forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
[personal profile] forestofglory
I just finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik and I have lots of thoughts about how nature is portrayed in the book. I think these are a bit spolier-y so I'm going to put them under a cut. (ETA: Having written this it is really very spoiler-y)

*spoilers* *spoilers* *spoilers*

So in the book the main antagonist is the evil Wood, which has mind of its own and is out to kill people and take over the world. I'm uncomfortable with evil nature. I'm strong environmentalist and I've been brought up to think that nature is good or at worst indifferent. I don't think nature is out get us.

Later in the book it turns out that to woods are animated by a long ago and very angry queen. Women "going back to nature" and becoming evil is problematic trope that has been around for a long time, and doesn't do women or nature any favors.

It doesn't really help that the book implies in several other places that women are closer to nature then men. For example the heroine has an intuitive nature magic while her mentor, a man, does much more rational magic. Almost all the female magic users use this type of more intuitive magic. The Dragon, the wizard whose job it is to control the forest uses local young women for their connection to the Woods. There is no reason stated why he uses young women as opposed to some other demographic, but his choice does reenforce the woman/nature connection.

Even when nature is portrayed positively in the book it because of what nature can do for humans not because nature is worthy in its own right. The main character's father is woodcutter, and the main character is good at gleaning food and useful materials. At the end of the book after the wood has been cleaned of evil the heroine gathers and eats fruit there. So the book does imply that nature has value, but there are no scenes of the character admiring the natural beauty or even really just enjoying the outdoors. This lack makes the production of resources for human use seem like the only value that nature has.

Many people have praised the books active and confident heroine, and the strong female relationships in this book. (Which are indeed admirable) However I feel that books portrayal of nature and women's relationships with nature can at times be problematic.

there are 100% spoilers here

Date: 2015-06-25 09:07 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
This is fascinating, because I didn't see this at all. Is this trope really old? I probably don't read widely enough to see it. Are there other examples you could share? I guess I didn't think of it this critically because the narrative seems to be really sympathetic toward the Wood at the end where it turns out that the rage and violence the Wood feels is aimed at humans for their inability to understand/appreciate different ways of existing. Especially at the end, when it seems like the valley is returning to a shared existence with the Wood via Agnieszha where the Wood and humanity can co-exist but also be mutually beneficial to one another. But I'm super curious about where else this trope crops up since I've never heard of it in this sense before.


forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)

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