Through the Forest
‘I was lost in a deep, dark forest. I couldn’t find my way back so I keep on walking.
I was searching for something but did not know what.’; so begins this first person narrative by a small boy. He meets a ghostly giant figure who introduces itself as Emptiness and the boy suggests they might continue their search together, a suggestion to which the empathetic being responds positively.
Continuing on side by side they come across objects in the snow the first being a pinwheel. It puzzles Emptiness but sparks memories for the boy who recounts them to his companion. Then because he’s unable to fit it into his pocket, Emptiness takes the pinwheel for safekeeping.
The next object is a kite and again it triggers memories in the boy and his companion takes it to carry.
The vase they find calls forth sadness in the child, “This is a piece of Dad’s special vase. It was smashed the morning Mama left.” But in a clearing their discoveries – a book, a harmonica, a first drawing and a tie all evoke happy times.
Eventually the two arrive at a wildflower meadow littered with memories
but now Emptiness stops walking. Full of the memories they’ve found together, he explains that now they’re out of the forest, he’s remaining behind for the memories will always be available to guide the child as he ventures forth, should he need them. The boy looks around him and is finally able to see a path both behind and in front of him. Thus, we realise that forest has served as a metaphor for the child’s state of mind, which thanks to Emptiness, has now cleared.
Yijing Li’s digitally worked watercolour and ink scenes of the journey are contemplative and reassuring, and there’s a misty, occasionally brooding, dream-like quality to the entire book. .