Normally, I love America’s cute Southern drawl. Normally, sweet old ladies who generously bake apple pies for their friends are entirely inoffensive to me. But Tree Trunks can die alone in a forest somewhere in the Land of Ooo and it’d be her best appearance in an episode of Adventure Time.
Tree Trunks is a tiny, yellowish-greenish elderly elephant who lives near the forests in the Candy Kingdom. She tends to her garden of apples, making apparently-delicious apple pies for her friends.
When we first meet Tree Trunks during her more minor roles at the start of Adventure Time, she seems like an unassuming character. She’s kind of slow moving and she definitely lives in her own world, but she’s kind enough. Who could hate a little old lady who frequently bakes Candy Kingdom-renowned apple pies for her buds Finn and Jake? Right?
Me. I hate her. I’m the one. And I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. Tree Trunks is oblivious at best, selfish and frankly gross at worst.
In her first major episode, “Tree Trunks,” she gets Finn and Jake caught in an increasingly dangerous situation thanks to her complete disregard of them and their efforts to protect her. And the only thing she ever feels bad about is how she might be perceived, or how she feels in relation to how Finn and Jake’s troubles involve her.
Before all this, we see moments of her true character coming through in various episodes. Finn and Jake are horsing around in Tree Trunks’ backyard when she invites them in for some freshly-baked apple pie.
What a sweet-looking lady, right?
Not 30 seconds later we see her entirely aggressive reaction to a fly landing on her pie. Now, you are probably thinking, “But it’s just a fly! Surely this is a familiar occasion that years of baking pies and living in the goddamn forest full of other suchs bugs and creatures would have prepared her for.” What a right observation you’ve made! But, nah.
Look at it. Look at those motions towards violence her flung-up arms are presenting. Look at those angry wrinkles on her forehead, her mouth agape in voicing her rage. It’s a fly, Tree Trunks. Calm yourself.
The invasion of the fly who acts in its nature is so jarring to her, in fact, that she’s almost possessed by her disturbance.
And then she goes and wastes a perfectly good pie for one point of contamination.
Those boys do not care one bit about some tiny hairs on the tiny legs of a tiny housefly landing in a tiny little perimeter of your apple pie. And, even if they were, they could cut around it like I would.
Tree Trunks, do you know how many people would fight in a gladiatorial stadium against their own family members for that pie? Do you know how hungry people are out there? Do you ever turn on the news?
Anyway she manages to convince Finn and Jake to take her on a dangerous adventure to find the “apple of apples” to make the best apple pie ever. Not a bad deal for anyone involved, but it did kind of play out like she manipulated Finn and Jake into being her bodyguards for this thing, but, whatever, they do generally enjoy adventures at least.
Now, I’m fully aware that Tree Trunks is at the mercy of her old age and her likely waning mental clarity. But her complete lack of awareness and understanding and listening skills are still annoying.
Here she is, in the midst of the dark forest, acting like she knows anything when she almost got eaten by a wall of flesh. (Yes, a wall of flesh. Adventure Time is weird.)
She proceeds to wander off, continue to act an oblivious fool, and get Finn beaten to shit while he tries to protect her from all the dangers she keeps walking straight into.
And when poor Finn — with his jacked-up, black and blue face — laments the position he got stuck in, her only reaction is a selfish one. “Are you mad at me?” She widens her eyes into a glistening, puppy-dog demeanour and Finn’s guilt overrides his pain. Because Finn has empathy and Tree Trunks happily — and, sure, maybe unknowingly — takes advantage of that.
Wonderfully, Tree Trunks also has a large ego. And many of us have seen how a combination of ego and a lack of empathy play out — it’s generally pretty ugly and involves their personality running rampant at the expense of others’ well being. While Finn takes on yet another monster, Tree Trunks throws some makeup on and goes against Jake’s directives to stay put.
Oh, yeah, cause that’s gonna work. Have you looked in a mirror Tree Trunks? I hear YouTube has some great makeup tutorials. Just saying: Tree Trunks doesn’t know shit.
