“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir
Forests are a world of their own. Filled with trees and brimming with wildlife, they have the power to transport you to a completely different dimension. As John Muir said, it is easy to lose one’s mind while in the forest. Similarly, the woods are the best place to search for one’s soul. After all, they have an enchanting quality that can only be found in nature. In today’s manmade modern world of cement and concrete, jungles remain a memento of the prehistoric earth. It is no wonder that forests play an important role in many of our favorite books. Authors can mold them as per their choice. Forests can be great backdrops for stories and enhance the quality of the plot significantly. More often than not, forests, with all their mystical aura, themselves become an important character.
This International Day for Forests let us look into some amazing fiction books where one of the main characters is the woodlands.
Book: The Divine Comedy
Author: Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri penned The Divine Comedy way back in the 14th century. This epic Italian narrative poem is still considered one of the greatest masterpieces in world literature. Centuries after it was first published, it is still studied in universities worldwide. Divided into three parts, Dante presents to us his imaginative take on the afterlife. The first part, Inferno, finds Dante, a lost and middle-aged man, in the middle of a dark forest. He is unable to find the right way to salvation as he meanders about in the woods. With the appearance of Virgil, he finally begins his journey to the underworld. The dark woods symbolize the sinful life on Earth. The Divine Comedy’s forest is a terrifying place filled with harpies and beasts. Dante has to overcome the forest to continue on his quest to reach heaven.
Book: A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Author: William Shakespeare
A Midsummer’s Night Dream is a fantastic example of William Shakespeare’s comedic genius. Written in the 16th century, the play never ceases to amuse the masses even today. The forest plays a significant role in the story. The play takes place partly in the city of Athens and partly in the woodlands. Where the city is supposed to symbolize a well-ordered civilization, the forest is a place of mischief ruled by fairies. However, there is a twist. In Athens, Hermia is compelled to marry Demetrius at the behest of her father and give up on her love for Lysander. Though Lysander and Demetrius are of similar social and economic standards, Hermia is not given a choice in the city where rationality is supposed to prevail. Conversely, in the forest, with all its anarchy, chaos, and confusion, all the lovers in the play are able to get their happily-ever-afters and safely return to Athens. In A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the mystics of the forest triumph over the law and order of the city. I have to mention that I was in the fourth grade when I read A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Since then, I had been fascinated by the woodlands and developed a special affinity for all things Shakespeare.
Book: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Author: Howard Pyle
We all know about the green-clad archer who robs the rich and donates their wealth to the poor and needy. In 1883, Howard Pyle decided to compile the prevalent ballads about Robin Hood and pen his own novel, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. By adapting the stories in a more easy-to-understand language, he made sure that Robin Hood’s tale was spread far and wide. Even today, a number of filmmakers, playwrights, artists, and painters use Robin Hood’s trope. As per legend, Hood was an outlaw who lived in the Sherwood Forest in Nottingham along with his band of followers. He stood against the king and the Sheriff as they oppressed the poor peasants. Naturally, he and his cohorts were labeled criminals. Sherwood Forest plays an important role in Robin Hood’s stories. It was not only the home for Robin Hood and his men but also their safe haven. The natural world of woods offers protection to the men. When in the forest, it is as if nobody can harm them. They have their own laws and live there merrily away from the rules of society.
Book: Dogs of the Deadlands
Author: Anthony McGowan
Published in 2022, Anthony McGowan’s Dogs of the Deadlands is a heart-wrenching book that is bound to take you on an emotional roller-coaster. When Reactor Number 4 exploded in Chernobyl in 1986, the entire area was evacuated of humans. The effects of the nuclear disaster are still evident today. The surrounding cities and woods were infected. People still suffer from genetic disorders. Natasha loses her dog, Zoya, before being forced to leave her town with her parents after the disaster. Clever little Zoya goes on to build a life of her own amidst the dangers of the forest. McGowan showcases a land completely devoid of human touch. It is nature’s territory filled with wolves, bears, and dogs. Only the fittest are meant to survive in this world. Dogs of the Deadlands cautions us against the use of nuclear weapons and emphasizes the significance of wildlife. It is a book that would touch the heart of any dog lover.
Book: North Border
Author: Benjamin Percy
Benjamin Percy’s North Border revolves around Daniel Bridgewater as he struggles to find his own identity. At the same time, some strange goes on in his town, With River Falls. It seems something dangerous is lurking in the bordering woods. Now, this is way more troublesome than the drug smuggling or human trafficking that usually takes place in the forest. There is a malevolent creature out in the woods. In North Border, the woods is a place where corruption, racism, and violence are always trumped by nature’s vengeance.
Once upon a time, Earth was covered by greenery. With urbanization and a growing population, humans have started encroaching on nature’s territory. Due to our never-ending greed, deforestation has become the norm. Consequently, many extraordinary species of plants and animals have now become extinct. It is high time that we understand our folly and make amends. We need to realize the significance of forests. However, it is understandable that scientific journals, non-fiction treatises, or documentaries highlighting the importance of trees can be tedious for some of us, especially after a hard day. So, here I am with a list of fun books from varied genres that would not only help you unwind after a long day but also impress on you the value of forests.
Do comment and let me know which of these books you plan to read or reread to commemorate this International Day for Forests.
One thought on “Wonders of the Woodlands: 6 Books to Read on The International Day For Forests”
I guess the woods can be dangerous, as in Percy’s book, but for me they’ll always have a chaotic healing energy to them, as you mentioned in your Shakespeare’s analysis.
You must log in to post a comment.