The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

Written by Peter Grehan

There is a link between forests and folklore that is so deeply ingrained in the human psyche that it is best described, by Carl Gustav Jung, as an archetype. Within many cultures forests are seen as magical places full of the strange and wonderful. They represent to the ‘civilized’ mind a dwelling place for mysterious inhuman creatures and spirits. To quote Roderick Frazier Nash,[1] “The forest’s darkness hid savage men, wild beasts and still stranger creatures of the imagination.” The ‘civilised’ Romans must have viewed the forest with suspicion. When the Germans massacred three Roman Legions in the Teutoburg forest during the ninth century, Roman historians linked the disaster with its location. To quote Jona Lendering, “The story of a military defeat in a faraway country was inevitably adorned with descriptions of large forests, sacred groves and holy trees, because the Greek and Roman authors were obsessed with the forests on the edges of the earth.”

In The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Steven Moffat, (who obviously loves the genre of faerie story) draws on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, written by C. S. Lewis, for inspiration, but his emphasises is on the forest itself. Apart from the Doctor and human beings there are no other creatures there. The forest becomes reminiscent of the Fangorn Forest  in J. R. R. Tolkien’s  The Lord of the Rings, while the humanoid wood characters remind us of the tree-like Ents in their role of  tree shepherds.

There is an obvious parallel to acid rain destroying our forests (now somewhat overshadowed by the greater threat of global warming) and humanity’s tendency to overlook the magic of nature in its eagerness to exploit natural resources, but the hub of the story was that of a living species in transition. Moffat has done for trees what Arthur C. Clarke did for humanity in Childhood’s End. Amazingly it works!

[1] Nash, R. F. (2001) Wilderness and the American Mind. 4th ed. New Haven: Yale University Press – Nota Bene.

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