Thursday, September 10, 2015


A Tree Simile

M.L. West (1937-2015), Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 495:
As a tree can be felled, either by a woodcutter or by a stroke of lightning, so can a warrior. Simoeisios, struck down by Ajax, falls like a poplar cut down by a joiner (Il. 4.482–7, cf. 13.178, 389). Indra struck down Vṛtra 'as an axe (does) the woods' (RV 10.89.7, cf. 1.32.5). Rāma, on hearing of his father's death, falls down in a swoon like a tree in the forest cut down by the axe (Rm. 2.95.9). Then again, Indra felled Vṛtra like a tree struck by a thunderbolt (RV 2.14.2, cf. 6.33.3; MBh. 2.42.21; 3.271.17), while Hector, laid out by a stone from Ajax’s hand, falls like an oak under Zeus' thunderbolt (Il. 14.414).141

141 Cf. Durante (1976), 121. The tree simile could also be used of others besides warriors struck down by a god. In the preface to the Hittite story of Appu (§1; Hoffner (1998), 83) a deity is said to 'chop down evil men like trees'. In a hymn to Agni he is asked to 'bring the wicked one down as with the blade, O unageing king, like a tree of the forest with the cutting edge' (RV 6.8.5).
"Durante (1976)" is Marcello Durante, Sulla preistoria della tradizione poetica greca, vol. 2 (Rome, 1976).

Related post: Some Homeric Similes.

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