According to local legend, a woman named Betty Kenny used to rock her children to sleep in an enormous, hollowed out yew tree back in the 1700s. It's believed that Betty's unique method of soothing her children to sleep inspired "Rock-a-bye Baby." Vandals later burned the tree but its splintered remains are visible today, opens a new window. Read about seven literary trees below, or check out 15 of the world's most famous trees, opens a new window.
The Tree of Heaven in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). The Tree of Heaven grows among the concrete with little to no water and continues to grow even in the poorest of circumstances, just like those who live in the tenements, determined to keep living.
"Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It's growing out of sour earth. And it's strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way."
The Giving Tree in The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964). The Giving Tree continues to give, teaching children a lesson on what it means to be charitable and how some might take advantage of that.
“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.”
The Horse-Chestnut tree in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). After Rochester declares his feelings for governess Jane Eyre and proposes marriage after stringing her along, lightning forces them inside. That night, a bolt of lightning splits the tree in half, foreshadowing a tumultuous relationship between the two, though its roots are still alive.
"'You are no ruin sir - no lighting-struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop.'”
The Hemlock Tree in My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (1959). Runaway Sam makes his home in the Catskill forests by finding a hemlock tree whose trunk is rotting out, providing a safe shelter for him.
"There were maples and oaks to the west, and a hemlock forest to the right that pulled me right across the sweet grasses, into it. Never, never have I seen such trees. They were giants—old, old giants. They must have begun when the world began."
The Oak Tree in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). The cover art of this American classic nearly always features the oak tree that Boo Radley leaves small gifts for Scout and Jem in outside his house.
"Two Indian-head pennies, chewing gum, soap dolls, a rusty medal, a broken watch and chain. Jem must have put them away somewhere. I stopped and looked at the tree one afternoon: the trunk was swelling around its cement patch."
The Ents in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Treebeard, the head of the Ents, the talking tree-like creatures, is believed to be the oldest creature in Middle-earth.
"[Old Entish] is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”
The Whomping Willow in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (1998). The Whomping Willow plays a vital role in several of the Harry Potter books—no spoilers!
"'I noticed, in my search of the park, that considerable damage seems to have been done to a very valuable Whomping Willow,' Snape went on. 'That tree did more damage to us than we—' Ron blurted out."