Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Fairytale Land

How many fairytales are set in the woods?

I knew Germany had a lot of woodland, but on the decent into Frankfurt airport it became very obvious, with lush, green patches of trees dotted everywhere. It was a stark contrast after leaving Birmingham; as the sprawl of the city fell behind us, the scenery transformed into scarily regular patchwork fields as far as the eye could see.

We went on walks in a couple of forests, one near my cousin’s home, and the other in the ‘Saarschleife,’ which is said to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the Saarland province, in the south west of the country. Well…just look at that view, whoever made this claim wasn’t wrong!

What an inspiring view! It is easy to see why German forests are the setting for many Grimm Brothers' fairy tales...

The Saarschleife also boasted an ‘enchanted forest’ for children, full of popular fairy tale characters in, I suppose, an authentic setting. The main part of this forest was closed, but I did find a large monument to ‘Hans in Luck’, a wonderful tale by the Grimm brothers.

Although the characters were cartoons and it was meant to be an attraction for children, there was an underlying sinister feel that, for me, served as a reminder that these tales were often not originally happily-ever-after stories. And certainly not for children…

There is a power in the forests in Germany. They are nothing like the woodlands in England, which seem tame and quaint, full of bluebells in Spring, and where you could imagine Winnie The Pooh larking around. These forests are vast, the trees creak eerily, and you don’t have to look too far ahead, amongst the trunks, before it all goes dark.

Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and all the other Grimm stories set in the woods…surely these were tales of terror, for there would be no retaining of innocence after a night in these forests.

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