Saturday, August 20, 2011

Realms of Faerie: Forests

{I apologize for the delay in getting this post out--I'm sure you know how summers can be, especially with those nagging fantasy projects you've been wanting to accomplish}

This is the second post in our series on realms of Faerie. Last time we talked about castles; now, we're moving into the realm of nature to cover forests.

Forests of all shapes and sizes abound in every proper fantastic world. The Enchanted Forest of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a prime example of such a forest, brimming with worthy woodkeeper's sons, damsels in distress, dragons, and magical enchantments of every sort. You know the type, I'm sure.

As far as faith goes, forests do not typically pose a problem to Christianity. After all, God was the One who created forests in the first place! In fact, we can even say that by creating forests in our imagination, we are reflecting the nature of our Creator God. Pretty neat!

But there's some bad news too. Unfortunately, in fantasy these days, forests often go through the same uses over and over again: a place of refuge for bandits or the big bad wolf, somewhere to gather herbs of healing, a dangerous area through which the long-suffering hero must travel, the ideal location for a poor widow's cottage, and so on.

And, if that weren't bad enough, these forests often consist--dare I say--of trees just like the ones around us {maples, birches, aspen, and so on}, and, further, forest animals suspiciously like the ones we see every day {do I need to mention the word "deer"?}.

Clearly, we need to up the ante on our forest originality!

Need a gentle nudge to get your little gray cells thinking in the right direction? Here are a few things to think of when crafting fantasy forests.

1. Color: Maybe color doesn't matter in the least in your story. So what? Go ahead, make your forest an unusual shade of titanium gray, dove white, or perfume pink, and I guarantee it'll make you think a little deeper about the structure, biology, and cosmology of your fantasy universe as a whole! Just compare it to our forests in autumn or spring--and, really, who needs a boring old green forest?

2. Type of tree: The first thought that comes to mind when I hear the word "tree" is a tall object with branches and leaves. But not necessarily! What if you had a forest made of poles, like a bamboo forest? Or if you had a forest made of gigantic mushrooms? Or a forest of large, fluffy objects that grow on stems {think Dr. Seuss}? The possibilities are literally endless!

3. Use of forest: Honesty, you do not need a forest to conceal your poor dear kidnapped princess. There are so many more clever alternatives involving toothpicks and particularly skilled swordsmen--not to mention imagination. But, let's say you do need that forest for the princess. What if, at the same time, you made the forest come to life, as with the Ents and trees in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Then your princess not only faces the task of getting away from her captors, but also somehow befriending or battling the trees to get out. Much more original, aye?

I certainly hope that those are enough questions to get you thinking the best ways to combat boring old forests. I'll also post some public domain pictures below for further inspiration :)


  1. I really enjoyed this post! I had honestly not thought about the cliches forests must endure. Sometimes we forget fantasy is just as much about making thing fresh as it is carrying on a story-telling tradition.

    It wouldn't be that hard to create a forest rich and diverse enough for an entire story to play out. I want to play with this idea a little bit.

  2. Thanks, Katherine! Yes, fantasy forests are forgettable, but should be fresh! (Nice alliteration there, too :)

    Yes, wouldn't that be so cool? And original, too--a forest that really forms the backbone of a whole story!


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