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The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan

A dryad (/ˈdr.æd/; Greek: Δρυάδες, sing.: Δρυάς) is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. Drys (δρῦς) signifies "oak" in Greek. Dryads were originally considered the nymphs of oak trees specifically, but the term has evolved towards tree nymphs in general.[1] Often their life force was connected to the tree in which they resided and they were usually found in sacred groves of the gods.[2] They were 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 this 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 also died. For these reasons, dryads and the Greek gods punished any mortal 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.
  • 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.[8]
  • Dryad's figure in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, where they are portrayed as loyal to Aslan the lion.[9]
  • 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.[10]
  • 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.[11]

See also[edit]

  • Oreads, a related mountain nymph
  • Ghillie Dhu, a similar Scottish spirit
  • Kodama, a similar Japanese spirit
  • Green spirit, a similar spirit found in Myanmar and other Buddhist countries
  • Elf, a similar mythical creature associated with nature
  • Querquetulanae, Roman nymphs of the oak
  • Rådande, a similar Swedish spirit
  • Salabhanjika, a similar Indian spirit
  • Mavka, a similar Ukrainian spirit



  1. ^ a b c Graves, ch. 86.2; p. 289
  2. ^ "Nymphs | Theoi Greek Mythology". www.theoi.com. Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  3. ^ Apollodorus, 2.1.5
  4. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 480
  5. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.330 ff; Antoninus Liberalis, 32
  6. ^ Pausanias, 8.4.2
  7. ^ Pausanias, 10.32.9
  8. ^ Martha E. Cook (1979). "Dryads and Flappers". The Southern Literary Journal. 12 (1). University of North Carolina Press: 18–26. JSTOR 20077624.
  9. ^ Dryad: Mythical Creature Overview, Mythical Encyclopedia, accessed 16 April 2024
  10. ^ Lev Grossman, The Magician King. New York: Viking, 2011. pp.343-357. ISBN 978067002231-1
  11. ^ "The Dryad Tree (2017) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 25 August 2018.


External links[edit]