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We see humanoid trees or plants in SFF universe all the time. They can walk and talk. Some are highly intelligent, others are not. Some are mythical creatures, others are aliens.

Examples can be:

  • Ent (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 1954)

  • Huorn (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 1954)

  • Groot (Marvel's Tales to Astonish #13, 1960)

  • Tree of Cheem (new Doctor Who S01E02, 2005)

  • Eliza (new Doctor Who S10E04, 2017)

  • Wildvine (Ben 10 S02E07, 2006)

  • Methanosian (Ben 10, Late 00s)

  • Highbreed Tree Monster (Ben 10, Late 00s)

  • Treefolk (Magic: The Gathering, post-1993)

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy work introduced the idea of walking-and-talking humanoid trees/plants?

  • 1
    I suspect walking tree stories are as old as folklore. – Buzz Dec 22 '17 at 18:52
  • 4
    They date back to at least the 1700s; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niels_Klim%27s_Underground_Travels – Valorum Dec 22 '17 at 19:01
  • I suspect Lord of the Rings could be first. I remember that some novel by Robert Sheckley had a mention of seasonal migrations of trees, bu I don't know if the trees were sentient and it should have been published after The Two Towers anyway. Murray Leinster's "Proxima Centauri" 1935 had plant people who were mobile and had space ships but I forget if they looked like trees. Clifford Simark's "Ogre" 1944 had singling (intelligent?) trees and an intelligent plant who could move but I don't know if it had intelligent tree men. – M. A. Golding Dec 22 '17 at 21:13
  • Are we specifically excluding mythological references? Because dryads from Greek Mythology are older than steam. – Xavon_Wrentaile Nov 5 '18 at 0:55
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Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (pub. 1913) featured "plant men" who grew from the armpits of their parent, living in the legendary valley of Dor, the Barsoomian "heaven" of long legend.

The bizarre "plant-men" of Barsoom are perhaps the wierdest lifeform to have evolved upon the planet's surface. They are virtually unique to the Valley Dor, the (dispointingly hellish) Martian version of heaven. Vaguely humanoid in outline, the plant-men are a nonsentient herding species.

2

That's a really good question. Personally, I can't think of any pre-Tolkien that fully meet the criteria I think you're asking for: They look something like trees, can move around, and can speak.

Plant Men -- human-like figures who have green skin and photosynthesize -- are ancient in SF, but I don't think that's what you're asking for. Likewise, mobile plants (e.g., the Triffids) go back quite a ways. But they can't speak and probably aren't intelligent. A number of writers have featured intelligent plants, but they're immobile. Finally, I'd bet that we could find some quite old stories where plant-like, mobile, speaking intelligences have a cameo role, but aren't really more than in the background. (And certainly aren't explained in any interesting way.)

So I'd have to say that my bet was on LotR as first.

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I suspect Lord of the Rings could be first.

I remember that some novel by Robert Sheckley had a mention of seasonal migrations of trees, but I don't know if the trees were sentient and it should have been published after The Two Towers anyway.

Murray Leinster's "Proxima Centauri" 1935 had plant people who were mobile and had space ships but I forget if they looked like trees.

Clifford Simark's "Ogre" 1944 had singling (intelligent?) trees and an intelligent plant who could move but I don't remember if it had intelligent tree men.

Some H.P. Lovecraft stories featured nonhuman intelligent beings whose exotic biology had features similar to both Earthly plants and Earthly animals. They included the Outer Ones or "Fungi from Yuggoth" in "The whisperer in Darkness" 1931 and the Old Ones in "At The Mountains of Madness" 1936. Of course neither looked much like anything as familiar as trees, men, or tree-men.

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