the trees of the field will clap their handsIsaiah 55:12b
The way animated trees catch the human imagination is rather strange. We invented dryads. Middle Earth has its Ents. Shakespeare gave us Birnham Wood in Macbeth. Even the bible mentions these trees.
I'm inclined to think that the mention of hand-clapping trees in scripture is figurative, but it's still very interesting. In a way, it validates our fascination with trees. It tells us that there's nothing wrong with imagining things about trees; there may even be something right about it.
Thinking, talking or animated trees seem to be a recurring theme in fantasy fiction. As well as the tree-beings I mentioned above, the Eragon books contain a thinking tree. Harry Potter has the Whomping Willow. Enid Blyton created the Magic Faraway tree. Thalia is turned into a tree in the Percy Jackson series. In short, we're very, very interested in trees.
Trees are essentially simple. The basic biology and engineering of a plant is much more straightforward than that of an animal. People can understand them. Strangely, though, trees still outlive us. The oldest trees in the world are older than I can really comprehend. I think that trees give us a downsized, human-viewable vision of eternity. Trees are just small enough that they don't blow our minds. We can understand them, but they still surpass us in some ways. They're older and, on the whole, stronger. They're a glimpse of greater things.
It's all the more amazing, then, that we have such control over trees. Not only do we farm them, but Isaiah 55:12 tells us that they're subordinate to us. Adam received the same message in Genesis. These amazing structures, windows into a greater a world, are less than us. I think we struggle with that, and so we make trees more important in fiction to try to rationalise it. In reality, though, we are in some sense greater: we are made in the image of God.
Somehow, that helps me to simultaneously be humble and to believe that I am made in His image. I think that it is a position I have been born into, rather than an award that I have earned.