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The Devil in a Forest is a short novel by American writer Gene Wolfe about the conflict between Christianity and an earlier Pagan religion in Europe during the Middle Ages.[1][2] The hero of the story, Mark, is an adolescent, an orphan, and the apprentice to a weaver very near a small holy Christian shrine. The shrine is within the King's Forest, and the very small village where he lives is on the edge of the forest. During the course of the novel the village is occupied by both a brutal squad of the King's foresters, and a mob of the pagan charcoal burners who eke out a living in the forest.[2]

The Devil in a Forest
First edition
AuthorGene Wolfe
Cover artistDavid Palladini
Genrehistorical fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint

Wolfe explains, in an author's note, that the novel was inspired by a stanza of the traditional Christmas carol "Good King Wencelas".[1] He describes the novel as an attempt to imagine what peasant life was like.

Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know'st it telling;
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Close against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes's fountain."[1]


  1. ^ a b c Joan Gordon (1986). Gene Wolfe. Wildside Press. pp. 43–50. ISBN 978-0-89370-956-3. Retrieved 2011-12-20. The back cover refers to "the endless struggle between Good and Evil," fantasy's central conflict, and lists the Barrow man, "the awesome spirit of a long-dead but still-worshipped warrior," as a main character. Actually, the Barrow Man appears only in a dream, the demarcation between good and evil is not tidily drawn, and nothing fantastic occurs in The Devil in a Forest. The novel is, instead, an adolescent novel, a historical novel, and a mystery that points out of the past into the future, toward The Book of the New Sun.
  2. ^ a b Paul de Bruijn. "Gene Wolfe, The Devil in a Forest". Rambles magazine. Archived from the original on 2000-09-19. Retrieved 2011-12-20. You know the phrase "You can't judge a book by its cover?" Well, sometimes you can't judge a book by the publisher's blurb on the back, either. Gene Wolfe's The Devil in a Forest proves the point well. This is not to say that the story you get is not good -- far from it, it is a very good story even if it is a bit dark. It is just not what the back promises you are getting.