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For the Forest, the Fairies and the Freedom

March 13, 2012

About a year ago, I had a little epiphany about why I read Fantasy… but it wasn’t until this winter that I thought more about it.

It was a beautiful spring day and I’d biked out to a larger forest for a long walk, or maybe a short hike. Finally, I’d come to a place where there was nothing but me and the tall trees, the grass on either side of the path, no sound but birdsong and the wind in the trees. No other people, the road too far away to hear. Just me and the forest, and for a moment, I could pretend this as all there was in the world, no roads, no cities, just forest rolling away over the hills, and maybe a small village nestled in a valley somewhere, miles and miles away.

Maybe, I thought, maybe this is why I read Fantasy.

Oh, if the forests were full of ferns and towering trees…!

And the more I think about it – yes, it is. Not for the magic and the adventures so much as for the forests. Oh, I want to travel through Fangorn and Aldheorte and Matt’s Wood! I want pathless forests of towering trees, forests big enough to travel through for days without encountering a road or another person, forests big enough to get lost in!

Maybe I’m a little strange… but I’m never afraid of getting lost in a forest, and I’ve never yet gotten lost, either. Towns, though – all the time! I’m also much less afraid of something happening to me in a forest than of something happening to me in a town.

But I don’t think forests like these exist any more in our world. Definitely not in any place I’ve ever been (and I mean temperate forests, so the Amazon rainforest or something doesn’t count. Not that I’ve ever been there.) It feels silly to miss something I’ve never known, but yes, I miss it.

Oh, if the forests did stretch on and on…!

If I say I don’t read Fantasy for the magic, that’s not entirely true. Of course I read it for the magic as well… but not necessarily for the wand-waving, spell-saying, world-shaking, plot-moving sort of magic… but for the quieter sort of magic, or even just the possibility of magic.

I remember being a little child, four or five years old, walking around the neighbourhood with my mother. Even then, I didn’t actually believe in magic and magical creatures any more. But still, whenever I found a piece of polystyrene on the ground, I crumbled it up and watched it blow away on the wind, imagining there was a Polystyrene Bird who would eat it. And I remember the lesser celandine growing under the lindens that lined the street, those low, smooth cushions of glossy green leaves – I remember the leaves more clearly than the flowers! – and imagining, just imagining, but never believing, that there were tiny, tiny dwarves who had their cities hidden under that tight green cover.

That little girl still lives inside me, looking at the beauty of nature and wishing there was something magical about it as well – something more, something beyond the mundane world of geology and botany. Looking at the mountains and wishing for dragons and talking eagles, looking at secret little holes between the tree roots and wishing for goblins, looking at beautiful old trees and wishing for fairies. Or even just the possibility of fairies.

I’d not even need proof of their existence. Just to be able to believe that they exist! Just to be a little less rational, and be able to believe!

Oh, if there were dwarves and giants in the mountains…!

I have decided that it is unfair to believe that there might be a god, or a whole lot of gods, and at the same time not to believe in fairies and other fantastical creatures. So, while I’m not actually believing in them, and expect to encounter them even less than any sort of deity (which, if it exists, I suppose I’ll meet after I’m dead), I’m not ruling out their existence any more. I’ll no longer rule out the existence of anything as a matter of principle.

But still – to be able to believe! To know there was something more to the world!

Oh, if there were mermaids in the lake…!

And it’s also not entirely true that I don’t read Fantasy for the adventures. Just not for the big quests, for the saving of worlds and solving of riddles and the seeking of revenge. Not even for the possibility of leaving as a peasant and returning as a king. But for the possibility to leave home and travel the world, to see secret and hidden places, to hunt and forage and not worry about mundane things like grocery shopping and paying the rent. Granted, I’m not sure worrying about starvation or freezing to death is better, and people tend to go on these journeys because they’ve been roped into insane and potentially deadly quests, or their families have been murdered, or they are about to be murdered themselves – but still, why can’t I go, too? I’ll even save the world along the way, if I only get to see Yiqanuc and Beorn’s house and Kelsingra and Ombra, if I only get to walk away from my everyday life with only what I can carry…

Oh, if I could sleep under that tree again, with a campfire, under the branches and the open sky…!

… although, admittedly, I’d have a hard time leaving my houseplants and balcony garden…

Might just be my springtime wanderlust speaking again, but still… oh, how I wish…!

Oh, if fire were all the light there was in the night, and the sky dark enough to see the stars…!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 01:17

    Aaahhhh, the magic of imagination! I like the way your mind works, girl!

  2. March 14, 2012 04:51

    I love the way you write. You make me want to go up north and just get lost in the woods at our cabin. It’s funny that you mention that little bit about god and fairies because I kind of had the same realization a few months ago. I believe in ghosts so why wouldn’t anything else be possible? I think life is just more enjoyable if you let there be a possibility of fairies sitting on toadstools and sprites in the woods. I experience sleep paralysis so why not throw in believing in mara/mahr too. After all, I have no proof that a spirit ISN’T sitting on my chest preventing me from moving and causing hallucinations. It’s a lot more fun to think that than to think I have a wonky brain at any rate.

    • March 14, 2012 20:18

      It was a fun post to write, so I’m glad you liked it (both of you!)

      And Tom, a cabin in the woods sounds wonderful.

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