I sometimes wonder why I – priding myself to be an emancipated young woman – am so attracted to fairy tales (sexism and gender stereotyping, anyone?).
Maybe it’s the atmosphere of wonder and magic. Maybe it’s the illusion that anything – absolutely anything – is possible. Or maybe it’s just the presence of mysterious, dark forests full of ancient trees, strange beasts and deadly secrets.
Oh, I bloody love these forests. So much that when I dream, this funny space inside my head is covered in trees sometimes: I hear the rustling leaves, the whispering twigs, the wings of ravens and owls and whatever else might be hiding in there. I smell the earthy, green wilderness and feel the presence of thousands of eyes in there, making the whole forest seem like one big breathing entity more alive and much wiser than anything else on this planet.
And I wish I could be there for real, not just in my head.
Forests fire up my imagination unlike anything else. Somehow, this seems to be the case for most people, and it’s probably why they go together so well with fairy tales: Just try to imagine Little Red Riding Hood getting lost in a sweltering swamp or Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs on a sunny beach – the stories just wouldn’t be the same.
Not surprisingly, fairy tale forests are frequently interpreted to symbolise the human unconscious: both are mysterious places inhabited by beasts and secrets, and just like fairy tale heroines have to face what is hidden in the shadows of the trees, we have to come to terms with the beasts buried deep inside us – our fears, our desires, our dreams.
I should probably spend more time trying to find and tame the creatures inside me, but dreaming of unicorns and werewolves just seems a lot more fun.