Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Forests As Symbols In A Novel


This Special Behind The Scenes post finishes a series devoted to the request of Jane Watson for my views on various symbols in Notes from An Alien <— Grab a free copy :-)

Reminder: You can ask me Any questions about the book in Any of these Friday posts

So, “forest”—“Middle English (in the sense ‘wooded area kept for hunting’, also denoting any uncultivated land): via Old French from late Latin forestis (silva), literally ‘(wood) outside’, from Latin foris ‘outside'”

Let’s proceed with examples of its use in Notes from An Alienspoilers ahead!!

Early in the story, Rednaxela, the leader of the first expedition from the Corporate World to the Religious World; his Artificial Intelligence unit, Morna; and, the purported Prophet Akla are making an escape:

~~~

Not long after the dispatch of transfer pods paused, to give ShipOne time to return to the proper place in its orbit, a single pod prepared for descent. It contained Akla, Rednaxela, and Morna.

“Morna, check Akla’s coordinates again please.”

“They are fine. We’ll be landing in a deeply forested region of what the Anlans call the Unholy Lands in a country called Ceia-Abi, 50 miles from the main city, Oaur.”

“Yes, yes, I know. Sometimes you’re too consummate in your responses.”

“Thank you, Rednaxela

~~~

It’s fairly easy to see that the forest is being used as a safe place to hide out; but, do you sense a more symbolic reason for my choice of a forest rather than a desert or other isolated spot?

What about the combination of a forest in a region called the Unholy Lands??

The next excerpt is in the same forested region of the same planet:

~~~

“Surgenta slashed at the small, green, persistent insects swirling around his head. This journey across the forest of Ceia-Abi was the most important thing he’d ever begun in his life. Leaving the lands of the Lord’s Army had been critical to his survival but his life in the Unholy Lands hadn’t been remarkable in any way. Not until he met that strange man who claimed he knew the Promised One. Then he met Akla, Himself, and began to question everything he’d ever believed.”

~~~

Surgenta is a minor character with a major mission—delivering a Message from the Prophet to the leader of the religion called the Lord’s Army.

In this case, I used a forest to introduce him so I could give him a place where those “small, green, persistent insects” could be attacking him—on a secret mission, deep in a forest, menaced by insects—perhaps you can see the insects as the false but pernicious religious dogmas of his former religion?

Perhaps, you can see the start of his mission in a forest as a trial through darkness to reach the Light?

The next excerpt is about Delva, the book’s most important character, as she walks outside to ponder a vision her mother has just told her (that vision is discussed in the post, A Mystery Partly Unraveled ~ A Critical Dream).

~~~

“Delva had left her parents in the room and stepped outside to contemplate, yet again, her mother’s visions. She was carrying Morna. She’d wandered to the edge of the nearby forest and was about to enter the dark and fragrant sanctuary when the trees were suddenly illuminated with a yellow-red glow. The following concussion threw her into the forest. Her last conscious thought was, I have so much to do.”

~~~

Delva is trying to unravel a mystery—a Vision—and I used the forest for two reasons:

First to co-opt the mystery forests can sometimes instill and then to be a “haven” for her explosion-mauled body

So, those are the instances of my use of forests as symbols in Notes from An Alien.

But, please, don’t assume that as I wrote the story I was consciously aware of the symbolism.

I’m not that kind of writer

I prepare heavily for each book I write but the preparation has to do with the elements of the themes I need to flesh out—the fleshing happens “on the fly” as I write from sparse notes about various plot necessities.

Still, I can look back at what I’ve written and deduce the unconscious reasons for selecting various symbols—I do trust my Muse and she does inhabit my Unconscious

Also, I’m happy to have my readers attribute different meanings to my symbols and I hope they’ll share them in the Comments.

By the way, I know a writer who carefully considers the symbolism of her stories and the images she’ll use to bring it to life—the very Jane Watson who asked me to write about my symbols :-)
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7 responses to “Forests As Symbols In A Novel

  1. Barbara Blackcinder May 11, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for the insight into the symbology of your book. I often consider using it intentionally in my own stuff, but seldom get past the planning stage. it’s just to hard to keep all of that in my head while writing. I have thought about writing something where everything is symbolic in one way or another, but as I said… oops, there it goes. and thank Jane for suggesting these blogs.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai May 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

      Basically, Barb, I “over-prepare” before I write—not the symbolism but just the theme elements and a bare-bones outline of the plot flow—then, I trust my unconscious to provide the proper symbolism as I write

      Like

    • Jane Watson May 14, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Barbara, you are very visually artistic! Have you ever thought of drawing the symbols you’d like to use in your work in a kind of map? Then use that as the ‘roadmap’ for the symbolic journey in your work? Just a mad idea….Writers often have really weird ideas, lol ;-)

      Like

      • Alexander M Zoltai May 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        What a Wonderful idea for Barbara, Jane :-)

        Like

  2. Jane Watson May 14, 2013 at 9:37 am

    “Midway along the journey of our life. I woke to find myself in a dark wood…” Inferno, Canto I ~ Dante Alighieri.

    Of course symbols have different effects on different people and I am sure that Forests are no exception but for me, one of the quintessential forests belongs to Dante, and now another one belongs to the author of this book ;-)

    When followers of Jung talk about the journey of the individual they often talk about Dante’s wood and how it illustrates a person’s search and struggle to fully develop psychologically and spiritually and become their own unique authentic self. Going through the wood can be frightening but the journey is essential for the growth necessary to become a full individual…

    This is why I think Forests are so important in ‘Notes From An Alien’. They represent the soul’s struggle:

    “…in the deeply forested region of what the Anlans call the Unholy Lands…”

    and its importance:

    “…This journey across the forest of Ceia-Abi was the most important thing he’d ever begun in his life…”

    and its arrival at enlightenment and full individuation:

    “…The following concussion threw her into the forest. Her last conscious thought was, I have so much to do.”

    So, for me, the Forest in this book represents the dark struggle of the soul and the triumph of the soul. For this reason Delva’s forest is very special because she achieves enlightenment by being thrown into its heart by a massive force that shakes her body and her consciousness out of the ordinary world into a new way of thinking… and she emerges with a new purpose…;-)

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai May 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Oh, Jane!!!

      You caught me :-)

      Well

      The me that’s in my unconscious—you know I’ve studied Jung deeply—my Muse made use of it—OR…

      What Jung and Jungians talk about exists below their thoughts in the Human Unconscious; or, perhaps, one could say it exists Above their thoughts in the Human Spirit eh?

      Like

  3. Pingback: “Oh, my… Amazing! But, what comes next?!?” | Notes from An Alien

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