Archive: Growing Ent-ish

September 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm (Lord of the Rings, Writing) ()

“The Ents” exclaimed Aragorn. “Then there is truth in the old legends about the dwellers in the deep forests and the giant shepherds of the trees? Are there still Ents in the world? I thought they were only a memory of ancient days, if indeed they were ever more than a legend of Rohan.”

“A legend of Rohan!” cried Legolas. “Nay, every Elf in Wilderland has sung songs of the old Onodrim and their long sorrow. Yet even among us they are only a memory. If I were to meet one still walking in this world, then indeed I should feel young again! [1]

Ents have often been overlooked. Their concern is with trees, and as the forests of the world have shrunk it is easy for the world at large to forget about them.

To me Ents have always seemed like an ancient clock which is slowly winding down. They are a dying race – the Entwives are lost; there are no more Entings. They live by the slow and steady tick of time, watching as the world around them grows small and dark, and everything they love disappears. And, eventually, they stop…

In Lord of the Rings Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin about Ents going “tree-ish”, and it seems likely that this would be the fate of all Ents as Middle Earth rolled on into its Fourth Age and beyond.

This bittersweet theme of endings is not unique to Ents in Lord of the Rings. We enter Middle Earth at a precarious time, where things will change drastically, for good or ill. Sauron’s strength is growing, the elves are passing westward, and the Dúnedain will walk uncloaked in the south once more. Yet to me the swan-song of the Ents resounds louder and lingers longer. Their longevity, their consideration, their care and patience is worn away by the world. Are there any among us who haven’t stood on the brink of loneliness and watched the world rush past? Imagine that moment of clarity, of melancholy, that thought of “no-one cares” stretched out into years upon years. This is the sorrow of the Ents.

Tolkien was very aware of the spread of urbanisation in his day, and its cost to both the natural world without, and the natural harmony within – our “inner Ent”, if you will. And we are still besieged – our westernised needs and wants consume with such a hunger and barely a thought. And there is no guardian, no shepherd left to stop us. Only we can stop. We can stop, and consider.

When wind is in the deadly East,
then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee;
I’ll come to thee again!  [2]

What is it you love?

Time was when I could walk and sing all day and hear no more than the echo of my own voice in the hollow hills. The woods were like the woods of Lothlorien, only thicker, stronger, younger. And the smell of the air! I used to spend a week just breathing. [3]

What would you fight to protect?

…My name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. [4]

What story are you telling to the world?

The Ents are dead. Long live the Ents.

Alan Lee: Fangorn Forest

_________________________________

[1] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[2] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[3] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.
[4] Tolkien, JRR; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; HarperCollins Publishers; London; 2001.

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