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The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan.
GroupingLegendary creature

A dryad (/ˈdr.æd/; Greek: Δρυάδες, sing.: Δρυάς) is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. Drys (δρῦς) signifies "oak" in Greek, and dryads were specifically considered the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for tree nymphs in general,[1] or human-tree hybrids in fantasy. Oftentimes their life force was connected to the tree they resided in, and they were usually found in sacred groves of the gods.[2] They were normally considered to be very shy creatures except around the goddess Artemis, who was known to be a friend to most nymphs.



These were nymphs of the laurel trees.


The Maliades, Meliades or Epimelides were nymphs of apple and other fruit trees and the protectors of sheep. The Greek word melas—from which their name derives—means both apple and sheep. Hesperides, the guardians of the golden apples were regarded as these type of dryad.


Dryads, like all nymphs, were supernaturally long-lived and tied to their homes, but some were a step beyond most nymphs. These were the hamadryads who were an integral part of their trees, such that if the tree died, the hamadryad associated with it died as well. For these reasons, dryads and the Greek gods punished any mortals who harmed trees without first propitiating the tree-nymphs. (associated with Oak trees)


The dryads of the ash tree were called the Meliae.[1] The Meliae sisters tended the infant Zeus in Rhea's Cretan cave. Gaea gave birth to the Meliae after being made fertile by the blood of castrated Uranus. The Caryatids were associated with walnut trees.[1]


Some of the individual dryads or hamadryads are:

In popular culture[edit]

La dernière dryade (The Last Dryad) by Gabriel Guay, 1898.
  • Dryad's Saddle is a mushroom found in North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe on dead trees, logs and stumps, so named because dryads could conceivably sit or ride on them.[9]
  • In western classics such as Milton's Paradise Lost, Dryads are mentioned as a way to convey grace and elegance.[10]
  • Keats addresses the nightingale as "light-winged Dryad of the trees", in his "Ode to a Nightingale" .
  • In the poetry of Donald Davidson they illustrate the themes of tradition and the importance of the past to the present.[11]
  • The poet Sylvia Plath uses them to symbolize nature in her poetry in "On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad" and "On the Plethora of Dryads".[12]
  • The story "Dear Dryad" (1924) by Oliver Onions features a dryad influencing several romantic couples through history.[13]
  • In Lev Grossman's The Magicians Trilogy, the character Julia becomes a dryad after having had her shade removed during her rape at the hands of Reynard the Fox. Her transformation accelerates when she visits Fillory in the company of the novel's other principals, and is complete when she and Quentin Coldwater visit Fillory's underworld.[14]
  • Dryads (also referred to as "wood nymphs", "tree people", "silvans", or simply "trees") appear several times in The Chronicles of Narnia book series by C. S. Lewis.
  • In the 2005 CG animated film Barbie: Fairytopia, there is a character named Dahlia who is a dryad.
  • In the 1940 short story "The Hardwood Pile" by L. Sprague de Camp, the antagonist is a sphendamniad, a dryad-like spirit whose tree has been made into lumber.
  • The fantasy novels of Thomas Burnett Swann frequently feature dryads, along with other mythological creatures, usually endangered by the advent of more "advanced" civilisations. Swann's story "The Dryad-tree" is set in contemporary Florida and features a woman's reaction to the knowledge that her new husband's garden contains a tree possessed by a jealous dryad. The story was adapted as a short film in 2017.[15]
  • In Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Frozen Throne, and Reforged, dryads are playable night elf characters. They are shown as taur-type creatures with the lower body of a doe.
  • Dryads are mentioned in Sword of Destiny from Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher books.
  • Dryad Lake in Antarctica is named after the nymphs.[16]
  • The Dryad is a NPC in the 2d sandbox adventure game Terraria, helping to keep the world pure from the spread of malicious biomes in the game.
  • Dryads are featured in the trading card game Magic: the Gathering as a creature subtype on the plane of Theros.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Graves, ch. 86.2; p. 289
  2. ^ "Nymphs | Theoi Greek Mythology". www.theoi.com. Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  3. ^ Bibliotheca 2. 1. 5
  4. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 480
  5. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.330 ff
  6. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 32
  7. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8. 4. 2
  8. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 32. 9
  9. ^ "Dry Saddle for the nymph! Dryads Saddle". 14 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Paradise Lost Book IX, lines 1–403 Summary & Analysis". SparkNotes. Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  11. ^ Martha E. Cook (1979). "Dryads and Flappers". The Southern Literary Journal. University of North Carolina Press. 12 (1): 18–26. JSTOR 20077624.
  12. ^ Britzolakis, Christina (2000). Sylvia Plath and the theatre of mourning. Oxford English Monographs. Oxford University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-19-818373-9.
  13. ^ Norman Donaldson, "Oliver Onions", in E. F. Bleiler, ed. Supernatural Fiction Writers. New York: Scribner's, 1985. pp.505-512. ISBN 0684178087
  14. ^ Lev Grossman, The Magician King. New York: Viking, 2011. pp.343-357. ISBN 978067002231-1
  15. ^ "The Dryad Tree (2017) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  16. ^ Dryad Lake. SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica


External links[edit]