Voices From Elsewhere

February 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm (Conferences, Writing) (, , )

It doesn’t seem like the Wheeler Centre has only been here with us in Melbourne for one year. For me, trying to remember a time before the Wheeler Centre is like trying to remember life before smart phones – you know it existed but you’re not sure how you managed without it, its mere presence a comforting assurance that you only have to reach out to connect… for assistance, for entertainment, for social interaction… Yet here we are, smart phones and all, marking The Wheeler Centre’s first birthday.

I nearly didn’t attend last night’s Gala Night of Storytelling: Voices From Elsewhere. Not to besmirch the fine keynote folks, but there wasn’t a guest that grabbed my area of interest (which leans away from the “literary”) until they announced Sonya Hartnett. You may be pleased to know I’m now offering large helpings of humble pie (dairy-free, of course) – the night was a knock-out and the international guests particularly memorable – if you’d like to form a queue, I’ll serve it up in order.

The storytelling began with Australian icon Mem Fox, who bolstered our spirits with a bittersweet tale of trying to live with courage and patience. As the applause faded and the next guest, Yannick Haenel, stepped up to the podium something magical happened. Yannick told his story in his native tongue, French. He spoke about how it is easier to be candid – to ‘say what we cannot say’ when you are on the other side of the world. In a way this gift of liberating, geographic displacement was also given to the audience as we were suffused in the rhythms and sonance of a language other than English. Part of me did not want to hear the translated story, to stay instead in the place where my heart, not my brain, did the understanding.

Translated, however, I can report that the story was about the lives of Yannick’s grandfathers during World War II – one press-ganged into the German army, the other fleeing to join the resistance; the price that both men paid for their actions in ‘a world where decisions did not exist’, and the silence that they wrapped around it in the days that came after. ‘This is the silence I am thinking about now.

The next Gala guest, John Birmingham, filled the silence a little with his humourous experiences of martial arts, gestures emphasising the violence (and the imaginary smoke bombs) before easing into the story of how being trained in aikido saved his friend’s life, and not in the way you might expect.

Abha Dawesar took us to the crowded streets and trains of India, complete with smatterings of Hindi, and through a story within a story encouraged us to fulfill our destinies by embracing fate.

Murong Xuecun (translated from Mandarin) built the mythical tale of Mr Sheng – a man physically sustained by the mere sight of food dealt an unjust life. I had great joy in watching Murong as the translation was read – he grinned and nodded at each audience reaction, delighted that the humour had surmounted the language barrier.

Sonya Hartnett reflected on trying as a child to reconcile her experience of her mother with the disconnected stories and artifacts of the woman from the time before motherhood. One such story was how, one evening in Greece, her mother responded to a fellow cinema patron with wandering hands by stabbing him in the leg with her hat pin. In trying to make sense of what it means to have a mother who’s stabbed someone, one conclusion Sonya reached was that it was a bit uncomfortable to be left alone in the dark with her.

Sadly, Dagmar Leupold’s story (translated from German) failed to impress upon me in any way. Perhaps something of it was lost in the translation. I struggled to follow the narrative and the different locations referenced, but I understand she was saying something about cute leather ankle boots and their connection with a book cover illustration of a girl ice-skating.

I was soon re-captured by the Gala as Nam Le explored the theme (‘voices from elsewhere’) through the subject of ventriloquism. Some surprising highlights included a cunnilingus joke, and how he tells some less-than-savvy Australians that Bruce Lee is his grandfather. And should they happen to point out that Bruce Lee has two e’s in his surname? ‘We were boat people… we had to leave almost everything behind, even vowels.’

The night was rounded out, and up, with a performance by Archie Roach – a story in both English and his indigenous language sung to the strum of an acoustic guitar.

The Wheeler Centre was recording the Gala – keep an eye on their website to experience the telling of these tales for yourself.

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Withholding food from bobby calves

January 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm (Diary of a Dairy Addict) (, )

Yes, another dairy post. It’s been long overdue. If anyone is interested – I finished October without any further dairy incidents. I’ve largely stuck with being dairy-free since. I was on holiday in New Zealand for a few weeks and relaxed my expectations of myself, which was just as well because at times there was no way to entirely avoid it (I’m looking at you Interislander Ferry).

