Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Top 5 fantasy forests to avoid

List by Danielle and Kylie (and Mark and Jero)

"Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened."
Mirkwood, from 'The hobbit: or there and back again', by J.R.R. Tolkien

I love trees. Everytime I come back from holiday, there are at least a dozen frustrated and inadequate photos of trees - usually taken from a moving car - as I try one more time to record how much I love them.
Myths and legends, folktales and fairytales, they love their forests too. And for every tale about a forest of surpassing beauty where fair elves and noble unicorns dwell in golden glades, at one with nature, there is a story that burrows deep into the freaky flipside of forests - the cool, impenetrable darkness, the creatures that hide behind leaves and buried beneath the undergrowth, the endless cycle of rebirth - and decay. Giant spiders. Demons and the undead. Eyes, in the night. Fairytale and fantasy forests are resistant to maps, with shifting boundaries that remake themselves at will. All sorts of things make their homes there, and some of the denizens of the forests below would snack on the Big Bad Wolf for breakfast and pick their teeth on the Woodsman. NOM NOM NOM.

Honourable mentions:
Pendaran Wood, The Fionavar Tapestry / Guy Gavriel Kay
Mirkwood and Fangorn Forest, Lord of the Rings / J. R. R. Tolkien
Wayreth, the Dragonlance Chronicles / Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Ryhope Wood
Mythago Wood, Lavondyss and others / Robert Holdstock
Ryhope Wood is at the centre of Robert Holdstock's fabulous Mythago Cycle, a wood that reaches through time at least as far back as the Neolithic, and has the ability to manifest archetypal and mythical figures from the human subconscious. "In a way, the boys have conducted an experiment for me, by releasing their model ship on to the brook that flows - or so I believe - around the edge of the woodland. It has taken six weeks to traverse the outer zones, a distance, in real terms, of no more than a mile. Six weeks! Deeper in the wood, if the expansion of time and space increases - which Wynne-Jones suspects - who can tell what bizarre landscapes are to be found?"

Garroting Deep
The Illearth War / Stephen Donaldson (Book 2 of the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever)
"The first trees were within a dozen yards of him. Like irregular columns, they appeared suddenly out of the ground, with no shrubs or bushes leading up to them, and no underbrush cluttering the greensward on which they stood. They were sparse at first. As far back as he could see, they did not grow thickly enough to close out the sunlight. Yet a shadow deepened on them; mounting dimness spurned the sunlight. In the distance, the benighted will of the Forest became an almost tangible refusal of passage. He felt that he was peering into a chasm. The idea that any bargain could be made with such a place seemed to be madness..."

The Blight
The eye of the world / Robert Jordan (Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series)
The Blight – a corrupted, rotted forest, full of twisted monsters (e.g. giant Worms). But the worst thing is the plant life itself: “Leaves covered the trees in ever greater profusion, but stained and spotted with yellow and black, with livid red streaks like blood poisoning. Every leaf and creeper seemed bloated, ready to burst at a touch. Flowers hung on trees and weeds in a parody of spring, sickly pale and pulpy, waxen things that appeared to be rotting… The air tasted like a mouthful of spoiled meat.” Oh, and the further in you get, the more likely the trees are to try and eat you.

The deepwood/Alisanos
Karavans and Deepwood / Jennifer Roberson
“Humans call it the deepwood, but it is no ordinary land. A sentient entity, Alisanos has many magical, perilous, and frightening characteristics. It is home to powerful demons with the ability to assume whatever shape they choose, and other creatures beyond human imagining. Any person unlucky enough to be taken by Alisanos is either never seen again, or permanently changed into a monstrous entity… But the most terrifying aspect of the deepwood is its ability to move – suddenly encompassing what was previously safe land.”

The haunted forest
The game of thrones / George R. R. Martin (Book 1 of the Song of Ice and Fire series)
I'm reading this series for the first time at the moment, and so far, the people have been the thing to avoid. The thought of this massive, nameless forest sitting swathed in perpetual winter up past the Wall, and what might be living (un-living?) in the trees, feels like a big, dark threat that could swoop down and engulf the plot at any moment. "From up here, Tyrion could see it, the dark trees looming beyond the stretch of open ground, like a second wall built parallel to the first, a wall of night. Few axes had ever swung in that black wood, where even the moonlight could not penetrate the ancient tangle of root and thorn and grasping limb. Out there the trees grew huge, and the rangers said they seemed to brood and knew not men. It was small wonder the Night's Watch named it the haunted forest."

No comments: