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The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan

Dryads are female spirits in Greek mythology.



In Greek drys signifies 'oak,' from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- 'tree' or 'wood.' Thus dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, though the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general. 


The nymphs of ash trees were called the Meliae. The ash-tree sisters tended the infant Zeus in Rhea's Cretan cave. Rhea gave birth to the Meliai after being made fertile by the blood of castrated Ouranos.


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.

See also the myth of Daphne, who was pursued by Apollo and became a dryad associated with the laurel.


Video Games

  • Dryads are featured in the Warcraft game, seen mostly on the continent of Kalimdor as allies of the Alliance and Night Elves. Mauradon, an instance in Desolace has many. They appear to be half deer, half elf.
  • Dryads are featured in Warcraft III as part of the Night Elf race.
  • A dryad appears in Runescape as a woman with what seem to be twigs growing out of her.


  • Robert Graves, Robert, 1960. The Greek Myths, 82.i; 86.2
  • Walter Burkert, 1985. Greek Religion (Cambridge:Harvard University Press)

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