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From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairytales

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Fairy tales are one of our earliest cultural forms, and forests one of our most ancient landscapes. Both evoke similar sensations: At times they are beautiful and magical, at others spooky and sometimes horrifying. Maitland argues that the terrain of these fairy tales are intimately connected to the mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils.
With each chapter focus
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ebook, 288 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Counterpoint LLC
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,673)
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Sally Howes
In GOSSIP FROM THE FOREST, Sara Maitland asserts that while many scholars study the similarities between the myths, legends, and folk tales of different cultures, not enough attention is paid to their differences, which are often influenced by the landscapes that gave them birth. Focusing on the fairytales that originated in Northern Europe, Maitland believes that: "The mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of the forest are both the background to and the source of these tales." It s ...more
Andrea
This is well written, often lyrical. It is full of fascinating information I didn't know about the forests I love, a richness of lore about trees and their ongoing, shifting relationship with human beings. It's interspersed with delightfully re-told (but unreconstructed) fairy tales, as well as more about fairy tales themselves. It was sometimes close to five stars.

Still, it consistently referred to a 'we' that I found profoundly alienating. Disturbing. I would read along happily about coppicing
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Sienna
This book at the intersection of forests and fairy tales has so much potential. It alternates between authorial forays into nature and re-tellings of familiar stories, and contains a meander through the not-so-wilds of Epping Forest with Robert Macfarlane, author of my favorite read last year. There are some wonderful tidbits on history and storytelling and the environment. Did you know that most land plants are dual organisms? Fascinating. I should love it. But I don't, and the title hints at o ...more
Travis
I have an interest in folklore and really wanted to like this. She spends each chapter writing some hippie earth-mother bullshit about a forest and then tells a fairy tale. Repeat. That's it. No insight, no analysis, just overwrought, florid, breathless wankery.
Kichelchen
First of, I absolutely adore Maitland's updated fairy tales. However, that is about as good as it gets. I don't think I have ever read a book so badly written. It is a lot down to bad editing, a lot of spelling mistakes, repeated or omitted words, which makes it look very unprofessional. In addition to that, she claims a lot of things without providing evidence (ex. she mentions the influence of goats in fairy tales and on the development of 'kid' as an affectionate word for children, no evidenc ...more
Lynn Spencer
3.5 stars I love fairytales. I think I probably read all of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books growing up and have read a great many other collections besides. I've wondered about the origins of some of these stories, but hadn't found a really satisfying book on the subject. This one definitely comes closer than Bettelheim's famous (and somewhat scandal-plagued) book, though still not entirely compelling for me.

Maitland theorizes that many of the fairytales recorded by the brothers Grimm are different th
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Josie
I was reading this book in public when a stranger came up to me and asked me what I thought of it. "Well," I said tactfully, in case she liked it or was actually the author's niece or something, "I think I would prefer it if she'd done a bit more research..."

It turned out my random stranger hated this book too. Bonding over a good book is nice, but mutual bashing of a bad book is infinitely more fun. So we had an enjoyable conversation where we both agreed that Sara Maitland is a barefooted hipp
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Sian Lile-Pastore
this is my kind of book - it's all about forests and their link with fairy tales, but it's also about our links with forests and with nature in general. I also really enjoyed (perhaps even a little more) Maitland's previous book A Book Of Silenceand I love how she gets completely absorbed in a subject and examines it from all angles.

She's losing a star though for what I assume to be her support of 'controlling' (ie killing) deer in forests...

my only other mini gripes are that I didn't feel tha
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Barbara
I finally threw in the towel at about the 3/4 point. I so wanted to like it and I was very interested in the premise.
Maybe if I had read it a chapter a day (or every few days) I wouldn't have become bored...
The pure forestry bits were fascinating, especially the bits about the New Forest, Epping Forest and the Forest of Dean. However, it took the author several chapters to explain key terms such as 'pollard' and 'coppice'; I had to resort to dear ole' Wikipedia for definitions. Her theory about
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Moira Clunie
a rich, speculative exploration of forest-fairytale symbiosis: how they've grown together in britain, and how the structure, narrative and characters of fairytales are deeply woodsy in ways that are familiar but not always named. i loved the sense of time and space that unfolded in this book: its growth over a year of walks through different forests, as seasons changed. each chapter dives into a different aspect of the central idea: the history of british forests and forestry, how the fairytales ...more
Liz
Just finished this engrossing book on wild woods and fairytales. Beautifully written it alternates Maitland's retelling of Grimm tales with meditations on specific British woodlands and their relation to folklore and culture. Thoroughly recommended.
Scribal
Second review after mulling it over for a week or more: I've started a project that will include a lot of thinking about woods and nature, tales and the spirits of place. I read Maitlands book hoping/expecting to find "my" haunted forest. Never in my bookwormy, nerdy, long life has a book about a subject dear to me made me feel so American!! This was not my experience of woods at all! And these were not the tales and fairies that lived in "my" woods.

