Awww, dammit. Not another travel guide chapter!
Bounded on the north by the towering Grimwall Mountains, on the east by the swift-flowing Wolf River,
… why is it called the Wolf River?
And do we really need a description of all the landmarks surrounding this forest?! REALLY?! It's never going to be seen again in this book.
there lie two vast timberlands, joined flank to flank by a wide strip of forest running between. They are the Skög and Darda Vrka, and together they span four hundred miles west to east and two hundred and fifty north to south.
So it's a barbell-shaped stretch of woods. Got it.
It is said that the Skög is the oldest forest in Mithgar, and perhaps this is true, for the Elves call it by no other name. They do not even call it Darda, but merely refer to it as the Skög.
And I don't quite understand why. I mean, forested areas don't tend to just pop up and live out a limited lifespan, then vanish all at once.
And so perhaps there is something to the tale that the Skög is the eldest ... yet joined as it is to Darda Vrka, it is difficult to separate the age of the two.
… so why aren't they considered ONE forest? Nobody knows how old they are and what the difference is, and they're physically joined.
But don't worry! McKiernan tells us the difference!
it is Darda Vrka, the Wolfwood, captured forever in the songs of bards:
Um… bards tended to sing ballads. You know, narrative songs, or popular songs… they didn't tend to sing about forests. Generally for a forest to feature in songs of bards, it has to have some kind of significance to a hero or something.
Say, Sherwood Forest. Everybody knows about Sherwood Forest. It's included in plenty of old songs, legends and ballads about Robin Hood, centuries ago. You have the occasional story where he was someplace else, but for the most part his stories are set in and around Sherwood Forest. It's as tied to his character as Frodo is to the Shire, as Sherlock Holmes is to 221B Baker Street, as Harry Potter is to Hogwarts, and as any Russian fictional character is to gloomy, shoot-yourself-in-the-face-depressing historical Russia. (Oh come on, even the FUNNY Russian books are incredibly dark)
But here's the thing: Sherwood Forest is not interesting in itself. Without Robin Hood to give it a narrative purpose, it's just a forest. A very pretty one, but not exceptional and definitely not the stuff of legend. Hogwarts and the Shire, as nice as they are, are not the stuff of legend and song if they have no hero to shape them into a part of the story.
So unless some hero did something impressive in Darda Vrka, or somebody had a famous story set there…. I don't see why bards would be singing about it.
songs which fill the very soul to the brim with a longing for the times of legend; songs that bring a glitter to the eyes of all who hear;
... about trees.
where beasts of the elden days once and perhaps yet may dwell:
Sorry, but that still doesn't make it bard-fodder. I don't think any medieval bards sang about the glories of mysterious Africa and its magical rhinos, hippos and hyenas.
…. let me guess.
Awesome! Get me a beer if you see one.
horned horses named Unicorn,
Don't you mean "UnicornS"?
Bears that once were Men,
Seriously, there are so many myths and legends about Anglo-Celtic creatures that you don't need to rip off Tolkien. Really.
But the species that McKiernan is REALLY interested in is the Draega, who are silver wolves who… somehow got from Adonar to Mithgar. How did they get there? Do they do the ritual dance that is required to get from one plane to another? It's established in other books that animals can sort of piggyback with humans, elves and the like, so did they just cling close to the Elves whenever they wanted to hitch a ride?
Anyway, the Draega are basically what would happen if the Mearas were wolves instead of horses.
So we're told that Darda Vrka is a sparkly shimmery speshul Sueland of a fairytale forest, the sort of place you can imagine Smeyer's sparklepires romping around glittering like Abercrombie and Fitch models. It's so speshul it makes my teeth hurt.
But the bards neither sing songs nor tell tales of the ancient, hoary Skög,
… why not? It's basically the same place as the Wolfwood.
nor speak a word of who or what dwells deep in the shadows therein.
And if you're wondering, NO. McKiernan never tells us what lives there or why it's so sinister.