(Actually, based on evidence presented in the show and completely not based on my own personal opinion of her, Tree Trunks does seem to have some effective wiles about her. Though for the record I have no idea why or what people see in her.)
At the end of all this, Tree Trunks becomes a crystal-possessed, evil ruler of the Crystal Dimension and tries to crystalize Finn to force him to rule with her. When she comes to after Finn and Jake rescue her from his crystal-minded prison, she confesses she “likes” Finn. Let’s all remember that she’s an old lady and Finn is a teenager. Not just weird but illegal, too, though I confess to not knowing much about the laws of the Candy Kingdom.
Next, in “Apple Thief,” Tree Trunks is so consumed by her own priorities of finding whoever stole her apples that even when she finds Raggedy princess in a fucking ditch in her front yard after being knocked down there by some “ne’er-do-wells,” all she continues to care about is that maybe they were the same people who stole her apples and oh god her apples. Who cares that this woman was just attacked when there are apples to be reclaimed?! Vengeance will be Tree Trunks’!
In “Dream of Love,” Tree Trunks falls in love with Mr. Pig, the character she was introduced to in “Apple Thief.” Love is a wonderful thing, but excessive PDA is not, especially when the people around you are explicitly asking for you to stop grossing them out. In fact, they bother the attendees of Princess Bubblegum’s party/concert so much that Cinnamon Bun calls the whole thing off.
And not only that, but Tree Trunks has the nerve to ask Princess Bubblegum to perform a song specifically for them, to dance “cheek-to-cheek” to, after they have ruined the whole party for everyone else.
When Finn suggests they need to hide their affection to not make the whole world throw up, they decide the best option is not to hole up in their house like a normal couple does when they’re in the new-couple stage of not being able to keep their hands off each other. Nope, they decide to try to “hide” all around the Candy Kingdom, even going so far as to invade a baby carriage while the mum who owns it isn’t looking.
She explains to Finn that she’s uncomfortable with an unmarried couple living together, but as far as us viewers know, they have been doing exactly that since the “Apple Thief” episode. Mr. Pig proclaims that he “never really left” when Jake asks what he was doing at Tree Trunks’ house at the start of the episode, and later tells Jake that he’s “homeless.” What was that about an unmarried couple’s living arrangement again?
When Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig finally decide to get married in “Apple Wedding,” Princess Bubblegum goes through great lengths to ensure everything runs according to plan on Tree Trunks’ special day. Tree Trunks’ response? She accuses Princess Bubblegum of trying to “hijack” the wedding. There’s that ego rearing its ugly head again. She’s so self-absorbed that she can’t even see when someone is trying to do something nice for her. Now, sure, Princess Bubblegum actually does go ahead and hijack her wedding, but that comes later…
Plus, there’s still this:
Gross. Where’d you learn how to make out? Fifth grade? You’ve had THREE husbands before Mr. Pig, Tree Trunks. You should know better than to air-lick each other’s tongues.
“Mystery Dungeon” is actually the first episode featuring Tree Trunks at her most tolerable. She helps the group according to her abilities, and doesn’t seem to require too much of an egotistical motivation to do so. Aside from saving her own butt in the process, of course. But, even when she’s actually being helpful, she exhibits behaviour and language that simultaneously betrays her generous exterior. She’s obsessed with people liking her — a trademark sign of egomaniacs like her — a characteristic she’s admitted to in a previous episode. When she’s confronting Ice King’s involvement in her and her group being trapped in this dungeon, she comes at it from the perspective of how it relates to her. It can’t simply be a matter of Ice King having done something deplorable, which is how she starts her mini-monologue confrontation. She ropes herself into the conversation, talking about how kind and honest she is.
Tree Trunks is, simply put, an obnoxious character. And anyway, I already found the best pie place in NYC. It’s called Little Pie Company and they put goddamn sour cream in their apple pie. No thanks, Tree Trunks.