«The Oak-tree and the Dryad» by Arina Abramova

driadeArcadia! Most Greeks regard this wild region as dark and mysterious. Majestic oak forests cover the steep slopes. Hermes was born there, Orpheus sang here, and the forest god Pan played his pipes there! Arcadia, your oaks are great and your landscapes are rich but your people are poor. They don’t have money, but they keep ancient traditions of prehistoric Greece. The Greeks believe that Arcadia’s oak groves are the sacred home for dryads – forest nymphs.

Hamadryads are bound to the oak-trees. Every time such a dryad is born, an oak-tree comes out from the earth. Then dryads reside on their trees and protect them.

Dryads are beautiful and fun-loving ladies. They don’t have much to do. They rejoice in the sunshine and in the singing of birds. They like watching what people do. They are so curious that try to talk to people who dare to come to the sacred grove.

Once a Hamadryad fell in love with a young shepherd. She liked watching him and his flock. She was most rejoiced at the sound of his voice. All dryads understand the language of men as well as they understand the language of animals and plants. When she was waiting for her suitor, she was trembling in the pleasurable feeling of expectation. And the leaves of the tree where she lived were shaking. The leaves whispered ‘Welcome! Welcome!’ At last the young shepherd approached. They started talking happily about love, freedom, music, and poetry. You know, in Arcadia every shepherd is a poet. Suddenly, the young man said that it was time to take his flock back to the village. He had to leave the dryad. She cried silently and nestled up to her oak-tree. The tree was crying too.

The next day, the shepherd didn’t come to the grove. The Hamadryad and the oak couldn’t see the sun. It was unfair. Time passed and the dryad heard the sounds of soft melodies which her shepherd was playing somewhere in the distance. Why didn’t he come to visit her? She was desolate! And the tree leaves were rustling in despair. Soon she dared to leave the oak and went looking for the shepherd. All animals and plants were trying to stop her. ‘Stay with the tree. Don’t leave the sacred grove!’ they whispered.

Hamadryad saw the shepherd near a stream playing music and reading his poems to a mortal girl. The dryad’s heart was broken. She detested her immortality and called for Death.

While the dryad was secretly observing the girl and the shepherd, a horrible thing happened. A woodcutter invaded the sacred grove. The oak-tree remained unprotected without Hamadryad. The woodcutter saw the tree which he found suitable for his needs. When his axe stroke the mighty trunk, there in the distance from the grove, the dryad fell on the ground. Her body was pierced with pain. But her soul was agonizing because of the lost love. She didn’t rush to the grove to save the tree.

The day was coming to the end and finally the woodcutter finished his job. The oak-tree was lying in the thick grass ready to be turned into ashes. The broken-hearted Hamadryad died near the stream of crystal clear water. This water is like tears shed to mourn over the forest nymph. You know, dryads die when their trees die.

By Arina Abramova

School 1738

2013

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