Hi Virtually Readers! It’s time for another Bookish Planet, your guide to literary locales. Today, inspired by my love of Into the Woods (seriously, Into the Woods is ridiculously good and you should watch/listen to it if you at all get the chance), I’m giving a brief introduction to an excellent setting for books, the Magical Forest. The Magical Forest is known for having trees and magic. Basically it’s like its name. All sorts of dodgy and wonderful stuff can happen inside.
Description: You’ll know you’re in a magical forest when there are trees and there is magic. It’s not too hard to work out. You may also find magical beings, like fairies or witches; plot creators, like trolls or evil queens; magic sources; magic portals; swords; unsolved mysteries; fairy tales; and, most dangerous of all, potions. You may be in the Magical Forest because you’re participating in a plot, or else perhaps an innocent bystander who thought it would be a nice place for a holiday. Either way, you’ll probably end up in a story. The forest is, in a word, atmospheric; there are shafts of light filtering through ancient trees, thick undergrowth, old paths, beautiful maidens and so on. Within your literary explorations, you’re probably more likely to find a Magical Forest in European based fantasy books, but it can be part of other traditions too. The best things about Magical Forests is that they can be anywhere where there are both trees and magic, an easy criteria to fill in fantasy stories. There are always new places to explore; you can never fully know the Magical Forest, and that is one of the most enchanting reasons to visit.
People: The people of the Magical Forest are most likely engaged in their own trials and tribulations, so try not to disturb them too much. They can be clannish and resistant to ideas of change, but some will be downright helpful to you on your quest. In fact, some will offer you places to stay and food. But remember, this is a magical forest, and not all is as it seems. A little wariness will help you to survive. Some well known residents which you may find depending on where you go are Grawp, Mr. Tumnus, Tiger Lily, Arya, Yeva, Gansey, Adam, and Ronan.
Beware: Getting lost! Always bring a map. Thieves and liars. Magical forests have swindlers just like anywhere else. Magic. Some of it will help you and some of it will harm you; learning to discern such is vital. Monsters. Sadly, they exist, and they love to hide in the shadows. Wolves. An unfortunate staple of the Magical Forest. Violence and war. These are just as common in magical forests as they are elsewhere. Plots. You might get caught up in one and before you know it, you’ll be in the midst of a story.
History: Often, the Magical Forest has had a range of rulers in it’s past, usually kings and queens. Sometimes, they are wonderful kings and queens, and sometimes they are horrifically injust. Sometimes they’re both. It will serve you well if you do some research before you commence your trip; however, the forest holds its secrets well, and this will not always be possible. Often, a piece from the past, be it a missing uncle, a reign gone wrong, a curse enacted or some such horror will inform your journey, whether you want it to or not. If you are an outsider—and explorers of the Magical Forest often are—I cannot stress enough to be careful. Many things—including what people may tell you about the past—are not as they seem.
Where to stay: Where you stay really depends on your status. If you are lucky, you’ll have a grandmother who will put you up, or perhaps you’re dignified enough to reserve a spot in the castle. If not, there are probably various villages spotted around the magical forest, some of which will have an inn where you can stay, as long as you have money.
Featured in: You can find the Magical Forest in a huge variety of books, sometimes as all the setting, sometimes as just part of it, including Hunted by Meagan Spooner, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda, most of the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce, and more. (Ask your travel expert in the comments for more ideas, if you want!) Other mediums: Into the Woods (musical), Brigadoon (musical), Stardust (movie), Pochahontas (movie), Tangled (movie).
What are some of your favourite Magical Forests? Do you have anything to add to this guide? And do you love Into the Woods? Tell me in the comments!