Paperback review: Gossip from the Forest, By Sarah Maitland

 

Sara Maitland rather beautifully weaves together a history of forests and fairy tales in a study that actually teaches you something (I'd never thought before about the links between dwarves and mining in fairy tales, for example – and that their representation goes beyond those traditional tales, to Tolkien and others), whilst also speculating helpfully about the originators of fairy tales themselves.

It seems logical that those who told stories about forests as places where children flee, or are helped by kind woodsmen, were those who also worked there. The fear that forests engender in us is a healthy kind of fear, Maitland argues, associated with magic, wildness, and strangeness, and in arguing so, she gives back to forests a sense of their power over us as well as the allure they have for us.

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