so. rant on germanic fairytale forests
in germanic fairytales, the woods, much like the crossroads, act as a portal to the otherworld. strange things walk in the woods: wolves with voices, dwarves, cannibal witches, women who can turn into swans, wise old women with enchanted combs, and white deer who look at you and disappear–or is that a deer at all, but the woodland king himself? you often do not find these creatures outside the wolves; because the woods are a portal to faërie.
some of these folk are trustworthy: others are not. in the norse sagas, vargr are said to walk in the woods: a word which means both wolves and men. these men are outlaws, cast from society, stripped of their rights; their only choice is to wander the wilderness. sara maitland, in from the forest, writes “The woods are chaotic and wild; life goes on unseen within them, and for every lovely globe flower, spring golden in a small patch of sunshine, there is a death cap — Aminita phalloides— shiny, olive and yellow, just as pretty, but deadly poisonous, lurking under the oak trees. And in [fairytales], for every kindly old woman who gives you a useful gift, there is a very similar one who may gobble you up, put you under an enchantment or imprison you in a tower.” even wolves themselves are ambiguous; you should fear them (in little red cap) or you can trust them (in the giant who had no heart in his body).
and while bad people walk in the forest, the forest itself is not inherently malevolent, though it can distract travelers from their truth course. red riding hood is led astray by flowers in the woods, while her grandmother is devoured. the forest is a labyrinth; things in it will try to make you stray from the path, but you cannot do that. as angela carter writes in the erl-king, “The woods enclose and then enclose again, like a system of Chinese boxes opening one into another; the intimate perspectives of the wood changed endlessly around the interloper, the imaginary traveller walking towards an invented distance that perpetually receded before me. It is easy to lose yourself in these woods.” because in there, the lines between this world and the Otherworld blur, and the path keeps you tethered to the true one: much like theseus’ string. “It’s practically what [forests are] for. To hide things. To separate one world from another,” one character recalls in cathrynne m. valente’s deathless. and it’s true.
tldr: germanic fairytale forests are incredibly metal because they’re connected to the otherworld, and i love them very much