Why is it that so many stories involve forests? In the past they were (and may still be) places of exile and danger, hard work and jeopardy – certainly no leafy playground. In a forest, you cannot see very far ahead and there may be no clear path; it’s easy to get lost. And when darkness falls, those gently rustling ferns can seem more like monsters than friends. Then there’s the question of who – or what – you might meet in the woods. Strange people, hungry animals, magical beings?
But for young heroines and heroes, one huge advantage of forests is that they are much more exciting than the safe confines of home – and so, they offer an enticing landscape for children to explore, testing their own limits and learning about the world. It’s no wonder that forests (especially deep, unfamiliar or forbidden ones) are such a promising setting for stories.
In the first chapter of my work-in-progress for children, young hero Ethon finds himself in scary Viper’s Wood after dark and soon realises why it is out of bounds. It’s fun to draw different types of trees and think of ways to represent safe and not-so safe woodland areas. In these sketches, I’ve experimented with different ways of representing trees, from cosy to creepy!