Archetype imagery plays a crucial role in our lives. We may not realize the origin of the archetype or its hidden implications. *
One of these archetype images is the forest, especially one which appears dark and mysterious. Down through the ages the forest has held a mystical place in the minds of villagers on the outskirts of the ancient habitats of life.
Fairy tales and stories like Hansel and Gretel, who were left in the forest to perish by parents and captured by a witch, or like Rip Van Winkle, who joined a group of strangers in the high mountain forest and quaffed their strange beverage resulting in a twenty-year sleep, are just two examples of the forest as an archetype. Of course, these two stories eventually had happy endings, and it was not the forest itself which was the antagonist but simply the setting where antagonists could roam and hunt their prey.
In his encompassing poem The Dark Forest Philip Edward Thomas wrote
Dark is the forest and deep and overhead
Hang stars like seeds of light
In vain, though not since they were sown was bred
Anything more bright.
And evermore mighty multitudes ride
About, nor enter in;
Of the other multitudes that dwell inside
Never yet was one seen.
The forest foxglove is purple, the marguerite
Outside is gold and white,
Nor can those that pluck either blossom greet
The others, day or night.
Walking through a forest with a verdant canopy overhead, there are places where the sunlight touches the landscape. This mixture of light and dark add a mystique to the forest, especially if the wind is blowing the tops in an ancient dance.
In M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film THE VILLAGE, a 19th Century Pennsylvania village lives in fear of the forest which surrounds the hamlet. The elders have told them there are monsters in the woods which are referred to as “Those We Don’t Speak Of“.
Monsters are typical archetype images. Who has not imagined in some realistic way that under one’s bed or in that closet something dangerous is waiting for its opportune time to strike?
Shyamalan’s red-cloaked monsters populate the forest. There are times when fear must give way to curiosity laden with courage by looking under the bed or opening that closet door or venturing into the unwelcoming forest.
When Lucius Hunt is severely wounded by a fellow villager, his true love Ivy Elizabeth Walker enters the forest to seek medicines from the “towns” beyond the forest. Her journey will be a gallant one with the unknown woods and dangers.
She masters her fears and confronts one of the “monsters” to save her beloved. It becomes a fight for survival between Ivy and the red-cloaked being, and Ivy is victorious.
Being vision impaired was not a hindrance in her quest which she fulfilled with grace and dignity. True love conquered the fear of the unknown.
When one takes a forest path and takes the time to view the beauty around them, the night phantasms vanish in those seeds of starlight. The monsters fade in the reality of day for monsters are nocturnal.
The monsters of the forest may be shadowy fantoms, but like any reality there are always the Tag-Rag-Bobtails lurking about. Civilized society view these as a rabble who are up to no good, but in many cases they are just people who struggle to survive the daily injustices of existence.
Referring back to Thomas’ poem, some people prefer to live in their forest admiring the purple foxglove. They seem bewitched by this poisonous plant as they ignore the lovely marguerite on the outside edges of their forest.
Unfortunately, the forest becomes their whole existence. They are unable to follow the path to the outside.
Perhaps in 2021 archetypes are more common than we realize. They surround us with hues and tints which color our perceptions, especially if the tarpaulin shades the reality of truth which dispels the monsters of ignorance with their snaky and fork-tongued vehemence.
The gush of joviality gives way to the agony of apprehension when we allow the forest of monsters to plague us with its tenacles. Like the ancient roots of the forest those tenacles drain the life force of its captives in order for the forest to survive.
“We all have forests on our minds. Forests unexplored, unending. Each one of us gets lost in the forest, every night, alone.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters
G. D. Williams ©2021
*ARCHETYPE DEFINITION AND HISTORY
“Archetype, (from Greek archetypos, “original pattern”), in literary criticism, a primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered a universal concept or situation.
“The term was adopted and popularized by literary critics from the writings of the psychologist Carl Jung, who formulated a theory of a “collective unconscious.” For Jung, the varieties of human experience have somehow been genetically coded and transferred to successive generations. These primordial image patterns and situations evoke startlingly similar feelings in both reader and author. The Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye was influential in extending the use of the term archetype to specifically literary contexts. Archetypal criticism has been connected with another group of thinkers more closely allied to its Jungian roots, including Maud Bodkin and James Hillman.”
THE COLLECTED POEMS Edward Thomas 1921
M Night Shyamalan’s The Village revolves around a desolate town in Pennsylvania. The residents of this town live by strict rules – They are not to leave the village or the monsters beyond their boundaries will surely attack them. Lucius and Ivy have an attraction – a strong one. But when Noah – a man with an intellectual disability and who also has feelings for Ivy, finds out that the two are In love, Noah attacks Lucius. He will die if brave Ivy (who is blind) does not breach the borders and find help to save Lucius.
Still photo from “Once Upon A Time” S01E09 Hansel and Greta