Short Story Review: "The Tree" by H.P. Lovecraft
A traveler to Mount Maenlus in Arcadia notices an olive grove and a ruined villa with a large tomb. Among the olive grove is a particularly large, misshapen olive tree with roots growing into the tomb. It looks almost like man, or perhaps a man’s body distorted in death. The locals give it a wide berth, assuming it has some association with the dreaded Pan or one of his associates. But an old beekeeper tells the traveler a different story.
Many years before, there were two friends who were both gifted sculptors, Kalos and Musides. There was not the least bit of rivalry between them, but they were different in lifestyle. After work, Musides like to go drinking. Kalos stayed home, but sought solitude, away from even the slaves in the olive grove. Gossip had it that he conversed with spirits of the grove.
The Tyrant of Syracuse sent to Kalos and Musides, offering a prize to whichever one constructs the better statue of Tyché. Normally, in a competition those competing would do so in secret. The Tyrant wants Kalos and Musides to watch each other work in hopes of reinforcing and improving each’s efforts.
In explicably, Kalos takes sick. Grief-stricken, Musides stays home to take care of him, not even letting the slaves near him. As he’s dying, Kalos asks Musides to plant an olive tree over him, but not to bother with a tomb…
This is a story of revenge, but it’s quite subtle. I had to read it twice before I caught what was going on. It’s quite sad, actually. Lovecraft uses his archaic English to tell the story but that doesn’t seem too out of place in a story that seems old and is about even older happenings. Like a lot of Lovecraft, this is not for everyone, but it is a nice little tale about revenge.
Title: “The Tree” written in 1920, first published in The Tryout , 7, No. 7 (October 1921)
Author: H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
©2015 Denise Longrie
MegL wrote on May 7, 2015, 1:09 PM
You have caught my imagination with this. I see HP Lovecraft was quite young when he died.
crowntower wrote on May 7, 2015, 6:11 PM
I can't understand what the story is going how come it become a revenge. Anyway I guess the body was inside of the tree? Or he was buried under the tree? Heheheh sorry about this ignorance of mine. God bless.
msiduri wrote on May 7, 2015, 7:06 PM
Yes, he was. It is interesting, but I don't think one of his best. It's short, so reading through it twice like I did was easy. If you read it, let me know what you think.
msiduri wrote on May 7, 2015, 7:07 PM
Please don't apologize! You didn't know because I deliberately didn't tell you. I didn't want to give away the ending of the story. It's a little hard to catch.
CalmGemini wrote on May 7, 2015, 11:53 PM
These types of stories are usually disliked by many people.Keeping them in the dark,giving no clue as to what is taking place. Here, we understand( do we?) what may have taken place because of the ending.So every thing,even the revenge is implied.But,having said all that, it is a good story in its own way.Would I read such stories again?Definitely.So,that is H.P.Lovecraft for you.
msiduri wrote on May 8, 2015, 11:05 AM
The first time through, I was puzzled by the ending. It didn't seem to follow. I figured I'd missed something so I read it through again and finally the light bulb clicked on.
A lot of people don't like Lovecraft. I enjoy his stuff. There are a few clunkers, but overall, it's quite nice.