Amazing as it may seem, elves and various other fantasy races that dwell in trees, may be more well known than the tree-dwellers of our world–the Korowai tribe of Papua New Guinea. Though their homes hardly compare to the striking images of elven flets accessed by slender ropes or the palace-like city of Caras Galadhon, interwoven with mighty trees, they’re fascinating nevertheless.
A hunter-gatherer people group living in swampy lowlands, the Korowai construct their homes in trees or up on stilts for defensive purposes. Their homes may tower as much as 160 feet above the ground, accessed only by ladders or a single notched pole. Though they work to make them sturdy (a necessity since a dozen or more people might reside in a single home), the houses usually only last about five years before needing reconstruction.
In many ways, the Korowai provide a glimpse back into ancient cultures, as until the 1970s, they lived in complete isolation. Since that time, their cultural practices have remained largely intact–possibly even their cannibalistic habits and certainly their methods of living off the land and their unique dwellings. They adorn their bodies with bone jewelry and bear weapons, but wear virtually no clothing (consider yourself forewarned if you do any googling). And they seem content in their lifestyle, though some predict it may only last one more generation, as the outside world presses in on them.
Though their tree houses are primitive, I’d love to see them in person. And there’s a small part of me that thinks tree-top living might be fun–especially if the homes resembled those in Lorien rather than those in the jungles of Papua. What about you? Can you imagine making your home in the thick of a forest, living among the trees?