The new 4E Dryad is depicted as angry feminine treant looking thing. Maybe more of a shrubant. Some of the complaints about it were:
Now, I understood the first and last complaints, but the middle one took me off guard. Someone else whipped out a dictionary and proved that a dryad is a forest nymph, and nymphs are always female.
- Looks too much like the Warhammer Dryad
- Why does the Dryad have to be female?
- The Dryad should look more like a person, specifically an attractive woman.
Then the lamia was brought up. The new 4E lamia is completely divorced from the mythology of the lamia, and is now a humanoid creature made of bugs that turns into a swarm of scarabs or something. Has nothing to do with the half-woman half-lion it has traditionally been.
Some people pointed to the lamia as an example of where WOTC had "wisely" divorced the creature from mythology and made a "better" creature because of it. They followed this by saying that dryads shouldn't be locked into the idea of beautiful female tree spirits just because mythology says they are, and that the more separated D&D becomes from myth the better D&D is. I've seen many similar arguments made about D&D and history, and the more ahistorical D&D is, the better it is.
The strange thing is that the proponents of this worldview seem to believe that D&D is a better game if knowing something about history and mythology does nothing to improve your game. Also, they all seem to be younger than me, and to have come into the hobby post-Magic:TG.
I'm not sure about the last point, but coincidentally I was thinking about the same thing earlier today while flicking through the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual. I noticed that there are huge differences in tone and flavour between that book and its later editions: the 2nd edition version contains many monsters which are in the spirit of the genuinely mythological/fantastical, from Dryads to Brownies to Sylphs to Mist Dragons, that just aren't there or are vastly different in 3.X and 4th edition. I mean the type of beings that aren't just things to fight; they're creatures born from our own fairy tales who enchant, deceive and mystify. They're deliciously capricious and ambiguous in the way that fairy tale/legendary monsters so often were - just as likely to help or hinder depending on the vagaries of fortune and whim. That sort of "magic" appears to have been almost completely lost from later editions of D&D.
As another poster in the thread put it:
I can see how one might come up with a cool new spin on a mythological concept that weds it to the setting better. When that's done right, it can be cool.
But "become less mythological = better"? Nonononono.
And when it's clearly worse, it certainly does nothing to salvage the concept. An alluring woman tied her tree is a potentially intriguing story element. A treant with bewbs... not so much.
This goes back to Borges and his Book of Imaginary Beings. One of the reasons I like it is that it is a genuine head-trip. The creatures in it aren't just orcs and ogres who are going to stab you with swords. They're Eaters of the Dead. They're birds who live off gold. They're Malaysian ghosts who try to follow you up the staircase to Nirvana. They're serpents with heads at both ends trying to eat each other. Their behaviour is unknowable and incomprehensible. They're part of a completely alien and "fantastical" reality.
There needs to be more of that in D&D, I think. There once was. Dryads in 2nd edition were beautiful nymphs who might cast a magic spell on you and enchant you into being their husband. Not treants with bewbs. And the world was better for it.