I am making a collection of short stories that involve a tribe of anthropomorphic animals made of different coexisting species.

They all live in a giant tree. They look like a more gigantic version of a Kapok Tree. enter image description here

The tribe builds its houses on the branches and they look like this. enter image description here

Now there are the pros to this style of living.

  • Safe from predators
  • High enough from floodwaters.
  • Safe from a warring tribe.
  • The tree collects water.
  • The tree also grows fruits and edible mushrooms.
  • It's also resistant to fires.

But there's one flaw. Being the tallest thing in the jungle, its mostly to be struck by lightning. Even fire-resistant trees are not even safe from it. The lightning could also strike a house and setting ablaze or could destroy a branch. I could on the damages it could cause.

So could a tribe protect their village from a lightning strike?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I suppose they don't have acces to metal to build a lightning rod? $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ the chance are slim anyway, you can see that big kapok tree dont get thunderstrike till now and grow that big just fine, even korowai tribe that build tree house in your image example doesnt get thunder strike or has that problem, as far as i know. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 9:40

3 Answers 3


Religion can help you here.

Let's start by quoting a pertinent What if

They say lightning strikes the tallest thing around. That’s the kind of maddeningly inexact statement that immediately sparks all kinds of questions. How far is “around”?

There’s a cool trick for this, and I’ll give it away right here at the start: Roll an imaginary 60-meter sphere across the landscape and look at where it touches.

To figure out where lightning is likely to hit, you roll the imaginary 60-meter sphere across the landscape (for safety reasons, do not use a real sphere). This sphere climbs up over trees and buildings without passing through anything (or rolling it up). Places the surface makes contact—treetops, fenceposts, and golfers in fields—are potential lightning targets.

This means you can calculate a lightning “shadow” around an object of height h on a flat surface. Now, that doesn’t mean you’re safe on the ground around it—often, it means the opposite. After the current hits the tall object, it flows out into the ground. If you’re touching the ground nearby, it can travel through your body.

Now that you got an empirical way to find the risky place, let's say that your religion demands that those places are sacred to the gods, and thus not suitable for building houses, they can only be used to give offers to the god, who will pick them with the lighting.

You catch two birds with one stone:

  • keep your people safe
  • throw a god driven decision making process in your tribe
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you’re living in tall trees in the lightning shadow of an even taller tree you would be safe though. The current won’t flow down then back up to you. You just need to make sure your houses are clustered around (but not touching) a much taller tree, while your people only descend to ground level at some distance from that tree. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 11:09

They are not safe.

Lightning adds energy to your story! In several stories your characters see lightning strike other trees and other things. They know they are at risk. They talk about lightning, what it is and what it means, and how they hope lightning will not strike them.

Then a great trouble befalls them in the last story. They must all leave the tree and take what they have with them. Maybe their house gets taken by another group and they are expelled.

They sort out the trouble. But on the way back, they see their house finally get struck by lightning. In a way it works out. They got ideas for a better house while they were away.


If there's water nearby, a simple pump system can be made, even with medieval technologies. While this does not stop lightning strikes, it does provide a system to stop damage from them. (Unless someone gets struck by that lightning. That's a different story.)


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