Maitland says "we" worry about other people n
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Paul
In this book Maitland is looking at the role that woods and forests have played in our national identity, primarily through stories, by also as a source of employment, fuel and food.

the book is split into 12 chapters, with 12 sub chapters. Each chapter describes a visit to a different wood or forest that she goes to. She visits these woods all around the country, one each month, as they are significant in some way, either for the variety of the species, or they historical or cultural significanc
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Walk
Firstly, this is a DNF (did not finish) for me. So it is 1 star by default.

So the review is not of the complete book, it is only in regard the parts I read and consequently the reasons I failed to finish it.

Sara Maitland visits a different type of forest in the UK every month for a calender year. A traditional fairy tale inspired by the forest follows.

The fairy tales are not faithful reproductions. Sara having explained that coming from an oral tradition the tales would have always been evolving
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Rosario (http://rosario.blogspot.com/)
Maitland's thesis is that fairy tales and forests are intimately connected, with fairy tales clearly originating in forests, told originally by forest dwellers, and uniquely shaped by this. She makes some excellent points when comparing how fairy tales such as those collected by the Brothers Grimm's differ from traditional stories from other traditions, such as those from desert peoples or peoples who lived by the sea. I was convinced.

Gossip From the Forest contains 12 chapters, each covering a
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Daren Kearl
A great mix of fact and fiction, Maitland explores ancient woodland, the history and management of forestry and is passionate about encouraging children into exploring and playing in the wild. She also links the development of fairy stories through the growth of woodland and presents her own versions of Grimm tales. Interestingly there may be a resurgence of interest in fairy tales, what with Philip Pullmans new version recently published and film versions of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. As ...more
Alison Fennell
Epic! This book gave me everything and more that I wanted to hear about our beloved forests! I am into folklore and writing children's fables and to read Maitland's book was so richly rewarding and stimulating that I couldn't put it down. It is also very informative about the natural history and ecology as well as the social aspect of forests. Lots of "ahs" and "oohs" as I read a new fact. Loved it!!
New Rose Images
Dipping in and out of this, a chapter at a time, and enjoying it greatly so far. Twelve chapters, each featuring a different forest, and with a retelling of a fairy tale at the end of each one (some interesting references/notes at the end of each chapter, too, which may inspire further reading). At the end of the first chapter, she writes "In this book, I want to see forests and fairy stories like this - partners necessary to one another, and at risk if either fails or cannot find and connect wi ...more
John
Four and a half stars, and it would have been five if she's gone into the "fairy" part of "fairy tales" -- I was waiting for that but it never came. That said, in this book about "the tangled roots of our forests and our fairy tales" I learned SO MUCH about European cultural history, medieval woodland management, charcoal production, land enclosures... I could go on and on. Maitland is ridiculously erudite and well-read and researched, but she always gives the impression of having just learned s ...more
Murray Ewing
Maitland visits a forest every month for a year, to get in touch with the woodland and to think about fairy tales. I have to say, I was expecting more about fairy tales and less about the forest visits — every chapter did have something to say about fairy tales, but usually it was buried amidst a lot of what seemed to me Sunday-supplement style writing about the visit (the weather on the day, how they reached the forest, etc.), which I tended to skip over. In addition, Maitland rounds off each c ...more
Melinda Jane Harrison
Beautiful narrative nonfiction on the connections between Woodlands, Forests, and Fairy Tales and how we must save both if we are to continue to share common ground. Absolutely loved it. A piece of art.
Warren Rochelle
I loved this book. Beautifully written, well-researched, and an engaging and compelling voice kept me reading as Maitland travels through British forests through different seasons as she explores "the forest's role as the source of [Britain's] earliest and most vital cultural forms, the fairytale." Yes, these are British fairytales and these are British forests, yet, they are ours, too--these are universal stories and they are the stories many of our ancestors brought to American from Britain, w ...more
Patricia Godfrey
Once again, the version of this book I read came from the Uk and was titled just From the Forest. I might not have picked it up under the title Gossip From The Forest.
I found this a rambling book with no clear destination, often fastening its gaze on the wonder of being in the moment and yet missing- the forest for the trees. Oh the opportunities to make little jokes like that are endless with this material.
The author would like to share her theories on fairy tales and why she believes that the
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Alexis McAdams
This book has so much potential, but I think it tries to be much more than it should. The format (at least in the American edition) is: Describe, in painful detail, a particular forest. Connect this forest to interesting ideas. Re-tell a fairy tale from another point of view. If the author could have expanded the second step of this repetitive dance a bit more, then we'd have an interesting book.

