Many children who have grown up near a woodland have, at some point, been sure of the residence of some mysterious people or creatures within it. My father once told me how, on a dare, he had gone searching for a fabled giant who lived in a cottage in the woodland behind his school. My mother’s childhood home also backed onto a forest, giving a magical dwelling to all the characters she read about in her childhood. And I was entirely convinced that the tree at the bottom of my garden was the real Faraway Tree.
The thing about trees is that they are mystical enough, without the addition of any mythical beings. The trees themselves are old. The soil from which they grow is ancient. They have witnessed the life and death of innumerable creatures, undergone countless cycles of growth and change across the seasons. Who knows what angelic gardeners roam between them, tending to them unseen, and increasing them in their blessing?
Trees have a special place in our faith and heritage. Jordan’s blessed tree sheltered the Prophet in his youth, a tree wept to be apart from him when he taught, and the Sahabah gave their hands in fealty to the Messenger under another. Lastly there is the Lote of utmost bound; of all things to mark the bound of creation, it is a tree. When we think of the life force that trees radiate across the planet to keep us alive, it makes sense that that honour should be kept for them in the Heaven as well as the earth.
This is why Beyond the Forest is set where it is. For whence else to enter the stories of old, than beneath the boughs of the story-keepers of old?
Beyond the Forest is available at www.nooryusuf.com