How to Survive a Trip into the Woods: Key Lessons From Fantasy

Perhaps you like to camp, or long hikes, or to retreat into the wilderness to find peace and serenity. I’m told it is not uncommon—though, I, being a lifelong reader, would never dare. Why, you ask? Because dreadful things happen when you go into the woods—or so my steady diet of fantasy fiction has taught me.

If you feel you simply must venture forth into the trees (perhaps your ailing grandma is in need of baked goods?)—or onto the misty moors or through the boggy swamp—I leave you with these book-learned lessons and warnings wisely heeded. Provided you are planning on coming back…

Make Friends with That Mysterious Person

Inevitably, as you wander out into the wilds, you will encounter a stranger. This stranger will almost always be of a similar age to you (or at least appear to be of a similar age). I do not know how this happens; it is a quirk of the natural order of things.

It is important that you engage with this stranger, even if you do not trust them fully. (Whatever you do, do not trust them fully.) They will show you wonders, and horrors, heretofore unknown to you. They may also help you solve murders or other magical misdeeds. It all really depends on the quality and tenor of your general area, as well as the townspeople you have inevitably alienated with your free-spirited, defiant, or otherwise odd behavior.

Further instruction can be found in the following titles:

Pursue the (Probably Haunted) Relics of Time Gone By

Mysterious people abound in the woods, but so do enigmatic artifacts and objects either lost to time or known only to those they choose to reveal themselves to. This will likely be you.

You might expect me to extol the virtues of shirking such items.

Instead, I encourage you to run toward them—to explore every last nook and cranny—whether the object in question be unnerving statuary or a door crammed into the trunk of a tree.

Because here’s the thing: if you stumble upon something unusual in the woods, leaving it behind is almost never an option. It will find you again, either in your nagging thoughts or waking dreams, or quite literally chasing you down, when and where you least expect it.

See references:

Never Trust the Trees, or the People, or Anything Else

Above all else, remember that the forest is not your ally. At best, it is home to your adversaries. At worst, it is your adversary. It cares not for you, only that you complete the story it has laid at your feet.

You are a player in an ill scheme. The mysterious strangers who begin to follow your footsteps? The haunted gargoyles you find nestled in a grove of trees? They will propel you onward, toward yet more danger. But they cannot save you from the woods themselves.

Sometimes, the call is coming from inside the forest.

For more information, consult the following texts:

On Second Thought, Do Not Ever Go Into the Woods

Then again, there is a case to be made for staying home, in the comfort of your own walls and near the warmth and devotion of your own hearth. It is pleasant there, with your tea and your finely knit blankets.

The woods cannot give you those; the woods do not offer thread counts.

The woods offer danger and despair. Sometimes that is as simple as a murder. At other times, the woods are out to destroy you in other ways, feeding you to dark creatures or to your own darkest secrets.

It is a bad place.

You might be forgiven for going there once. But should you find your way out, never, ever go back.

Final evidence to be found here:

What books have taught you relevant woodland survival skills?

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