Forests are one of the ways people end up getting trapped in fairy tales. Many types of beasts and creatures can live there. Despite seeming very open, a person can very easily get lost, walking in complete circles while thinking they are going in a straight line. It's a wonderful trap.
Another interesting thing about forests is that they are forever primitive in nature. There is no way to modernize a forest. The moment people move into them, they cease to really be a forest at all. No, a forest is merely a collection of trees and grass overgrowing but for what pathways people have stomped into them over time, and if such a forest be afflicted by fairy magic, one may have a little bit of trouble escaping. Because the forest cannot be modernized, they exist as they have since the days fairies inhabited them in old stories and could likely still inhabit them now.
In classic fairy tales, the forest has always been a good staging ground for encounters. Since most fairies tend to be uncivilized by nature, they tend to prefer such areas the most. Little Red Riding Hood first meets the wolf in a forested area. Although it seemed like a friendly meeting, there was a sinister work in progress. The famed Rumpelstiltskin was a forest dweller as well.
I've seen many cases of an enchanted forest that simply sends people in circles so that they never find a way out. In some cases the trees will actually stand up and walk around, rearranging themselves to throw off the traveler. In the Disney movie Babes in Toyland, the trees out rightly would prevent the travelers from leaving through threat of violence. In the case of that movie, the characters knew what they were getting into, as the forest was plainly known as "The Forest of No Return." Quite a good movie, by the way! I'll review it sometime.
If you were to meet a talking animal near your home, you might ask it where it came from. There is a very high chance that it will lead you into the forest first, and from there it will take you either to its home or somewhere entirely out of this world. I've fantasized about this a little bit. Back when I was working on my book "A Wolf in my Bedroom," I had an original version where the wolf had a portal to his own world hidden within a nearby forest. I went in a different direction, but the idea is still very strong in my mind. I expect to do something with it at some point.
Next time you are walking about in the woods, think about it within the context of older, more fantastic, times. Consider that there might still be things out there somewhere. You may not be as alone as you think. By its very nature, the forest is a very large and living thing. It's brimming with life. Sometimes I wonder just what sorts of mysterious things might still be in there. Ancient... impossible things.
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