"the mystery of the primeval forest"

Little Red Riding Hood venturing into the forest
Public DomainLittle Red Riding Hood venturing into the forest - Credit: Julius von Klever
Through fairytales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel and medieval verse romances such as Sir Orfeo, the idea of the forest as a place of lawlessness and primal passions, disorientingly removed from the religious, legal and social trammels of the civilized world, has become ingrained in literature. Hawthorne draws on this tradition in The Scarlet Letter, where the forest — the domain of the Native Americans, the gathering place of witches and playground of pagan fancy — is beyond the reach of Puritan law.  

Native Americans in the forest
Public DomainNative Americans in the forest - Credit: Auguste François Biard