The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan.

A dryad (pronounced: /ˈdraɪ.æd/; Greek: Δρυάδες, sing.: Δρυάς) is a tree nymph, or female tree spirit, in Greek mythology. In Greek drys signifies "oak." Thus, dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, though the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general.[1] "Such deities are very much overshadowed by the divine figures defined through poetry and cult," Walter Burkert remarked of Greek nature deities.[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.


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


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.


Some of the individual dryads or hamadryads are:

In the arts and culture

Dryads are mentioned in John Milton's Paradise Lost, in the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and in William Makepeace Thackeray's novel The Virginians.[12] 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.[13] 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".[14]

In the ballet Don Quixote, dryads appear in a vision with Dulcinea before Don Quixote. They also appear in the classical ballet Sylvia.

The story "Dear Dryad" (1924) by Oliver Onions features a dryad influencing several romantic couples through history. [15]

Dryads are also featured extensively throughout The Chronicles of Narnia by British author C.S. Lewis and are shown to fight alongside Aslan, son of the Emperor-Over-The-Sea, and the Pevensie Children.

Dryades Street is a major thoroughfare in the city of New Orleans, running parallel to the former Nyades Street (now St. Charles Avenue).

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Graves, ch. 86.2; p. 289
  2. Burkert (1986), p174
  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 8. 39. 3
  9. Propertius, Elegies 1. 18
  10. Nonnus, Dionysiaca 2. 92 ff :
  11. Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 32. 9
  12. J. Simpson, E. Weiner (eds), ed (1989). "Dryad". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. 
  13. Martha E. Cook (1979). "Dryads and Flappers". The Southern Literary Journal (University of North Carolina Press) 12 (1): 18–26. 
  14. Britzolakis, Christina (2000). Sylvia Plath and the theatre of mourning. Oxford English Monographs. Oxford University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-19-818373-9. 
  15. Norman Donaldson, "Oliver Onions", in E.F. Bleiler, ed. Supernatural Fiction Writers. New York: Scribner's, 1985. pp.505-512. ISBN 0684178087


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Dryad. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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