Tayoki and the Niwaki were an early addition to the story. I suppose the idea of a “wise old tree” trope is fairly hackneyed at this point, but I didn’t mind. I needed something that would make sense existing as ubiquitous as the grass, but older and much larger. It just made sense that on the edge of the valley lay a grand old forest.
The trees are the elders, and though they can’t move from where they stand, they are strong and can talk. So all the creatures of the valley come to them for advice. I pointed out quickly that they listen. I get down to the ground and look my boys in the eyes whenever I can. The trees instead use their branches to lift their visitors up right to where they can see them. That was always the point in time I wanted to illustrate, though I went through various iterations of showing either just Tayoki or other trees as well.
Before I got the suggestion to name the characters, Tayoki was simple the “Great Old Tree”. I had come up with many other names, like Ganshiki (insight + tree), Mitouki, (“unobstructed perspective + tree), Dosatsuki, (wise + tree), — all were a little too hard to pronounce. Oki (big tree) was easier but this tree was more than just “big”.
The name Tayoki is a mash up of two kanji: “頼” tayoru (trust), and “木” ki, (tree). The meaning fits well. He is the tree that everyone trusts with their stories.