Here’s a relevant question, with One Tree Hill ending in just eight weeks: What’s the story behind the show’s roll-off-your-tongue but rather random title? Sure, it sounds pretty, but then you stop and think to yourself, Well, the series is set in Tree Hill, so what’s going on here? It was something of a jolt the first time I watched a season 1 episode and heard the kids refer to “Tree Hill this” and “Tree Hill Ravens that.” I’d assumed, like many other fans, that the town and the high school were called “One Tree Hill.”
But I adapted, and got used to the curt-sounding “Tree Hill” when describing the characters’ high school and other important points in town. And as the years went on, I was sure that I’d cracked the meaning Mark Schwahn intended. As I explained to my boyfriend — a reluctant convert due to me watching SoapNet reruns — it encapsulated the power struggle between half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott:
“Two brothers… one Tree Hill.”
You know, like “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us”? I was so proud of myself! My boyfriend laughed and said, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Is that really what the creator said?” Realizing that I didn’t know for sure, I did some research—and found the true meaning.
For one, Tree Hill High’s address is 1 Tree Hill; since it’s the center of all the basketball, relationship, and time capsule/school shooting/Evil Dan intrigue, it makes sense. But the title didn’t really make sense to fans, or even the CW producers, until episode 1×21 “The Leaving Song.”
Originally Mark Schwahn wanted to call the show An Unkindness of Ravens, but The CW (then The WB) didn’t want to alienate fans with a show only about basketball. (Schwahn got some vindication when he had Lucas write a bestselling novel about his adolescence, titled An Unkindness of Ravens.) So Schwahn went to a favorite U2 song off their album The Joshua Tree. But after executives asked about the meaning of One Tree Hill, he inserted this line into 1×21:
Karen (to son Lucas): There is only one Tree Hill—and it’s your home.
Side note: IMDb’s explanation of this journey adds some funny tidbits about the U2 inspiration:
The name “One Tree Hill” was taken from a U2 song of the same name. The creator, Mark Schwahn, was listening to ‘U2”s ‘The Joshua Tree’ album. When the song “One Tree Hill” came on, he decided to make it the title. (The song itself is named after One Tree Hill, a volcanic cone in the city of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The tree was removed in 2000 after being attacked in 1994, however, a plaque exists there and the location is still known as One Tree Hill, or more recently, its Maori name: Maungakiekie.)
I still think my cheesy reasoning was better. But there’s a compromise: Let’s just rename this show Maungakiekie, OK?