Although we have vastly moved on from early man's ancient culture under the canopy, the wonder of the wood - and especially its fury and feathered inhabitants - never ceases to trigger our imaginations. The animals of the wood inspired the DM Woodland Collection, and have proved some of the most popular. When it comes to stories, more often than not, those starring woodland animals are written for the less cynical reader, i.e., the younger audience.
So who are these critters that still reside in the wild wood, and what are they like? Well, in Kenneth Grahame's novel 'The Wind in the Willows', Mole asks the Rat the very same question:
`W-e-ll,' replied the Rat, `let me see. The squirrels are all right. AND the rabbits--some of 'em, but rabbits are a mixed lot. And then there's Badger, of course. He lives right in the heart of it; wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him to do it. Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with HIM. They'd better not,' he added significantly.'
'The Wind in the Willows' was written during the turn of the 20th Century, and is one of the most famous titles published during the 'Golden Era of Children's Literature'. Other notable works featuring woodland animals during this period include the tales by Beatrix Potter: where we have the likes of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the laundry fanatic hedgehog (illustration above), Squirrel Nutkins, the mischievous red squirrel who is nearly skinned alive after taunting a tawny owl, and Mr. Todd, a fox with a serious vendetta against a badger.
This Golden Age came to an abrupt end with the event of WWI, and children's novels didn't really take off again until after WWII; the main exception being the enchanting stories written by A. A. Milne about a boy and a bear during the 1920's. Unlike Grahame, Milne paints a much more serene and peaceful picture of a woodland environment; 'The Hundred Acre Wood' in this case.
In this extract taken from 'The House at Pooh Corner', a creature much more suited to the bush of India rather than a pine forest in East Sussex is attempting to impress his smaller, but equally excitable friend:
'Oo, Tigger-oo, Tigger-oo. Tigger!' squeaked Roo excitedly. So he sat on Tigger's back and up they went. And for the first ten feet Tigger said happily to himself, 'Up we go!' And for the next ten feet he said: 'I always said Tiggers could climb trees.' And for the next ten feet he said: 'Not that it's easy, mind you.' And for the next ten feet he said: 'Of course, there's the coming down too. Backwards.' And then he said: 'Which will be difficult...' 'Unless one fell...' 'When it would be...' 'EASY.'
Alas, Tigger's don't climb trees!
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With the exception of artists, inventors, and teenagers - we humans are diurnal daytime creatures on the whole, and although it’s one thing to be out and about during the night in a street lit urban environment, it’s a very different scenario if you find yourself in, say… oh, I don’t know, a forest per se. Where, if you’re lucky, you may hear the unmistakable cry or hoot of an Owl: natures very own nocturne, a stark reminder of the unknown peril of night, and a creature that has featured heavily in myth and folklore throughout the ages.