The cover of Beyond the Forest depicts a white fawn and there is a significance to this. As a character, the fawn plays a small but key role in drawing the children into the dense Coppice in which their adventures begin.
The description of a creature, sometimes specifically white, and especially deer, is a motif found across Celtic legends. Encounters with these creatures usually prefigure meetings with otherworldly beings – in this case the Awliya Allah of days gone by. Similar traditions are found in folklore across the British Isles, where such creatures appear as triggers for the beginning of an inward transformation or represent the lofty goal of humanity’s spiritual quest.
Likewise are legends found in lands and cultures further afield, of will o’ the wisp-esque lights. The common theme in all of these is the idea of being guided – whether to wonders or peril – by ethereal forces. In Islamic traditions, this motif is also represented. Guidance, warnings and clarion calls are mentioned as coming to people through voices, visions, supernatural visitors and angelic beings.
In Beyond the Forest, the fawn takes on this role, and finds its most direct parallel in the children’s first adventure: the story of Ibrahim Adham. In one of the variants of the accounts of this ancient Wali Allah, while he is out hunting, he has a terrifying encounter with a stag which provides the catalyst for his conversion.
In its simplest form, the fawn of this children’s book comes as a form of ‘nafahat’ – a breeze from beyond, a divine inspiration; a call so strong that it rings irresistibly to the soul’s fitra and draws it to seek that for which it was made.
In the words of the holy Prophet, ‘verily, in moments of your lives, God sends nafahat, so follow them…’
Beyond the Forest is available at www.nooryusuf.com