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I have a hard time believing that the founders would build a school right next to a very deadly forest, or if they did, at least build some sort of permanent barrier. So I guess my question is twofold:

  1. How old is the Forbidden Forest; does it pre-date Hogwarts or did the forest come afterwards?

  2. If the Forest is older than the castle, was it dangerous and forbidden when the founders built the school? And if so, why would they build the school there?

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    At least one of the Founders seemed happy to put a Basilisk inside the castle; having a threatening and possibly deadly forest on the perimeter seems positively benign by comparison.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 14:52
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    "I have a hard time believing that the founders would build a school right next to a very deadly forest" Why? Even when Harry attends, 1000+ years after Hogwarts was founded, they don't seem to care much about student safety. That said, the Forbidden Forest isn't shown to be dangerous to be next to, only to enter (without Hagrid). None of the creatures inside seem to leave the forest to wander around on the Hogwarts grounds. Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 17:44
  • Tends to keep Muggles away.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 17:45
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    The Whomping Willow is another safety hazard on the school grounds. And what about Quidditch? And staircases that move? There's a pattern here. Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 18:18
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    To me, the area looks like an enclave of the wizarding world. With Hogwarts - the ancient magical school, Hogsmeade - the village inhabited by Wizards only and Forbidden Forest with plenty of magical creatures. Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 8:37

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NB: This is going to be mainly speculation, with some bits of canon, because there isn't much in the books about it. Harry was never very interested in Hogwarts: A History!

  1. We can't say with any certainty how old the forest was, but I would argue that it was there before the school.
  • This map, printed in 20th anniversary editions of the books (so presumably canon) shows the forest forming part of the boundary of Hogwarts. The Forest is the boundary on that edge of the school. If the forest hadn't been there when the school was built, you'd expect the wall to continue.

Map from the 20th anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone showing Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.

  • According to this study in 1000 AD, around the time Hogwarts was founded[a], around 20% of Scotland was forested, so the chances of choosing an area with a nearby forest were pretty high. Although a lot of magic was used in the school's construction, a nearby source of wood might have been useful.

A graph showing the share of land covered in forest in England and Scotland from 1000 AD to the present day.

  • I had hoped that the height of the trees[b] might have helped pin down an age, but it doesn't really. Scots pines can will generally live around 250–300 years and mature pines will be around 20-30 feet (information from this site), which matches the height Rowling gives. We know that there are fallen trees in there, and from the descriptions given in the books we can say it's a mature forest (safely estimating its age at >350 years old.
  1. This is harder to answer. But I think if it was there and full of magical creatures, that would be a good reason to build your school there.
  • There is a lake of merpeople, and centaurs, unicorns and bowtruckles (at least) in the forest. While it's possible that they were moved there later, Scotland does have tales of mermaids, and the national animal is the unicorn.
  • The wood would form a stock of wand wood and potion ingredients.[c] The school could also act as caretakers of the forest, and potentially sell items from there to other wizards and witches, as well as using it as a way to teach students about British magical animals in their natural habitat.
  • A wood full of magical creatures is probably going to be a pretty good boundary to stop muggles getting to you.
  • On the safety point, Scotland in the 1000s might have been more dangerous and/or deaths more likely anyway. Plus, there were no acromantulas in there until the 40s, which would have made it a bit safer!

[a] According to Professor Binns in CoS, and the Sorting Hat both referencing the school being just over 1000 years old.
[b] "Grawp...enjoys ripping up 20 foot pine trees" — Ch. 31, OoP
[c] In PS, Harry tells Firenze they'd used unicorn tail hair and horn. In HBP Hagrid collects it, and Slughorn says it could sell for 10 galleons a hair. Ollivander also uses it for wand cores.

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  • +1 for the effort, but is there any evidence that the wall is contemporaneous with (or newer than) the forest?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 17:16
  • @Valorum Motte and bailey castles (which Hogwarts is pretty much a modification of) weren't built until after the Norman invasion, post the founding of Hogwarts. So I'd guess the castle was built first, and the wall added 1-200 years later. No 'real' evidence, except that if the wall was older than the forest it would presumably encircle the whole site. Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 17:33
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/198356/…
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 22:29

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