Why do The Watchers Not Come Out in Sunlight? Why Can’t They Leave the Forest?

In ‘The Watchers,’ four people are trapped in a forest and have to find a way out of it before they fall prey to the mysterious creatures that haunt it. The horror of their situation is elevated by the fact that the forest seems to be working against them. No matter how hard they try, they cannot find a way out. Luckily, they have the entire day to figure out a plan because the creatures prowl only at night. Something keeps them from coming out into the sun. The reason behind this is never directly addressed, but the stories surrounding them give us enough to figure out why they cannot come out during the day. SPOILERS AHEAD

The Watchers’ Time in the Tunnels Works Against Them

‘The Watchers’ begins as a mystery, and there is almost nothing that Mina and her prison mates know about the creatures who stand behind the large mirror and observe them all night. Slowly, however, one thing after another about them is revealed, and the source is Madeline, who says she used to teach history before she came to the forest and was trapped there. 

According to the legend, the Watchers are ancient beings who used to live amongst humans centuries ago. Also called changelings and fairies, they were powerful and beautiful and were treated as gods by humans.

The relationship between them was so great that they even mated with each other, giving rise to halflings who had the best of both worlds. But then, the humans turned on them. A war ensued, which the fairies lost despite being more powerful than humans. They were driven underground, where they remained for centuries.

While escaping the forest, Mina and the others find the exact place where they were forced to go underground. That end of the tunnel was sealed, so they could never come out the way they came in. They eventually found a way, digging their way up (as evidenced by the Burrows, which are dug up from under the earth rather than from the surface).

All the Time Underground Weakened the Watchers

The stories that Madeline tells Mina, Chiara, and Danny are thousands of years old, with the Watchers being referred to as an ancient species that existed even before humans. The war between them and the humans also took place a long time ago, which means that they have been underground for so long that it changed their physiology. Madeline reveals that by the time the Watchers came back to the surface, they’d lost their magic and ability to fly. They’d also forgotten how to mimic humans, and it took them a lot more time to get that ability back. Even now, after all these years, they are unable to get everything right.

It makes sense that, having lived underground for so long, they forgot what sunlight felt like. They had become so used to the darkness underneath the Earth, traversing the tunnels, that it felt unnatural for them to live in the light. Eventually, sunlight became a part of their DNA, and it didn’t remain something that they’d simply forgotten; it became lethal to them. So, they stuck to staying in the tunnels during the day and would only come out in the cover of the night.

A similar logic might apply to why they cannot leave the forest. Because fairies were magical creatures, it would have taken magic to beat them. Humans found a way to subdue a species that was more powerful than them, and that would have taken the power of the fairies or something more potent to win the war. Even when they succeeded in sending them underground, humans knew that the fairies could easily come out again unless some magic were used to trap them. The door they sealed shut had such potent magic that it stopped the fairies from coming back the same way and confined them within the forest, even if they managed to burrow their way out.

It could also be a psychological thing for them, having lived underneath the area for so long that they forgot how to leave the place. It could also be that they claimed that forest for themselves, a small place compared to the rest of the world that the humans had laid claim to. They lost the fight back then, but by making this limited area their own, they would make sure that no one else could take it from them. The magic around the forest made it large enough for them to live and impossible for a human, should they find their way in, to leave.

Intention, in this instance, mattered more than anything else, and this is why, perhaps, Madeline, who, despite being a Watcher, was able to leave. She reveals that she’d always wanted to come out and live with the humans in their world. More likely, her half-human side helped, but without the desire to do it, she would have remained stuck as a Watcher in the forest for the rest of eternity. Even when the rest of the Watchers watched her leave, they didn’t bother much because they never considered her one of them.

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