Also: it's tough to get on board with text descriptions of something as tactile and physical as a for
...more
Sardo Numspa
This book was, at best, mediocre due to its redundancy of style and the author's pretentious prose (which becomes more and more pronounced as the book progresses). While I have to admit that the first few chapters held my interest, it became a struggle to finish this book given Maitland's tedious format: proselytize, revamp a fairy tale, rinse, repeat. The topic and the material hold a lot of interesting potential from a variety of viewpoints (linguistic, social, environmental, etc.), and it's a ...more
Anna Baum
I so wanted to love this book. Forests, especially ancient Scottish woodland, and fairytales? It would be a push to come up with a topic more interesting to me. For a little while I did love it. I thought the first few chapters were fascinating, historical, magical... Sara Maitland has structured this book around the months of the year, going on a walk in a different woodland each month, linking it to a part of the history of the forests of Britain and to a different aspect of Grimms fairytales. ...more
Jan
I spotted this book in a library in Helsinki.
I sometimes roam through libraries and bookshops looking for books with covers and titles that stand out, not unlike Maitland's journeys through forests seeking connections to faerie tales.
I have always been drawn to forests and faerie tales, and even now, in my late twenties, I still hike through forests and woodlands perceiving the surroundings as an enchanted realm: the eerie lights, the mushrooms emerging under the trees, the noises of some secr
...more
Isabel
In so many ways, such an interesting read, and what a wonderful idea for a book, what a lovely title, what a sweet cover! I saw it on display in the bookshop and instantly did a double-take on it. It was one of those books where the theme alone was so perfectly adapted to my interests that I hardly bothered reading through the back of the book for much longer before buying it.

And I really wanted to love it, but I just couldn't.

I started to notice that my mind was drifting while reading when I s
...more
Ellen
On one hand, I loved this book. On the other hand, I was disappointed by it. Why did I have such a mixed response? Well, here goes.

The book is subtitled "The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales", which certainly intrigued the folklorist in me. Divided into 12 chapters by forest, Maitland discusses different forests in England and Scotland, including Airyolland Wood, the Forest of Dean and my own (well, I do reside in it) New Forest, and then follows each forest's chapter with her own ada
...more
Miz Lizzie
Sara Maitland combines British forests with Grimm fairy tales in an intriguing intuitive (yet also historically and qualitatively researched) thesis that the two are deeply entwined in history and in our psyches. Forests and fairy tales, two of my favorite things, what's not to like? Each chapter explores the history and place-setting of a specific forest as she visits each one in turn, with pieces of fairy tales naturally coming to her mind as she attunes herself with the different forests. Eve ...more
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Ancient forest walks in the UK linked to fairy tales 1 3 Aug 07, 2013 02:33AM  
Into the Forest: From the Forest - NF book on history of Fairy Tales 3 17 Dec 21, 2012 11:15AM  
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Sara Maitland (born 1950) is a British writer and academic. An accomplished novelist, she is also known for her short stories. Her work has a magic realist tendency. Maitland is regarded as one of those at the vanguard of the 1970s feminist movement, and is often described as a feminist writer. She is a Roman Catholic, and religion is another theme in much of her work.
More about Sara Maitland...
A Book Of Silence How to Be Alone Three Times Table On Becoming a Fairy Godmother Moss Witch and Other Stories

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“The whole tradition of [oral] story telling is endangered by modern technology. Although telling stories is a very fundamental human attribute, to the extent that psychiatry now often treats 'narrative loss' -- the inability to construct a story of one's own life -- as a loss of identity or 'personhood,' it is not natural but an art form -- you have to learn to tell stories. The well-meaning mother is constantly frustrated by the inability of her child to answer questions like 'What did you do today?' (to which the answer is usually a muttered 'nothing' -- but the 'nothing' is cover for 'I don't know how to tell a good story about it, how to impose a story shape on the events'). To tell stories, you have to hear stories and you have to have an audience to hear the stories you tell. Oral story telling is economically unproductive -- there is no marketable product; it is out with the laws of patents and copyright; it cannot easily be commodified; it is a skill without monetary value. And above all, it is an activity requiring leisure -- the oral tradition stands squarely against a modern work ethic....Traditional fairy stories, like all oral traditions, need the sort of time that isn't money.

"The deep connect between the forests and the core stories has been lost; fairy stories and forests have been moved into different categories and, isolated, both are at risk of disappearing, misunderstood and culturally undervalued, 'useless' in the sense of 'financially unprofitable.”
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“Now fairy stories are at risk too, like the forests. Padraic Column has suggested that artificial lighting dealt them a mortal wound: when people could read and be productive after dark, something fundamental changed, and there was no longer need or space for the ancient oral tradition. The stories were often confined to books, which makes the text static, and they were handed over to children.” 3 likes
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