In Tuck Everlasting, what is strange about the woods? What effect did it have on the cows?

In Tuck Everlasting, the woods have an uninviting, sleepy nature to them. The cows seem to sense that they better not enter these woods. Therefore, they have worn a path that goes around the woods rather than through it.

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On the face of it, the woods belonging to the Foster family appear perfectly normal. But on closer inspection, it's clear that there's something unusual, even enchanted about them. For one thing, the local road stops right at the entrance of the woods, indicating that this isn't a place which is often explored.

Yet even if there were a path, there's such a weird atmosphere about the woods that no one would want to enter anyway. Even the cows know to stay away. Their animal instinct tells them that this is not a place they should go anywhere near, no matter how much luscious grass there might be in the vicinity.

It's somewhat ironic, to say the least, that a forest containing within its depths a spring of enteral youth should give off such an enervating atmosphere. The spring may give eternal youth to those who drink from it, but the woods themselves have a strangely dead quality about them. It's a quality that repels both man and beast. The woods may be shrouded in magic, but if they are then it's a kind of black magic, something that scares people and animals away and deters them from exploring the woods's dark and forbidding depths.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 19, 2020
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The setting of the woods is described in the prologue of Tuck Everlasting. There is a strange atmosphere to the woods near Treegap. At first glance, the woods appear to be just a normal set of trees. However, there is an intangible, sleepy quality to this forest that keeps most people from wandering far off the road that skirts around its edges. The road through the town of Treegap is wide and well worn by the cows. In fact, it was the cows themselves who wore this path. Yet, when the road reaches the woods, it veers around the trees instead of going through it. It is as if the cows know not to enter and disturb the forest.

Because there is no road or path into the woods, people seldom enter it. Aside from that, the woods belong to the Foster family. As private property, people are even less likely to trespass beneath the branches of this mysterious and foreboding forest. Even if it were public land, it is not clear that many would wish to either. The woods impart a mood that makes people, as well as cows, wary of entering. As such, the magically life-giving spring at the woods's center remains unknown to the people of Treegap.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 19, 2020
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The woods in Tuck Everlasting are mesmerizing and almost magical. There is a somber, muffled quietness in the woods that almost feels claustrophobic. According to the book, it is a sleepy woods, which makes the characters subdued and nervous. This magical quality makes the people fearful of the woods and hesitant about entering. The magic in the trees is presumably because of the spring that runs through it.

The cows in the story have an animal sense that warns them of something unusual in the woods. Because of this, they avoid the woods, refusing to venture into it. As they traveled around it, they beat a path which eventually became the road, which acts as a guide so that others needn’t enter into the sleepy, mysterious woods either.

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Something about the wood feels unnatural and makes people want to speak in whispers.  

Chapter one tells readers about the wood near the Foster home.  The following is a short description from that chapter.  

But the wood had a sleeping, otherworld appearance that made you want to speak in whispers. This, at least, is what the cows must have thought: "Let it keep its peace; we won't disturb it."

Notice the word "otherworld."  That word causes readers to think "alien."  I don't mean little green guys with antennae.  By "alien" I mean strange, unnatural, and/or not of this planet.  The wood has a special quality about it that, at the very least, causes the cows to stay away from it.  Consequently, people stay away from the wood as well.  The cows know something is strange about the wood; therefore, the cows travel around the wood.  Their travelling eventually made a road.  People ended up following the road too.  Since there was no road through the wood, people didn't go into the wood, and nobody (except the Tucks) has discovered the magical spring of immortality. 

In the end, however, it was the cows who were responsible for the wood's isolation, and the cows, through some wisdom they were not wise enough to know that they possessed, were very wise indeed. If they had made their road through the wood instead of around it, then the people would have followed the road. The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time, they'd have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it.

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