Forest Archetype

Learn all about the forest archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Innocent archetype.

What is the Forest Archetype?

The forest archetype is a symbolic archetype found commonly in literature; an obstacle encountered as part of a journey undergone by the main protagonist of the story on their quest towards fulfilment.

The obstacle does not necessarily have to be a forest, though this features predominantly due to its popularity in fables and fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood.

The Forest is symbolic of a mental journey undergone by the main protagonist’s mind and soul as they learn something profound and deep about themselves and their capabilities.

Forest Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The Forest is symbolic in this manner as it has become a place of fear in the minds of so many.
  • Deep, dark, dangerous, full of the unknown – witches, ghosts, monsters, beasts, who knows?
  • In these aspects the forest can provide the protagonist with danger and foes which they must overcome.
  • However, the forest can also be a more positive and life affirming part of their journey.
  • Their time there can give them the opportunity to get back to nature and reconnect with their own identity and morality.
  • In this sense the journey through the forest can be a revitalizing and rejuvenating one.
  • The forest can also be a place of refuge, safety and sanctuary, where individuals can go to seek solace and hide from their troubles while they recover, find strength and new purpose.

Forest Archetype Examples

Examples of the forest archetype are plentiful in modern culture.

The examples of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood have already been mentioned.

Similar examples of forests can be seen in the Harry Potter cannon of literature and films, the Lord of the Rings literature and films, and the Star Wars films.

In Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter it is only in the sanctuary of the forest that Hester Prynne does not have to wear her scarlet letter A.

Further Reading

Further reading on the forest archetype includes:

  • The Scarlet Letter – by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Lord of the Rings – by JRR Tolkien
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