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I am trying to hunt down a book I read in the 90s, but lost some time ago. It starts with some children wandering in a wood, and they encounter a wood nymph creature that starts following them around. Eventually, the wood nymph becomes accepted, and starts to live with humans. The more time he spends with them, the more human he becomes. There is an incident where he cuts off his finger as a party trick expecting it to grow back, but instead it bleeds, because he is not made of wood any more.

So he starts to live as a human, except he does not age at the same rate and he lives for hundreds of years. Eventually, he becomes an alchemist, although I forget the purpose of his experiments. Finally, after a few hundred years, he walks into his garden and plants himself, and becomes a tree.

Does anyone have any ideas?

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    Is the creature really a wood nymph or more like a male wood spirit/hejkal/leshniy, from the czech/slavic folklore, like otik (otsenok)?
    – user68762
    Nov 26 '16 at 23:02
  • Sorry, not an answer at all, but...what "otik style" means? 'cause every time I read the title of this question, the only Otik that comes to my mind is the owner of The Inn of the Last Home in Solace...
    – motoDrizzt
    Apr 19 '17 at 11:04
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    @motoDrizzt scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/145907/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 30 '17 at 19:55
  • Perhaps one of the stories from Don Saker's "The Leaves of October" or "All Fall Down"? I know they are anthologies regarding satient trees but I haven't read all the content. Anything with wood nymphs could be a fable, are you sure it was sci fi? Otiks aren't generally benevolent either.
    – GeorgeN
    Apr 6 '18 at 18:07
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+150

In case anyone's interested, this came to mind again and I managed to track it down. It's The Forest of Hours by Kerstin Ekman.

This novel begins in the Middle Ages when Skord, a magical being who is neither man nor animal, finds himself in a forest with no memory, no past and no language. As he observes the behaviour of the human beings he meets in the forest, he begins to gradually understand human civilization and learn their language. Although he can pose as one of them, he is also able to assume the form of animals and cause things to happen simply by willing them. Skord survives for five hundred years and lives many different lives but, despite his learning, he finds it difficult to resist the call of the forest and returns there periodically to rejoin the band of forest outlaws who live outside human society.

Cover of the "The Forest of Hours". The cover is tinted a dark shade of turquoise, with a light shining through trees.

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  • Don't forget to self-accept by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 3 '20 at 6:54
  • Y'all been lurking for the last 6 years?
    – Valorum
    Jul 3 '20 at 6:56
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    Congratulations! This was one of our highest-voted unanswered story-ID questions ... not any more :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 3 '20 at 7:10

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