Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Dryad

The DryadThe Dryad

There was once a chestnut tree out in the country, not far from Paris, where a dryad lived. The dryad lived inside of the tree. She heard the birds sing and tell their stories. She knew the grasses and the plants. She knew the little bugs. People would often come to the country. She would hear talk of Paris. Paris was this wonderful city in the dryad’s mind and she longed to go there.

The country passed by. A young woman the dryad knew by sight, went to Paris and she was not ruined for it. Someone told the dryad that she would get her wish. She would go to Paris, but she would long to be free from her tree. She would one day separate from her tree and take human form, but just for a day, and then she would die.

Some time passed and something happened. People came to the Dryad’s tree and dug it up. They bundled up its roots and put it on a cart. The tree was taken to Paris. The tree was placed in a pretty little square in place of another tree that had died. The smog and pollution had killed the tree.

The dryad was excited enough, at first. There were other plants and flowers planted around her. The square was a pretty little place, but that was all she could see. The sun really only showed over one side of the square. The buildings remained the same. The hustle and bustle of the square was different each day, but similar in a lot of ways. The dryad watched the same things happen over, and over, and over again.

The dryad soon grew weary of her position. Paris was wonderful, but she couldn’t see any of it. Finally, she decided on it. She left her tree and took human form. She was a beautiful young woman, clad in a green silk dress. Her hair flowed and a single chestnut blossom adorned her hair. She took right to the city.

She saw shops. She saw markets and monuments. There was a grand exhibition going on in Paris at the time. She followed the people here and the people there. She looked at their faces, knowing none of them. She looked for the woman named Mary, but she did not see Mary.

She ultimately followed people down to the catacombs, where they went for adventure. It was all the rage to go into the catacombs, but the rats didn’t think so. The catacombs had once been more peaceful and more romantic. Mother Plague used to dwell there, but not anymore.

The dryad went and saw as much of Paris as she could. Ultimately, she ended up in a church. She was weary and weak. She recalled things of her former life, roses and wind. She heard a song. The song reminded her that she had given up what she was supposed to do in life for what she wanted to do. She faded and faded, and finally, she was gone.

"DJJ 1 Catacombes de Paris" by Djtox - Own work. Licensed under Attribution via Commons -
Bone Arrangement in part of the Catacombs of Paris


The catacombs mentioned in this story are real. They actually became a tourist attraction in the 1800s, but they were never intended to be a tourist attraction. In fact, the catacombs hold the remains of over 6 million people. They are reputed to be haunted and, yes, people have been lost in them never to return. The catacombs were originally mines and other underground structures. At one point, Paris began to run out of graveyard space and dug people up and tossed their skeletons into the catacombs. Some of the skeletons have since been organized a bit, but there are still areas where bones are piled in tunnels.

The catacombs are also the reason there aren’t very many tall buildings in Paris. The entire city is built on over 400 miles of catacombs. Heavy foundations would cause the catacombs to collapse. The catacombs are now mostly off limits, because, yes, like I said earlier, people have gotten lost in them.


This dryad left what she was meant to be to see Paris. This is a conflicting idea. On one side, we are what we are. There are certain things we should aspire to and certain manners in which we should act. On the other hand, we’re not all the same. We have dreams. We have wants. What we’re supposed to be may conflict with what we are.

On a lighter side, we can look at this dryad and say she gave something up to experience something more. Sure, her life was drastically shortened, but she got to see Paris. This was a once in a lifetime thing for her. I wouldn’t give up twenty years of my life to see Paris, but I would definitely give up something else to see Paris. I can’t think of what that would be at the moment. Sometimes to do something we really, really want to do, we have to give up a part of ourselves. We have to change habits, or change circumstances, or leave people behind.

It’s the entire concept of giving up something to get something more.

On the darker side, sometimes we make bad choices. Sometimes we give up something very important for something else that may be important at the time, but it’s not as important as the thing we gave up. For example, this is when someone gives up seeing their family because of drug use, or someone gives up their family for someone else.

On yet another side, the dryad gave up a part of her being. We’re not talking about qualities, or people, or ideas. We’re talking about fundamentally changing her body. She went from being a dryad to a being a person just to experience something. We can’t do that. We can’t say, “I want to fly, so turn me into a bird.” It’s physically impossible.

Whether or not this dryad made a good choice or a bad choice all depends on your view of the story.


We have to decide for ourselves what is worth sacrificing and what isn’t.

Weigh In

Was it worth it?

Did the dryad choose well or no?


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