The Magic of Forests

What is it about forests? It’s no secret that I love them. In Germany, where I spend a lot of time, the area I visit is full of them and I love walking there. In early autumn picking mushrooms and later watching the leaves turn from green to all the glorious shades of gold and brown. In winter driving along narrow roads, forest on both sides, passing through a tunnel formed by the boughs of trees laden with snow. Sometimes we try to walk through as silently as we can in the hope of catching sight of a passing deer. I always take my camera in an attempt to capture some of their enchantment. I find them both enthralling and inspiring.
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The forest symbolises somewhere wild, where you can escape civilisation for a while, yet it is full of hidden dangers at the same time. Even the act of picking mushrooms is fraught with danger unless you know which ones are safe to eat!

toadstool

Definitely not for eating!

In ancient times forests covered much of Europe, and Germany still seems to have retained much of its woodland, while here in East Anglia, where I live, they are few and far between. Have we become too ‘civilised’?

In 1812, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales, commonly known as Grimms Fairy Tales (or Grimms Elfenmärchen in German). Of course, in Grimms tales, the forest is always present. It’s the place where Hansel and Gretel find the cottage of the wicked witch and where Little Red Riding Hood comes across the wolf on her way to her grandma’s house. Forests appear in many myths and legends too. Take Robin Hood, for example, where the outlaws hide in the forest. Story tellers throughout the ages seem to be obsessed with them and I suppose I am no different.

In each of the Agnil’s Worlds books, the forest plays an important role. In ‘The Rise of Agnil’, it’s the place where Agnil meets the strange old man who comes to play such an important role in her life. In ‘Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb’, the Frozen Forest of Boreas is where Agnil and Estil are placed in mortal danger. By contrast, the forest of Lilurrian in ‘Agnil in the Tree Spirits’ is in danger itself and Agnil’s quest is to save the home of the tree spirits.

If you are interested in reading more about the symbolism of forests in fairy tales, look no further than this article by Justine Gaunt.

 

 

All photos by me!

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10 Responses to The Magic of Forests

  1. peachyjnt says:

    I love your photos Sue. I think that maybe forests were dangerous places for children, what with wild boar, poisonous berries and mushrooms, vagabonds and outlaws, not to mention the risk of getting lost if they strayed off the paths.The tales define forests as potentially dangerous for children, reinforcing the advice given to them by their parents…..

    • Susan NavasSusan Navas says:

      You’re right, of course, but they were also dangerous for adults for the same reasons. I always feel lost in the forest as we do tend to stray from the paths. Fortunately, I’m never alone and J seems to have an excellent sense of direction! The only hazard we’ve encountered is tick bites. We’ve had a few of those to deal with!

  2. macjam47 says:

    I do have a great sense of direction, and perhaps because I don’t fear getting lost, I have never felt forests to be dangerous. I grew up playing in them and never worried about what may lurk there.Yes, they are beautiful and magical. When i need time alone, that is where I take off to.
    Thank you for such an interesting post and beautiful photos.

    • Susan NavasSusan Navas says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I normally have a good sense of direction too but not when I don’t have paths to follow!

  3. Janet Givens says:

    I’m wondering what the difference might be between a forest (which you write about) and a woods (which surrounds my home; a few hundred acres). Is it merely a british english vs. american, or is there something more concrete? Any idea? And yes, I too love your photos.

    • Susan NavasSusan Navas says:

      Good question, Janet! Apparently woods are smaller than forests. Also apparently there is less vegetation and more sunlight in woods than forests. At least that’s what I’ve just found out by searching on Google. I never knew before either! 🙂

      • Janet Givens says:

        Hmmm. I don’t know. I have areas of my woods with thick vegetation, so thick we must hack a path open if we want to get through. And there are also sections that have little underbrush at all. This is in areas that get very little sun because the high canopy is so thick. So given that, I have a hypothesis: a forest is less about vegetation and more about life span. Vermont’s woods are actually only about 90 – 100 years old. Before that, most of Vermont was sheep farms. But a forest, I’d guess, has been there “forever.” Like a rain forest. 🙂 Make sense?

  4. marianbeaman says:

    The woods remind me of a setting for Hansel and Gretel. These photos also remind me of the woods behind my Grandmother’s house we used to explore. Great post!

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