From fairy tales to crime thrillers, the presence of forests and trees in general have had a constant presence in literature and filmography. They are often strongly linked with unconsciousness and are used as a place of testing and initiation. Forests tend to signify darkness and unknown peril, remaining largely full of mystery to most of mankind. They are the realms of death, holding on to some of mankind’s deepest darkest secrets. For example, forest’s are serial killer’s playground, providing the perfect place to discard a body due to it’s remoteness and often vastness. Forests are also believed to provide a connection to the spirit world, containing not only mythical creatures such as fairies and wisps, but also malevolent spirits. Besides all this, forests serve as a place where character’s work through their demons and begin to figure out just who they are.
When thinking about the use of forests in different works, I was reminded of Dante’s The Divine Comedy which my AP Lit teacher assigned us to read. Looking back through it I found a line that seems to exemplify the way forests are used to help one figure out who they are and it is , “In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” Forests can be confusing and even menacing but ultimately force you to find your way. Also it is in this “dark wood” that he also finds a “magic” helper, the angel Virgil, who helps him in his trip leading him through hell,purgatory, and then finally into heaven.
Dante meets Virgil in the dark woods
As a writer myself, I find the use of forests in literature especially not only interesting but also inspiring. The possibilities of what forests can be used to symbolize are endless and introducing them into a work opens up opportunities to portray grand adventures, magical happenings, horror stories, or soul-searching experiences.