The Forest in Folklore and Mythology

Forest In Ancient Beliefs: Powerful Realm Of Good And Evil, Ghosts, Gods And Monsters
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follow link The tablets recording the Epic were discovered by the late Mr. George Smith in , and he was of opinion that Izdubar, who was a mighty hunter, was the Nimrod of the Bible. The chief incident in the Epic relates to the overthrow of the tyrant Khumbaba, the King of the Elamites, who had conquered the land.

The Epic records that Izdubar, when at Erech, the capital of Shumur, or Southern Chaldea, and the Shinar of the Bible, had a curious dream which was interpreted to him by a peculiar being called Hea-bani.

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This Hea-bani seems to have been a kind of satyr who lived in the forests and was on intimate terms with the wild beasts. These two then arranged to overcome Khumbaba, and set out on their journey to find him. His dwelling was far away in a forest of Pines and Cedars. In this forest, also, the gods and the spirits had their abode. After various adventures they arrived at the confines of the forest which surrounded the palace of Khumbaba, and the Epic relates : He stood and surveyed the forest of Pine trees, he perceived its height, of the forest he perceived its approach, in the place where Khumbaba went his step was placed on a straight road and a good path.

He saw the land of the Pine trees, the seat of the gods, the sanctuary of the angels. In front of the seed the Pine tree carried its fruit, good was its shadow, full of pleasure, an excellent tree, the choice of the forest, and so on. This particular Pine appears to have been that known as the Black Pine of Eridhu, the Tree of Life, and will be noticed further on.

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The travellers then entered and passed through the forest. They evidently encountered Khumbaba and slew him, but the tablets recording this are so mutilated that it is impossible to reconstruct the narrative. Further on, however, it is stated : We conquered also Khumbaba, who in the forest of Pine trees dwelt. Towards the end of the Epic, Hea-bani is again mentioned, as addressing certain trees which, Professor Sayce says in his edition of Mr.

Hea-bani praises one tree and sneers at another, but from the mutilation of the text it does not appear why he acts so. We may conjecture he was seeking a charm to open a door he mentions, and that according to the story this charm was known to the trees. After his victory over Khumbaba, Izdubar was proclaimed king in Erech. The goddess Istar fell in love with him, but he rejected her advances, whereupon she caused grievous trials to fall upon him, and, in addition, slew Hea-bani.

He accordingly travelled through strange lands, encountering on the way certain supernatural beings known as Scorpion-men. These, understanding that he was under the protection of the gods, allowed him to continue his journey. He came at last to a wonderful forest situated on the shores of the ocean—the waters of death. The trees of this forest bore as fruit emeralds and other precious stones, but they were guarded by two maidens named Siduri and Sabitu.

These mistrusted Izdubar and refused him access to their dwelling. Here he met his ancestor, who gave him full instructions how to act, by following which he gained all his desires, and returned safely to Erech. Alexander the Great, during his wanderings, is said to have encountered a forest of Maidens or Flower-Women.

Dante describes the Cimmerian Forest, that infernal forest where the knotted, dark-leaved trees spoke to the wanderer when he endeavoured to pluck a twig. When Orpheus was lamenting the loss of Eurydice and fingering his lyre in the abandonment of his grief, ancient tradition relates how, as soon as the first melancholy strains were heard, a forest of Elm trees sprang up, under one of which he reposed after his expedition to Hades had failed. THE Romances of the Middle Ages contain many allusions to forests famous in myth, and enchanted forests full of magic.

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Several of them are connected with the quest for the Holy Grail, and relate the adventures of the gallant knights who figure in Arthurian Romance as having undertaken that quest. The enchanted Forest of Broceliande in Brittany may be considered as a type of all that is best in romance, and the legends connected with it teem with the chivalry of bygone ages.

It is for ever associated with the name of Merlin, being reputed to contain his tomb, or rather the place of his enchantment, as legend tells that he was enchanted by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake, and entombed under a great stone. Merlin, wandering through the forest, came to a beautiful fountain and sat down on its brink to rest. To him came Vivien, whose mother, wife of the lord of Broceliande and also a fay, had prophesied that the wisest man in the world should love her. He would grant all her desires but could never compel her to consent to his.

He did so, and this time his love overpowered all his wisdom. She desired yet more wisdom, which he imparted.

The Forest in Folklore and Mythology

Finally she desired to know an enchantment which would eternally bind him to her. He taught her, and so it came about that he was for ever lost and withdrawn from the world of men. A ruined dolmen, called the Perron de Belenton , is supposed to represent the tomb of Merlin, and close beside it is the fountain of Belenton or Baranton, where Merlin was said to have met the fay. Beside the fountain was a marvellous step or slab of stone, and an Oak tree, from which hung a golden basin, overshadowed it.

A mediaeval writer said of this spot: Oh, amazing wonder of the Fountain of Brecelien! If a drop be taken and poured on a certain rock beside the spring, immediately the water changes into vapour, forms itself into great clouds filled with hail ; the air becomes thick with shadows, and resonant with the muttering of thunder. Those who have come through curiosity to behold the prodigy wish that they had never done so, so filled are their hearts with terror, and so does fear paralyse their limbs.

Incredible as the marvel may seem, yet the proofs of its reality are too abundant to be doubted. Robert de Wace, however, hearing of the wonders of this forest, went expectant into it, but did not appear to have seen or heard anything out of the ordinary. He wrote:. The Welsh Romance of the Lady of the Fountain, found in the Mabinogion , evidently treats of the same theme.

