Wood Woman

The wood woman, or wood wife, is a fertility spirit that lives within forests. In Sweden, she is the skogsfru (or skogsrå)—a woman with a hollow back who couples with men and will sometimes bless their hunting endeavors. In Greece she is the hamadryad, and all the dryad nymphs for the various trees that follow.

 

It is said that men who couple with a wood woman will waste away, pining for her touch. Wood women will sometimes marry humans, though this usually ends poorly. They are feral spirits, and will eventually return to their forest homes.

 

Theodor_Kittelsen_Huldra_forsvant

Huldra forsvant (The Fairy That Disappeared) by Theodor Kittelsen via Wikimedia Commons

 

Source: Froud, Brian, Good Faeries, Bad Faeries, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

 


Supernatural AtoZ


20 Comments

  1. The wood woman sounds a lot like the selkie of Irish legend, her union with mortal men nearly always ends badly.
    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

  2. Seems to be strange behavior for a fertility being – blessing the killing and making the men pine away.

    • Sara C. Snider

      I’m not so sure she “made” them pine away, I understood it as the reaction of the men. Kind of like eating faery food–once you do, you usually can’t leave the faery realm. So, in laying with faery women, you kind of don’t want to leave that, either. (That’s how I look at it, anyway).

  3. I’m really intrigued by her hollow back. What do you suppose that signifys or is used for?

    • Sara C. Snider

      Her hollow back was likened to an old tree. So I suppose it a trait that signified her deep connection with the forest.

  4. Yes, the hollow back caught my eye, too. It occurred to me that this could be a reference to the origin of her being: she is like a layer of bark pealed away from the trunk of a tree. As such, she has no physical depth and is like a living sheet of paper.

    Of course, sometimes these strange references don’t translate well, or their contemporary meaning has been lost. Perhaps ‘hollow back’ was a derogatory reference to a femme fatale, or other person of ill repute?

    • Sara C. Snider

      As I mentioned to Rhonda, I think the hollow back signifies her woodland connection. She’s “of the trees” basically. Interesting point about the layer of bark and no depth. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but certainly interesting to think about. 🙂

      • Was googling around for more information and came across this on deviant art, which is another intriguing interpretation of the idea of a ‘hollow back’: the artist would seem to be trying to suggest that the entity maintains a permanent connection to another world even while visiting/inhabiting this one.
        http://unded.deviantart.com/art/hollow-back-girl-165161239

        • Sara C. Snider

          Very interesting, thanks for finding it. 🙂 (I changed your link to go to the artist’s page, rather than just the jpg. Gives better attribution to the artist that way, I think.)

  5. Well, another reason for a man to be faithful to his wife. Scary.

    I am enjoying your posts!

  6. All I can think is…a woman made of wood who couples with men. I’m sure she’s not MADE of wood, but it sounds painful if she is!

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

    • Sara C. Snider

      Well, in the case of the skogsrå where she has a hollow back like an old tree, she might be made partially out of wood (or at least looks of wood). And I think that having a hollow back would be less painful if made of wood, than if she was made of flesh. 🙂

      … And I’ve belatedly grasped what you really meant by it being painful if she was made of wood. To which I’ll just say, yes, yes it would be. 😉

  7. Djinnia

    Interesting. Fertility spirits. Maybe they help keep the fae fertile?

    • Sara C. Snider

      I think it’s more symbolic of man’s connection with nature and her life-giving attributes. 🙂

  8. So she might bless your hunting trip, but then completely wreck your life … if I were the men, I’d stay away :). Of course there are so many stories of men who follow their anatomy around so she probably has lots of fun 😉
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings – AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X – AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

    • Sara C. Snider

      That could be the moral of this story: don’t follow your anatomy around. 😉

  9. Warnings against going into the wood alone.

    I wonder if these are the Ent wives the Ents of Middle Earth were looking for! 😉


    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

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