The Druid whispered, "Come. I know the forests. Follow me -- and they'll never find us. You too, Lycon."I've always wondered about the origins of the druid class in Dungeons & Dragons, which first appeared in Supplement III to OD&D, Eldritch Wizardry. Many people took Gary Gygax at his word when he claimed that the class was based on the Gallic priests described by Caesar in his De Bello Gallico. I know asked him about this a few months before his death and that was the answer he gave me, although, to be fair, he didn't invest his answer with pontifical authority.
Velia's hand was warm in Elak's as they silently trailed Dalan. Like a shadow for all his gross bulk the Druid slipped from tree to tree, taking advantage of every bush and shrub, till at last the noise of pursuit died in the distance. Only then did he pause to wipe the sweat from his ugly face.
"No enemy can find a Druid in the forests," he informed the others. "If necessary, our magic can send the trees marching against those who follow."
--Henry Kuttner, "Thunder in the Dawn" (1938)
What's interesting is that is that Gary shared a co-author credit on Supplement III, with Brian Blume. Blume, along with his brother Kevin and their father Melvin, often play the role of snakes in the Garden in romanticized portrayals of the early history of TSR. It was the Blumes, after all, who sold their controlling shares in the company to Lorraine Williams in 1986 and ushered in what some consider a dark age for TSR.
The ins and outs of TSR's financial history are well known and are discussed better elsewhere. Whatever else Brian Blume was, it's frequently been stated that he was as avid a fan of pulp fantasy as Gygax. Likewise, I have heard the claim that Eldritch Wizardry was the most strongly "swords & sorcery" product sold for OD&D. Taken together and combined with my recent reading of Henry Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis (also available from Paizo's Planet Stories line -- no, I am not being paid to shill for them; I do it willingly), I have to wonder if perhaps the D&D druid owes its origin to the character of Dalan from the quote above. In the short story, he demonstrates numerous magical abilities that are close to those of the character class. Likewise, the druids seem to be a secret order whose hierarchy operates outside the control of civilized society, complete hidden rites and the like.
The resemblance isn't perfect, of course, but it's striking nonetheless. All the more reason to keep reading this stuff and yet another reason to tip my hat at Paizo for making it so readily available.