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I was watching a TV Show named "The 100" and in the episode 4, season 1, at 24:06 min the character Nygel said the following line.

I remember when you were the tender of the tree. You were a cute kid.

I would like to know what does tender mean in this context? Is this some idiom?

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    Is there a tree that was being taken care of, that is, tended to? To tend to = to take care of, in some contexts.
    – Xanne
    Apr 28 at 3:10
  • It could also refer to someone taking care of a metaphorical tree, although we definitely need more context for that.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 28 at 12:55
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I had a quick look at the episode in question to get some context. You'll see in the show that there is a small tree (a bonsai) at the front of the room and a boy is taking care of it. That is, he is tending to the tree. Apparently, this is a formal assignment and the child who is assigned to tend to the tree is called the "tender of the tree." This is not a common title in the real world - it's significant only in the world of the show and sounds somewhat formal and ritualistic to my ears.

The simple meaning of what the speaker is saying is that she remembers when the man she is talking to was a boy and he had the assignment of "tender of the tree" - that is, it was his job to take care of the small bonsai tree.

The deeper layer to what she is saying is that this position of "tender of the tree" is apparently a position of great trust and honor - bonsai trees are delicate and in the world of the show (which takes place on a space station after a catastrophe on Earth), plant life is rare and precious. But now as an adult, he is challenging the leader's authority during the time when the tree is being tended. She is implying that it is remarkable that a child who was once so trusted ("you were so cute") could grow up to be a rebel.

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One interpretation I could think of is this:

Take into account the "You were a cute kid.". It implies they no longer are cute, something changed.

Perhaps the "tender of the tree" is referring to something "special" or "precious" of said tree that is lost or changes over time.

That would imply the person being talked about changed in a negative way or lost something that made him "special" or "precious" when he was "a cute kid".

I think this lacks context though, as he could quite literally just be referring to the person being the caretaker (the "tender") of the tree.

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