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One became conscious of its eerie strangeness, the absence of sunshine, its subdued light, and marvelled at the queer feeling of loneliness, while inquiringly looking around to be assured that this loneliness was no delusion. When autumn comes, what an inimitable palette of gorgeous colour is spread out before the eye, albeit but the symptom of decay; and when winter holds the land in its icy grasp, even then the forest has a grandeur and a grace all its own, especially when the branches and twigs glitter in the sunshine with hoarfrost, or gracefully bend under a dazzling weight of snow. Old Ways, Old Secrets. Thomas Bulfinch. In addition to the damp steamy atmosphere, an ever-clouded sky hung over these forests, reaching from pole to pole.

He came to a great tree, under which sprang a fountain by the side of which was a marble slab. On the slab lay a silver bowl. He had been instructed to empty this bowl, full of water from the fountain, on the slab. No sooner had he done so than a terrific storm of hail followed, which nearly made an end of him, and stripped the tree bare of leaves. As soon as the hail ceased, numerous birds resting on the leafless tree poured forth a ravishing melody, and a black knight made his appearance who worsted him in combat, after which he returned home.

This has been compared to the rain-making ceremonies found in the folklore of many races. Another enchanted fountain was situated in the Forest of Arden, and was said to have been created by Merlin in order that Sir Tristram might be cured of his passion for Isolta. That knight, however, never drank of it, yet its virtue remained. It relates how the queen of King Ban left her new-born son, Lancelot, on the banks of a lake while she tended her husband on his deathbed.

When she returned she found the child in the arms of a lovely lady who, heedless of her entreaties to return him, plunged with him into the lake and disappeared.

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This lake was an illusion, and the art of creating it had been taught by the devil to Merlin, who, as already narrated, had passed on his knowledge to the fay Vivien, also known as Dame du Lac. It is related that Alexander the Great and Floridas went to reside with Dame du Lac in her enchanted castle in the forest in order to be cured of their wounds, and that the fortnight they spent with her seemed to be but one night. She ignored him when she was distributing gifts, whereupon Sir Launfal left the Court, and after a time happened to ride into a fair forest.

Here, being overcome by the heat, he lay down under the shade of a tree and fell into a reverie, from which he was aroused by the approach of two charming maidens sumptuously attired. They invited him to meet their mistress, the beautiful Dame Tryamour. In Schippeitaro , the cats reveal their fear of the dog Schippeitaro when the hero of the tale spends the night in the forest. The creatures of the forest need not be magical to have much the same effect; Robin Hood , living in the greenwood, has affinities to the enchanted forest. The danger of the folkloric forest is an opportunity for the heroes of legend.

Among the oldest of all recorded tales, the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh recounts how the heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu traveled to the Cedar Forest to fight the monsters there and be the first to cut down its trees. Romans referred to the Hercynian Forest , in Germania, as an enchanted place; though most references in their works are to geography, Julius Caesar mentioned unicorns said to live there, and Pliny the Elder , birds with feathers that glowed. The figure of an enchanted forest was taken up into chivalric romances ; the knight-errant would wander in a trackless forest in search of adventure.

John Milton wrote in Paradise Regained Bk ii.

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In Valentine and Orson , the Queen is sent into exile and so forced to give birth in the woods; one child, taken by a bear, turns to a wild man of the woods , who later aids Valentine, his long-lost brother. This forest could easily bewilder the knights. Despite many references to its pathlessness, the forest repeatedly confronts knights with forks and crossroads, of a labyrinthine complexity.

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In Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso , enchantments placed on the only forest near Jerusalem prevent the Crusaders from constructing siege engines for most of the epic poem , until they are broken by Rinaldo. While these works were being written, expanding geographical knowledge, and the decrease of woodland for farmland , meant the decrease of forests that could be presumed magical. In A Midsummer Night's Dream , William Shakespeare wrote of a forest that was enchanted specifically by the presence of Oberon and Titania , the fairy king and queen; like many forests in Shakespeare's works, it becomes a place of metamorphosis and resolution.

There may be trees that talk or with branches that will push people off their horses, thorny bushes which will open to let people in but close and leave people stuck inside, and other plants that move, or turn into animals at night, or the like. Some stories have sorcerers and witches living somewhere in the depths of the forest.

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The use of enchanted forests shaded into modern fantasy with no distinct breaking point, stemming from the very earliest fantasies. Maxwell when writing of the Malay forests. Stanley wrote that. The voice sounded with rolling echoes as in a cathedral. One became conscious of its eerie strangeness, the absence of sunshine, its subdued light, and marvelled at the queer feeling of loneliness, while inquiringly looking around to be assured that this loneliness was no delusion.

It was as if one stood amid the inhabitants of another world. More Myths And Legends. In this celestial forest, there are flowers of light, the plant of immortality grew, and from this plant Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, extracted the divine ambrosia. In Sweden, people believed long time that old women who lived in the forest were credited with powers of sorcery, and were believed to have the wolves under their control. The rich were also folk beliefs associated with unclean forces joined with the forest, which survived almost to our times.

In many beliefs, forests was a great danger and a gloomy, mysterious, inhospitable area of magic, evil spirits and darkness that should be avoided.