The Forbidden Dark Forest

„Hansel and Gretel“: If it wasn’t already before, the Brother’s Grimm definitely made the forest a most dangerous place. In the fairy tales the forest is not any longer the seat of the Elder Gods but became a place of unspeakable horrors long before the „Evil Dead“. There is no doubt that forest horror has a long tradition, it was feared by the Romans, even it was not so much because of any speculations about supernatural powers but because of the surprise attacks of the German Babarians. Forest lore is full of dangerous or even deadly encounters. There is even a German word „Waldangst“ describing a phobia connected with the forest. Today it seems the opposite when national park managers desperately try to figure out ways to protect our last primeval forests from trampling crowds of tourists and campers. The forest has lost much of its intimidating qualities but maybe also lost its soul.

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In our days „forbidden forest“ however has become a different meaning. Take the old English word „Werifestia“ – meaning „wandering longingly through the forest in search of mystery“. It’s certainly not forbidden to do that neither there are any magical forests, which we aren’t allow to enter. But there is only limited thinking allowed about mysteries.

The forbidden forest of our days is the terra incognita which we don’t allow ourselves to think to often about . And somehow I feel the Brother’s Grimm paved the way for that; either we identify the dark forest as the unknown realm of our own psyche (a narcissistic thought) or (in our stories) as the playground of monsters, witches and demons – no need to say that Hansel and Gretel had a lot in common with The Blairwitch Horror. The problem here is we reduce the supernatural realm in a way it becomes minimazed into a thin layer closely connected to our realm. Our realm dominates the world in the modern stories and fairy tales where the magic world appears to be the last artifact of the other world.

Luckily it’s not always the case: Tolkien portrayed the visible world and invisible world in a different way in „Lord Of The Rings“ where unimagible powers seem to hide behind a thin veil and execute an increbible influence in the material world. In ancient spiritual thought and greek philosophy it was common thinking. Plato explained in the Timaeus the world itself as a living creature: . “Wherefore, using the language of probability, we may say that the world became a living creature truly endowed with soul and intelligence by the providence of God” (30a-b). We could say our material world is only a shadow of the real world, the realm of our everyday world the thin layer on the surface of an unknown ocean of consciousness – in the Lord Of The Rings we feel somehow the great thoughts of the Greek philosophers.

It’s certainly true that the forest is often a metaphor for the unknown. But there is no need to reduce it to some little sublevel where the Cenobites or Freddy Kruger wait for us nor to some kind of psychological Bate’s Motel within our brains where we store our innermost fears or neuroses. The universe is beyond our imagination, but the forest has always be the place to connect both with light sides and the dark sides of the cosmical forces. In the best sense it can be the place of transition and development.