Tree imagery & symbolism in Herman Hesse’s Pictor’s Metamorphoses


Myth Reading Group

Thursday 08 February

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.411

We are very pleased to announce that Eirini Apanomeritaki continues our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on Herman Hesse’s Pictor’s Metamorphoses


Illustration from the series of watercolours produced by Hermann Hesse to accompany his tale “Pictor’s Metamorphoses” (1923), from the Italian edition of the collection: Hermann Hesse. Le metamorfosi di Piktor – Una fiaba d’amore, trans. Carmen Margherita Di Giglio. Kindle Edition.

The two stories selected this week are taken from Herman Hesse’s Pictor’s Metamorphoses and Other Fantasies (1981 [1922]), a collection of fantasy tales which portrays varied degrees of engagement with the natural landscape.

In “The Man of the Forests” which echoes the fall of man and exile from Eden, Hesse describes a tribe of men who live in the darkness of a forest and have never seen the sun, “the white Void beyond”, until one of them disobeys the priest and is exiled to live outside the protection of the trees. In “Pictor’s Metamorphoses”, however, the protagonist is stepping into Paradise wishing to become part of the natural landscape through metamorphosis. In this session we will look at the symbolic and allegorical imagery of trees and forests and discuss how mythical, spiritual, and religious elements find their way into Hesse’s storytelling.


Hermann Hesse. Pictor’s Metamorphoses and Other Fantasies. Ed. Theodore Ziolkowski, trans. Rika Lesser. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1981.

Extracts from the collection: “The Man of the Forests” (pp. 83-92), “Pictor’s Metamorphoses” (pp. 114-120).


This entry was posted in Reading Group. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.