1. A Lingering Scent of Eden

Puszcza Białowieska
The English wood is nothing like the dark, necromantic forest in which the Northern European imagination begins and ends, where its dead and the witches live, and Baba-yaga stalks about in her house with chicken’s feet looking for children in order to eat them. No.

There is a qualitative, not a quantitative, difference between this wood and that forest.

The difference does not exist just because a wood contains fewer trees than a forest and covers less ground.

…an English wood, however marvellous, however metamorphic, cannot, by definition, be trackless, although it might well be formidably labyrinthine. Yet there is always a way out of a maze, and, even if you cannot find it for a while, you know that it is there. A maze is a construct of the human mind, and not unlike it; lost in the wood, this analogy will always console.

But to be lost in the forest is to be lost to this world, to be abandoned by the light, to lose yourself utterly with no guarantee you will either find yourself or else be found, to be committed against your will - or, worse, of your own desire - to a perpetual absence from humanity, an existential catastrophe, for the forest is as infinitely boundless as the human heart.

…the wood is finite, a closure; you purposely mislay your way in the wood, for the sake of the pleasure of roving…

That forest is haunted; this wood is enchanted.

- From Angela Carter’s Overture and Incidental Music for A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

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