Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd

The Forest

Q. So, under duress, you wrote The Forest instead.

A. Not under duress. I proposed the subject. It was a return to one of the most-loved places of my childhood, and I had a wonderful time writing it.

Q. The Forest in question is the New Forest - only in England would a thousand-year-old hunting ground be called 'New'. But why write about a place so close to Sarum?

A. Geographically close, but completely different, the other side of the coin. If Sarum is about eternal building in stone, The Forest is about the great, dark, renewable chaos of nature. The life of animals and trees, as well as humans. Vegetation above ground and below. Parts are about ecology, actually.

Q. Some of the characters are animals.

A. I'd always admired the way Michener would bring animals and birds into his books, sometimes telling the story from their point of view. So I wrote part of one chapter from the point of view of a New Forest deer. It seemed to work pretty well. There's a section on the complex life of trees as well.

Q. You also touched on the dark side. In the past, the New Forest had a reputation for witchcraft.

A. I knew nothing about the subject when I started The Forest, but I couldn't ignore it. So I read some books on Wicca, which nowadays seems to be a mixture of classical witchcraft and more modern, almost ecological ideas. This enabled me to hint at an ancient, hidden aspect of the Forest's history.

Q. You say it was a happy time for you.

A. I loved the Forest people. Many of the Forest families have been there since before the Norman Conquest. Reading the records of the medieval law courts in the local library, I'd see so-and-so accused of poaching deer in the year 1230, and see his descendant, with the identical name, sitting at the table beside me. The local historians were very kind to me and I made some treasured friends.

Q. This book went quickly.

A. Nineteen months from start to corrected proofs, and delivered ahead of schedule. It was less complex.

Did You Know?
In Manhattan in the early to mid nineteenth century, scores of pigs roamed the streets – about 20,000 of them at peak population in the early 1820’s, a ratio of roughly one pig to every five humans ! Many of them belonged to families. The city was quickly growing in the nineteenth century – in population and wealth disparity. Despite rapid urbanization, non-wealthy New Yorkers continued raising hogs as a means of surviving. A family could always slaughter one of its pigs to feed itself, or sell one of them since pork was a staple of the American diet. Why pigs? Other animals weren’t quite so compatible with urban life. People could let their pigs wander the streets, rummage through trash for the piles of spoiled food that was left out on the street during the day, and count on them to return home in the evening !

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