monsters has a talking tree that lives in the woods and gives advice in exchange for water.
  • The Other: Airi's Adventure: The Withered Trees in the Forest have black horizontal cracks in their trunks for a mouth and two smaller holes above them holding yellow pupils for eyes.
  • Pajama Sam in: No Need to Hide When it's Dark Outside:
  • The Perils Of Rosella has a spooky forest of malicious, leafless trees guarding access to the three witches. All of them have sinister, scowling faces on their trunks, and there's no way past them safely without the giant woodsman's ax.
  • Shrek: The second game features trees with faces as regular antagonists. There are two types of them: those that spit fruits at the player and those that throw acorns at them.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Shuffle:
      • One of the enemy monsters in Emerald Coast is a sentient palm tree, with a face on the coconut and palm leaves for hair. If the value of the number on the card the player draws is less than that of the Palm Tree's card, the Palm Tree will attack the player by using its fishing pole as a club.
      • The final boss monster in Nature Zone is a giant sentient tree with a face on its trunk. It guards the seventh and final Precioustone Piece in its mouth, and if the value of the number on the card the player draws is less than that of the Giant Tree's card, the Giant Tree will attack the player by poking it with its roots.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, the hollow trees in Pumpkin Hill and Sky Rail have faces carved into them. These, however, are inanimate and purely part of the background.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: The Treevils, enemies found in the game's forest area, resemble crawling trees crowned by a ring of short, leafless branches and with trunks split by a pitch-black gash from which glowing eyes gaze out at the world.
    • Paper Mario:
      • Paper Mario 64: A tree with a face can be found in Forever Forest, where it serves as one of the markers for the correct path that Mario must follow to find his way through the woods.
      • Paper Mario: The Origami King: The living trees in the Whispering Woods are shown to almost all have eyes, with the Sap Sisters in particular having womanly physiques and armlike branches. They are led by Ol' Grandsappy, a large stump with a mustachioed face who can open paths for Mario in the woods despite otherwise being immobile.
  • Village Monsters: One of the residents is Ygette, a living tree with a trunk on her face.

    Webcomics 

    Web Games 
  • Trick or Treat Beat: Some levels contain a tree larger than most trees in the game. These large trees usually have a face on the trunk.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets has the Brain Tree, a spooky tree with a face and a large exposed brain instead of leaves, that appears in the Haunted Woods that become accessible during Halloween events.

    Western Animation 
  • In Hanna-Barbera's animated series of Abbott and Costello, the episode "Wizardland" has stage magicians Bud and Lou encounter a talking tree. It was the disguise of a powerful genie, who challenges Bud to a magic duel.
  • Go, Diego, Go!: In one episode, Diego encounters talking coconut trees on his way to bring the red-eyed tree frogs back to their home.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the pilot episode, when the ponies are crossing the Everfree Forest, Nightmare Moon ensorcels some trees to have frightening faces in their trunks that frighten the main characters, until Pinkie's irreverence towards the trees makes the others break out in laughter, breaking the spell and allowing them to continue on.
  • Over the Garden Wall: Edelwood trees weep black oil instead of sap and have twisted, ugly faces; several characters are startled when stumbling upon them. They become much more disturbing when we learn that the edelwoods are the souls of people who lose hope in the Unknown, used as fuel for the Dark Lantern.
  • Xiaolin Chronicles: Barkey Le Bois, who used to be the Xiaolin Dragon of wood of his generation, is at present a sentient peach tree with a face who becomes angry when anybody tries to eat his fruits.

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