Mysterious Shape of These Trees in Poland Give Rise to Myths

In a small corner of the West Pomeranian forest in northwestern Poland, a grove of pine trees grow in unique shapes that might seem more suited to a fantasy film rather than wildlife reality. The origin of this curiosity is still up for debate.

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crooked trees in forest
Bent trees in the Crooked Forest in Nowe Czarnowo, Poland. Photo: Adobe Stock / Rarchitekt

What is otherwise a typical Polish pinewood forest morphs a land of enchantment in this spot. Spread across a 2-hectare area, local forest managers put the number of uniquely bending trees at around 80. However, rumors tend to exaggerate their number into the hundreds. Likely planted in the 1930s, these nearly century-old trees have trunks that suddenly stop growing vertically about a meter off of the ground and instead bend – usually north – before growing vertically again, as if following some magical force. 

The more preternatural theories convince some locals. These include strange mutations, alien interventions, secret magnetic fields, or even deliberate acts of nature. Others still believe that the trees are witnesses to a complicated history. Before World War II, West Pomerania was under German control, so some theories point to Nazi tanks riding over the newly planted pines. Another theory argues that when the trees were young, maybe ten-years-old, they were cut as Christmas trees with the lowest branch left just above the ground. This branch could later turn into a trunk.

Crooked Forest: preternatural events or acts of nature?

The latter theory might actually be true, as pine trees do indeed show this kind of resilience. However, the best explanation so far is a combination of extraordinary crafting skills together with a lack of memory. Tree shaping could indeed be responsible. Before modern techniques, such as plywood and plastic forming, achieving a bent construction material was way more difficult than it is today. Thus, tree shaping was quite often practiced to get elements for carpenters or shipbuilders.

Pinewood is a prevalent building material, as pines grow relatively fast, are easy to work with, and are reliable. The Crooked Forest might have been an investment, even made to a specific order. However, as a result of the war, the previous German inhabitants from the territory were replaced with Polish ones with no experience with tree shaping practices. That might explain why many locals don’t even suspect that the crooked forest could be man-made. All of these theories are fertile soil for folk knowledge – often as bent and man-made as this forest.

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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