The Tree (short story)
|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
This story came early in Lovecraft's writing career, and is generally considered to be within his "Macabre" phase.
"The Tree" was first published in The Tryout, 7, No. 7 (October 1921), [3-10].
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"The Tree" is told in past tense, in third person objective. The location of the story is Mount Maenalus, in Arcadia, Greece, a mountain which was a "chosen haunt" for the Greek God Pan. The story opens with a vivid description of the olive grove, and a fearful, human-like olive tree within it.
The story then recounts a story from centuries ago, recalling the famous sculptors Kalos and Musides, whose works were praised throughout the known world. One day, the Tyrant of Syracuse invited Kalos and Musides to compete in the creation of "a wonder of nations and a goal of travelers". While working on their sculptures, Kalos fell ill, much to the dismay of Musides.
Musides proposed to erect an elaborate marble tomb for his friend, while Kalos asked only for the planting of olive twigs near his head. After the death of Kalos, Musides buried the olive twigs, in addition to constructing a tomb.
Over time, Musides felt haunted by the gnarled olive tree that grew over Kalos' grave. The tree's roots grew as if nourished by the unfinished sculpture of Kalos, while above Musides' labors a large branch had grown. The night before the statue was to be taken to the Tyrant of Syracuse, a tremendous storm came. With the fall of that one overhanging branch, both Musides and his statue were gone forever.
S. T. Joshi wrote that the tale "may be a trifle obvious, but it is an effective display of Lovecraft's skill in handling a historical setting.". Lovecraft himself dismissed "The Tree" in a 1936 letter, writing that the story, along with several others "if typed on good stock make excellent shelf-paper, but little else."
- Lovecraft, Howard P. (1986) . "The Tree". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-039-4. Definitive version.