Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dryads are tree spirits in Greek mythology. Technically speaking, dryads are the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general. Drys in Greek signifies 'oak,' from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- 'tree' or 'wood.'
The nymphs of ash trees were called the Meliai. The ash-tree sisters tended the infant Zeus in Rhea's Cretan cave. Rhea gave birth to the Meliai after being made fertile by the cast-away genitals of Ouranos.
If the nymphs lived in the trees, they were referred to as hamadryads, like Atlantia one of the wives of Danaus; otherwise they were simply dryads. Dryads, like all nymphs, were supernaturally long-lived, but if the tree died, the dryad associated with it died as well. For that reason, dryads and the Greek gods punished any mortals who harmed trees without first propitiating the tree-nymphs.
See also the myth of Daphne, who was pursued by Apollo and became a dryad associated with the laurel.
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