By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

science fiction short story review: "Tree, Spare that Woodman" by David Dryfoos

Ted Heckscher found his elderly neighbor Cappy dead. From all appearances, he seems to have died in his sleep, except that the tree-things now forming a ring around his cabin here on the alien planet of Mazda. The tree-things have blue trunk and yellow needles. They stand 20 feet tall and the can move—slowly—but they move. And for those who fear them, they can be deadly.

Ted explains to Naomi that in a Meeting (from which the women and children were excluded. No sense getting those sensitive creatures riled up.), it noted there have been 16 deaths involving the three-things. The tree-things “both create and respond to the patterned electrical impulses of the mind. It’s something like the way a doctor creates fantasies by applying a mild electrical current to the right places on a patient’s brain.” And the way one receptive to such things is through fear.

Ted and Naomi’s little boy, Richard doesn’t fear them, but regards the tree-things as something of playmates. The trees outside Cappy’s cabins allow him to climb in their branches, but when his mother calls him, he can’t quite get down.

“You tell that tree you’ve got to come right down this instant!” she tells her son.

“Break off a few leaves,” his father suggests. “That will show you tree who’s boss!”

Richard now has a ladder and can climb down. Naomi decides to take her son home, but before she does, she orders her husband and other who have arrived to burn the tree things. They await her husband’s return.

No trees approach their home, but not all is as it was…

This is a creepy little tale and I had to read it a couple of time. The ending is a vague and I still think open to interpretation.

The title is a play on the title of 1837 poem “Woodman, Spare That Tree” by Edmund Clarence Stedman .


Title: “Tree, Spare That Woodman” first published in Galaxy Science Fiction October 1952

Author: David Dryfoos (1915-2003)

Source: ISFDB


Last review: “Blogging Basics” by Robert Lee Brewer

Last sci-fi review: “The Eye of Allah” by Charles W. Diffin



© 2015 Denise Longrie

Image Credit » by WikiImages

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Feisty56 wrote on August 11, 2015, 11:14 AM

Interesting concept and variation on a traditional theme. It seems to me Richard's parents weren't the brightest bulbs in the box, taking on the tree things so boldly after 16 deaths have been attributed to them.

MegL wrote on August 11, 2015, 12:39 PM

The golden age of science fiction truly was that for me. I love reading the stories from that era.

msiduri wrote on August 11, 2015, 4:33 PM

Feisty56 Well, have to give Richard's folks a break. Mom Naomi is a bundle of nerves and Pop Ted knows he can neither trust nor control the little lady. It's a tough life. And then the trees are moving!

msiduri wrote on August 11, 2015, 4:35 PM

MegL There's an embarrassment of riches available now with ebooks. I'm enjoying the stories I could only dream of as a kid.

CalmGemini wrote on August 12, 2015, 2:59 AM

I have not read the story.I have a lot of catching up to do.If you had to read it a couple of times,then may be I will have to read it five times to get the idea.

msiduri wrote on August 12, 2015, 11:16 AM

Then maybe you can explain it to me. emoticon :smile: It's a little weird.

AliCanary wrote on August 13, 2015, 6:10 PM

How odd. But very imaginative! I thought the title was a play on the reverse, but I wasn't sure what the original one came from.

msiduri wrote on August 13, 2015, 6:17 PM

I hadn't heard of the poem before I went looking for info on the story. Some sites called it "the first environmentalist poem" or some such hooey.