“Only with a leaf can I talk of the forest.” ― Visar Zhiti
Forests, in literature, can mean many, many things. Adventure, escape, danger, evil, magic, temptation, mystery, freedom, death, life, or shelter. Depending on the story, the setting, the characters, the author, or even the reader’s interpretation – a wood can be seen in endless lights.
No matter what a forest says to us, it’s hard to deny the enchantment that is cast on a reader when an author uses such a place to good effect. A murky wood, or a sunny glade, can come alive in a well-told story. They can almost become a character itself within the tale. A wood told of by one storyteller may be a place of darkness and fear, while the same wood in the hands of another may come alive with hope and safety.
A forest itself is changeful and moody – try walking in it from one week to the next in the springtime and you’ll find it a different place each time. Vines curl, flowers grow, trees fall, animals build and burrow, life pulses in every hushed inch of it.
“You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive.” – C.S. Lewis
So, what is it that is so potent about the forests we all love in well-known fairy tales and fantasies? What is it that remains in our imaginations years after the stories have been put back on the shelf? For each of us, that answer is different.
Whether we are reading about a band of merry outlaws, a headless horseman, a red-capped girl traveling to visit her grandmother – whether we are watching Puck and Oberon make mischief, or envisioning a boy with a lightening scar running from a dark specter – we are entranced. We are drawn in. And what’s more, we remember, long after the pages are closed and our lives have moved on.
Some of my personal favorites are listed below. But I’m eager to know which books and stories involving forests have influenced you the most, and for what reasons. Please share!
1. Green Darkness by Anya Seton
2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce
4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
5. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
6. What Lies on the Other Side by Udo Weigelt
7. Guenevere Trilogy by Rosalind Miles
8. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Be sure to watch for my next post about real-life forests that have inspired famous stories!