Is there anything so magical as the woods?
They’re the settings for adventure, where trees are metamorphized from friend to foe, fantastical creatures they become, their long, spindly, skeletal fingers clutching at the unwary traveler, spookily, eerily suggestive that that tug on the back of the jacket was not just happenstance.
They’re alive. Something’s out there. Things are not as they appear.
Never is the forest transversed without difficulty. Ask any of the heroes of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; or Dorothy and friends in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; or Hansel and Gretel.
Rumpelstiltskin lives there, as does Rapunzel in her tower.
Forbidden forests are, without exception, dark and tangled. They’re the domain of wild things, real and imagined.
Wulgreth and Jhingleshod live in Dire Wood. Snow White hid there until rescued.
Rarely – Robin Hood an exception – are fairytale forests a sanctuary, a familiar environ, an idyllic haven to escape rulers of evil.
Only very brave, adventuresome children (plural, since there’s encouragement in numbers) dare crawl under the fence that separates what is known from what is not. Best take a loaf of bread for the journey, half to survive, the other half for crumbs to find the way back.
What tales will never be told of travails in the forest! Who, after all, would believe the accounts of rafts built from fallen limbs and poled about the swamp by Huck Finns well-armed with sharpened ferns?
Or of clambering up to perch on the nearest, hopefully sturdiest branch there to huddle and holler for help to escape the clutches of Something that one of you must surely heard rustling in the undergrowth?
Best kept secrets are those of the magic that forests alone engender.
Like that pictured here where, the story goes, the trees line up only on the rarest of occasions, and then only to the children most fortunate at that exact moment to see an opening at the very far end, a cave-like entrance thought one, a cathedral window thought another, but in either case a beckoning, an irresistible drawing for those youngsters who with great haste – lest the trees should once again realign – should run as fast as their little feet could take them only to step, just in time, into a most incredible scene.
Even as the trees closed behind them.
Picture credit – that of the author’s sister, Alice Nelson. Taken along Highway Six in Lewis County, Washington.
For more whimsical, wonderful, magical pictures of the woods, see those of Ellie Davies as featured in the September 22, 2016 National Geographic, introduced by Alexa Keefe, Senior Photo Editor.