Libris Monstrum #36B: Plants Revisited Part 2
Today we return, once again, to the topic of plant and plant-adjacent creatures. In the first one we began covering some of the classic monsters and in the second we moved on to others from places like Athas. Now I am going to try to dive into the real-world mythical figures that either were plants or closely related to them. If that isn’t your thing, the next entry will be our revisit of cyclopes.
Let’s start with one of the most recognizable of tree spirits, the dryad. In Dungeons & Dragons these are typically classified as fey and this fits the mythology very well. As we have discussed in the past, myths tend to mix the concepts of spirits, nature, demons, and the like. When it comes to mysterious beings associated with nature that gives us fey in D&D. In Greek mythology the dryads are a type of nypmh who are much broader in scope than you see in D&D editions.
Specifically dyrads were known to be oak tree spirits, but have also bee used to describe any nymph associated with trees. The spirits lived with and were apart of the trees. Some were associated so much so that they became one with a specific tree. Those dryads match the kind we see at the table but go by a special name in mythology: hamadryad. The two are so integrated that if the tree dies, so too does the hamadryad.
Now you might recognize that name from D&D as well. They showed up in AD&D eventually, but in 4th Edition some of these things got a makeover. Nymphs are heavily related to nature and have multiple versions. Dryads were once nymphs who turned from a more peaceful nature towards being fervent defenders of nature who look different form the version most of us are familiar with. Hamadryads are something of an in between form that allowed players to take on the roll of fey protector.
Finally I want to mention another version of this creature by, once again, showing the Warcraft lore some love. In it there are all kinds of creatures associated with nature and its protection. Among them are the keepers and the dryads with the former being male and the latter being female. These are fun takes on the concept and definitely worth looking into as they are ready combatants with javelin and druidic magic alike.
This is an interesting one. Leshy is a being from Slavic folklore that includes many variations of name and honorifics. He is a deity that acts as protector of the forest. For some reason, Leshy always reminds me of the Green Man. Probably because he is depicted as being green in color and very wild in appearance. The Green Man, however is more of a symbol, a face covered in or surrounded by leaves. It is one which exists in a number of cultures related to a number of deities.
Despite being a fairly generic myth, I wanted to include it because of the awesome way that Paizo has interpreted it for the Pathfinder game. In that universe leshy are a type of plant. There are a number of different kinds, from cactus to gourd to snapdragon, and all of them are adorable little creatures. While originally grown as servants for larger, older fey beings. These little guys are wonderful additions to a game as they are spiritual, unafraid to die because they will just go on to inhabit another leshy form. I love them because you can also treat them as having there own little towns and cities in various wilderness areas!
Demon Born of Blood
This is one of the creatures you won’t find at the table quite so often. In Japanese mythology the yokai are strange spirit demons that take one countless forms. Some are protective and others quite destructive. I have mentioned before how hard it is, for me at least, to properly categorize such things. The one I bring up today is such that it might best be described as some kind of fey vampire.
This yokai appears somewhere where many battles has take nplace and looks like an ordinary tree. However, it is so much more. The creature grows off of the blood of those who died on the battlefield and capture passersby. Those it ensnares are sucked dry of their blood and, much like your standard vampire, give the tree a renewed and young appearance. While this sounds terrifying a recognized tree might be easily avoided, but might also be kept alive. You see the branches of a tree, though they might bleed, are capable of healing and cleansing those who are wounded.
These are just a few examples of plant creatures added to the list of those we have already discussed. Do you have a favorite from mythology? One I should have mentioned before, but didn’t?? Let me know in the comments below!