Daphne Garden: Confined into a Spirit Tree

Monuments are a showcase to commemorate anyone who has had a direct impact on history. They allow us to continue to remember what they have achieved or what they want us to learn and imbibe in our life. Moreover, monuments can teach us lessons of history’s past and apply in the present and future. Thus, monuments continue to hold significance. As observers, monuments allow us to become more aware of the progress communities have made towards changing their views. Monuments also enable observers to do some introspection of their lives and realize what things hold more importance in our life.

The monument of Daphne Garden is currently in Chicago, Illinois. This monument was part of the Art in the Gardens temporary exhibit in 2004, as seen in Figure 1. At first, the monument’s location was at East Roosevelt Road and South Michigan Avenue. Many visitors and native Chicagoans loved the monument, so the Chicago Park District decided to permanently install it at the Northerly Island Visitor’s Center in 2006. [1]

Figure 1. Photograph of Daphne’s monument on Northerly Island in Chicago, Illinois.

Dessa Kirk created Daphne’s monument. Initially, she hails from Alaska but came to Chicago to attend the School of Art Institute. [2] Kirk aimed to show how Daphne’s myths explored the theme of exploitation among women and discuss different themes and emotions after learning the various myths about Daphne’s story. Kirk had been given the opportunity to create an artwork for The Union League Club of Chicago. In the past Kirk had created similar artwork related to female figures such as Magdalene in Grant Park. [3]

Anyone who has an interest in ancient Greece can associate Daphne as a part of Greek mythology. She was worshipped by many in ancient Greece during 1600 B.C.E. There are several different versions of Daphne’s myth. The Thessalian myth claims Daphne to be a Greek dryad or a tree sprite. She is the daughter of Penus, the river god. Her mother’s name is unknown. One day Apollo, the God of hunting, mocked Eros the God of Love for his lack of archery skills. Eros, enraged with anger, shot an arrow at Apollo, who became filled with an uncontrolled amount of lust for Daphne. Eros also shot an arrow at Daphne, which made her reject all romantic gestures. Daphne continued to run away from Apollo, as seen in Figure 2. She came to see her father, who helped her escape from Apollo. Daphne right there had escaped by turning into a laurel tree. [4]

The second version of Daphne’s myth is that she is the daughter of Ladon by Earth. As stated in the first version similarly, Apollo continued to make advances towards Daphne. However, she continued to resist his advances. Daphne came to her mother, Ge, who then turned her into a bay tree. Both myths agree that Apollo kept the tree close to him. [5]

Figure 2. Apollo chasing after Daphne.

The third version of Daphne’s myth is similar to the previous myths. In this version, Leucippus, the son of Oenomaüs, is the King of Pisa. He was in love with Daphne and took the disguise of a maiden to stay close with her. Both would go hunting together. Apollo, overcome with jealousy, had Leucippus killed by nymphs. To escape from Apollo, her father transformed Daphne into a laurel tree, as seen in Figure 3. Even though having several different versions of Daphne’s myth, all agree that Daphne had turned into a tree. [6]

Figure 3. Apollo and Daphne right before she transforms into a laurel tree.

Daphne’s monument represents many emotions that can easily be applied today with women being exploited, especially with the MeToo Movement. Looking closely at Apollo, one can describe him as Daphne’s stalker and unable to stop his sexual desires for Daphne. However, Daphne does not want to give in to his desires and wants to hold onto her virginity and retain her chastity like many women in today’s’ culture. Another emotion that can be showcased is the feeling of being protected by our parents. Daphne’s father helped her transform into a laurel tree; thus, Daphne could remain chaste and escape Apollo. Being chaste is another theme that observers can look at in her story—Apollo’s lust for Daphne versus her desire to remain chaste. Women from different cultures hold this notion of being chaste very close to them, thus believing to be pure.

Through Daphne’s monuments and stories, many can relate to today in how everyday women continue to face exploitation, whether in their personal or professional lives. Daphne’s story is here to remind women that they are not alone in their difficult challenges. Just as Daphne went to her parents for help, women have a support system around them to help in any situation. It also reminds women that they are not alone, and they can overcome any obstacle in their way. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many women do not feel protective in their personal and professional life. That is a notion that has to be changed.

Daphne’s monument hopes and continues to inspire societies to change their notions about women. Communities should not look at women like objects and prizes. Many communities should give women respect for their ability to handle any situation at any given time. Daphne’s monument hopes to empower women and let them take control of their lives and should not have to change their lives according to others.

Even though Daphne’s’ monument has no relation to Chicago, it can showcase how this monument can allow women to be more open and control what goes on in their lives. While there are different versions of Daphne’s myths in three different ways, all can agree she ultimately transformed into a tree and became a part of nature to get away from Apollo. Daphne’s monument represents how women can take control of their life in today’s time and should not have to feel alone. Another way Daphne’s monuments empower women is through challenging traditional notions of women. Just as Daphne went to her mother for help, women can always go to their mother.

Janki Patel, Loyola University Chicago


[1] Chicago Park District. “Daphne Garden.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/daphne-garden.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Daphne.” Brooklyn Museum: Daphne. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/daphne.

[5] Martin, H. M. “The Apollo and Daphne Myth as Treated by Lope De Vega and

Calderon.” Hispanic Review 1, no. 2 (1933): 149-60. Accessed November 13, 2020. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0104%3Aentry.

[6] Martin, The Apollo, 157.

Citation of photographs in order:

“Apollo and Daphne: City of Fremont Official Website.” Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.fremont.gov/1349/Apollo-and-Daphne.

“Apollo Chasing Daphne Who Throws Her Arms up, in the Background at Right Shows the

Moment She Turns in a Laurel, from The Story of Apollo and Daphne.” metmuseum.org.

Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/364068.

Chicago Park District. “Daphne Garden.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/daphne-garden.


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