The Puritan villagers saw the untamed forest as the residing place for the devil. Since they were unsuccessful in converting the Native Americans to their religion, they believed all that lived there must be evil and a part of the devil's world. Painting the Native Americans as savages allowed the Puritans to claim the land as their own without feeling guilty. It was easier to take their land, then to take the land of a fellow Christian. Young children were taught not to go into the forest, most likely because of continuous fighting between the Puritans and the Natives and because of the forest's association with evil.
Because of this belief, the forest becomes one of many symbols that show what the Salem Puritans do not know. Like the witchcraft that is to come, if the reason or cause behind an action is unknown, the devil quickly becomes the problem.