Introduction

Edward James Ted Hughes, the legendary Poet Laureate, wrote this famous and remarkable poem. The poem is about people’s hypocrisy in using Mother Nature for their own selfish benefit and never trying to soothe her scars. This poem serves as a reminder to mankind that if people do not curtail their greed and continue to cut down trees without replacing them, then all living species on the planet shall perish. 

About The Poet

Ted Hughes was born on August 17, 1930, in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, England, and died on October 28, 1998, in London. Ted Hughes was a translator, poet and children’s author from England. He was generally regarded as one of the best poets of his time and one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century by critics. In 1984, he was chosen Poet Laureate, a position he retained until his death.

Theme Of The Poem

The poem ‘My Own True Family’ emphasizes the need for safeguarding our natural environment for the sake of humanity’s wellbeing before it is too late. It also advocates that humans and trees should coexist together and live together like a family. 

Stanza 1-2

Once I crept in an oakwood - I was looking for a stag. 
I met an old woman there - all knobbly stick and rag. 
She said: 'I have your secret here inside my little bag. '

Then she began to cackle and I began to quake. 
She opened up her little bag and I came twice awake ---
Surrounded by a staring tribe and tied me to a stake. 

The poem has a dreamlike tone to it. A kid wanders into an oak grove while scouting for a stag. He comes across an elderly woman there. Her clothing was worn out and she seemed frail and fragile. She revealed to the kid that she has his secret in her little purse. As soon as she says this, the woman begins to laugh (cack) wildly, making the youngster shake in terror (quake). She takes out her little bag and casts a spell on the kid. Suddenly, the poet finds himself surrounded by a tribe and chained to a stake.

Stanza 3-4

They said: 'We are the oak trees and your own true family. 
We are chopped down, we are torn up, you do not blink an eye. 
Unless you make a promise now - now you are going to die. 

'Whenever you see an oak - felled tree, swear now you will plant two. 
Unless you swear the black oak bark will wrinkle over you 
And root you among the oaks where you were born but never grew!

It was a watershed(historic) point in the child’s moral and ethical development. The child finds himself encircled by an ancient tribe who speaks to him in a mystical dream. The tribe speaking to him consist of none other than oak trees. They identify themselves as his real family. They claim that they are ruthlessly plucked and damaged, yet no one pays attention to them or cares to save them.  

They demand that he take an oath right now to safeguard trees, or else they will be eliminated in the coming decades. The oak trees ordered that anytime he found a tree that had been chopped, he must plant two trees in its place. Otherwise, the black oak bark will engulf him and etch him into the roots.

Stanza 5

This was my dream beneath the boughs, the dream that altered me. 
When I came out of the oakwood, back to human company, 
My walk was the walk of a human child, but my heart was a tree. 

The poet explains in the final stanza that the story is not based on a real occurrence. Rather, it occurs in the poet’s dreams, a dream that changes his inner conscience. When he wakes up, he sees his mistakes and recognizes the devastation they are inflicting to the environment. He feels terrible for the trees and has sympathy for them in his heart. As a result, when he returned to the normal world, he was a human kid in appearance but a tree at heart.