Tough Traveling is an interesting and thought-provoking meme started by Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn: each week Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynn Jones, and challenges everyone to come up with a list of books featuring that trope.
Come join the fun!
This week’s topic: UNIQUE FLORA
If you know of a plant that is either not on earth, or doesn’t act the same way in fantasyland as it does on earth, then you can consider it unique.
Triffids: From John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids novel, they are carnivorous plants able to move that take advantage of humanity after a weird meteor shower has left most of the population blind. Triffids can literally uproot themselves and walk on three stumpy “legs”, while the long, whiplike stem ends in a poisonous stinger, the Triffid’s means of attacking hapless humans.
Inkvine: a creeping plant found in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe. Native to Giedi Prime, the home planet of House Harkonnen, it is used as a whip to subdue the slaves: the victims of an inkvine lash are marked by dark red “tattoos” that cause pain for years on end. Gurney Halleck, the master of arms of House Atreides and young Paul’s instructor, bears such a mark on his face from the time he was held captive in the Harkonnens’ slave pits.
G’Quan Eth: in the Babylon5 universe i’ts a plant indigenous to the Narn homeworld, and it’s used in Narn religious ceremonies where it’s burned as we would incense. Since it’s difficult to grow and quite delicate, it requires costly measures to transport, but it’s also very prized by the Centauri who drop its seeds in alcohol to obtain a powerful narcotic. For this reason, it’s been declared illegal on the Babylon 5 station, except when used for religious purposes.
Ents: it would be impossible to talk about special plants without mentioning these creatures, from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. They are tree-like creatures able to move and talk, gifted with immense strength and said to be the most ancient race in Middle Earth. Their role is to be shepherd to the trees and protectors of the forests, and their most famous representative is Treebeard, who plays an important role in the War of the Ring.
According to GRR Martin’s A song of Ice and Fire, in the North of Westeros you can find Heart Trees: usually placed at the center of a Godswood (a secluded place of religious worship), they are white-barked, red leaved Weirwood trees with a face carved in the wood of the trunk. These trees’ sap is red as well, and flows from the cuts that represent the face’s eyes, so that it’s said the Heart Trees are weeping tears of blood.
And last but by no means least, a recent encounter: Groot. He’s an alien, tree-like creature not unlike Tolkien’s Treebeard, who made his first appearance in the Marvel comics and then received world-wide acclaim in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. He appears at first as nothing more than hired muscle, but soon shows his softer, gentler side and is able to convey a great deal of meaning with the only sentence he ever utters: “I am Groot”. It’s impossible not to feel a great kinship for this creature because, after all… we are all Groot!