03 Apr The Tree Of Life In Pop Culture
The Tree of Life is a powerful symbol that occurs in many different ancient cultures.
It’s surprising that this one idea appears in so many different places around the world. But what’s even more surprising is that we are still using the Tree of Life as a metaphor today! Check out these 5 examples of the Tree of Life in popular movies, games, and other mediums.
In James Cameron’s Avatar, Hometree is the a colossal tree whose roots and branches shelter an entire tribe of the Na’vi, the natives of planet Pandora.
In the movie, the scientists from Earth are amazed to discover that the roots of the trees are intertwined, and that they actually exchange information – forming a network beneath the soil that is even more complex than the neural network in the human brain. The trees, plants, animals, the Na’vi, and all living things are a part of the planetary network, and the all share one vast consciousness.
Which is exactly what the Tree of Life represents, wherever it appears.
2. Grandmother Willow
In the Disney animated film Pocahontas, Grandmother Willow is a talking willow tree, and a friend of Pocahontas. She is an ancient and wise spirit, a personification of Nature herself. Like the Tree of Life, she symbolizes that all things are alive, intelligent, inter-connected – or as the Lakota would say, “Mitakuye Oyasin.” Or, “We are all related.”
3. The Tree from Tree of Life
The 2012 Terrence Mallick film, Tree of Life, consists of a series of non-linear scenes which seem to unfold in the mind of the main character, Jack. The movie leaps from childhood memories, to Jack in middle age, to a fantastic vision of the birth of the cosmos and the evolution of life on Earth. The dreamy and surreal sequences are rich with symbolism, and touch on some deep, spiritual themes, like the meaning of life, and the relation of the individual to the infinite.
And through it all there is the Tree.
The tree that Jack climbs as a boy is simultaneously a metaphor for the evolutionary tree, the journey to maturity, the complex web of forces which shape and mold who we are, the universe, and… well, everything.
4. The Great Deku Tree
On a lighter note, the beloved video game franchise The Legend of Zelda features a sentient, talking tree called the Great Deku Tree. It is the protector of the forest, and the creatures, fairies and spirits who live there. This ancient guardian is another personification of Nature as a wise old tree, who shelters helpless critters and upholds the cosmic balance.
5. Yggrasil, The World Tree
The Marvel Universe is perhaps most famous for the Avengers and X Men. But the Avenger Thor also has his own film franchise – with a colorful cast of gods and villains straight out of Norse mythology.
The movies also feature a modern re-imagining of Yggdrasil, the mythical World Tree which connects the Nine Worlds.
In the 2011 film, Thor, the hero tells the humans that the World Tree is really a constellation, or a cosmic energy field, which links Earth and it’s solar system (known as Midgard) with the rest of the Nine Worlds, including his home world of Asgard. So the ancient tree of Norse legend becomes an interstellar web of energy connecting different solar systems…
Pretty cool, huh?
If you look closely, you’ll find that trees are often used as symbols and metaphors for life, growth, oneness and interdependence; or shamanic gateways to another world. They also frequently appear as guardians of some sort. Consider the anthropomorphic Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, or Treebeard and his army of Ents from Lord of the Rings. Even Hogwart’s was guarded by the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter!
What are your favorite examples of Tree of Life symbolism in popular books and movies? Tell us about it in the comments below!