I would like to take this opportunity to give a particular shout-out to Fidel’s in Wellington – not only are they the perfect place for second breakfast, but they were the only place in New Zealand to be pro-active in their catering to dietary needs. I mean, they have a flexible menu and some yummy home-baked vegan goodies like all good cafes should, but when ordering their cooked breakfast with no butter on the toast and a soy coffee the staff actually clarified that I was after a dairy-free meal, advised that the sausage in the breakfast has cheese in it, and substituted it for one that didn’t. Bravo!

Anyway, it’s now a new year and the news hitting nerves and angering animal welfare supporters is that Dairy Australia is looking to adopt the standard that:

bobby calves must “be slaughtered or fed within 30 hours from last feed.”

This is the result of study conducted by the University of Melbourne and the Animal Welfare Science Centre (funded by Dairy Australia and the government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) that ‘measured a range of blood biochemical variables in the calves, and the authors concluded that food withdrawal for up to 30 hours and transport for up to 12 hours had no detrimental effects on the metabolism of healthy calves.’

Animals Australia says that Dairy Australia is legalising the ‘withholding of liquid food from these unwanted calves for the last 30 hours of their lives’. Dairy Australia says that the clause ‘will provide assurances … where currently there is no standard in place to ensure a maximum time off feed for bobby calves.’

As I read it, if/when the clause is added to the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Land Transport – bobby calves will legally be starved 30 hours prior to their untimely demise, which could well be a better deal than they are currently getting. That is how atrocious the dairy industry is – that this apparently repulsive standard might be an improvement.

If you’d like to protest the proposed new standard (perhaps propose that a higher standard is needed?), you can do so here.

If you’d like to read Dairy Australia’s side of the story, you can do so here. Be warned, it includes rather scary phrases like ‘The Australian dairy industry works across the supply chain to ensure that calves … are not thrown or dropped or struck in an unreasonable manner’ (my emphasis).

If you know why the practice of withholding food from bobby calves is in place, please let me know.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with P!nk’s latest dig at the dairy industry (among other things):

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A Lesson in Failure

October 18, 2010 at 1:20 pm (Diary of a Dairy Addict) ()

I have failed.

I crashed my way into this dairy-free diet with possibly unwarranted zeal – adamant in my moral superiority, and trusting from my stubbornness and my previous successes in abstinence that this too wouldn’t be that hard once I got used to it. Pride, etc.

Since cocoa powder, and even Cottee’s ‘thick and rich’ chocolate topping is vegan, I assumed that soy hot chocolate would be safe, dairy-free territory. I mentally reinforced this notion with my “home-made” hot chocolates (using dairy-free Cadbury Drinking Chocolate powder and soy milk). I didn’t even think to check when ordering a hot chocolate at a cafe until a friend queried me today. I have had two store-bought soy hot chocolates this month, and I now know that at least one of them was definitely not dairy-free.

So, in spite of all my efforts and good intentions I have been unable to make it one month completely clear of dairy. I’m still going to continue with the trial. And while my failure may be an important lesson in humility, I think it’s also important to recognise that removing any ingredient from your diet is hard. It takes effort, research, constant will, and constant vigilance. Some days, like today, I don’t know how vegans manage. This trial has certainly increased my respect for lifestyle choices of that variety.

I’m curious as to how those that have chosen to eliminate one or more ingredients from their diet cope with a “failure”. Or even with fear of failure. I have found myself getting nervous in restaurants – did I ask all the right questions about the ingredients? Did they definitely hear me correctly? Will I realise if they make a mistake?

This nervousness was not helped by a recent confusing interaction at the otherwise-delightful Le Triskel. I had enquired about dairy-free options upon entering and was assured that the crepes could be made with soy milk (for a $2 surcharge). Our waitress, however, had less of an understanding of English (and I have no understanding of French), resulting in a stalemate where I desperately stared at the menu, not knowing what to say, and she wasn’t sure if I was asking for soy milk to be poured over the top of my dairy-crepe, or a soy latte. We eventually solved the problem with the help of the word ‘vegan’ printed on their menu.

Any tips? Personally, I’ll just be watching this episode of Daria on loop.

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I was promised tea!

October 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm (Diary of a Dairy Addict) (, )

There may have been some whimpering in the tea room today. A plate of leftover catering was sitting on the table – free to all staff in need of sustenance. I was most definitely in need of sustenance. And every single one of those roast beef baguettes, ham rolls, and Mediterranean vegetable pides was brimming with gooey melted cheese or laced with buttery spreads. Sigh.

Work seems to have been the most difficult location for being dairy-free, and not just because of temptations like leftover catering. The general stress (quarterly reporting!) makes me more vulnerable to cravings; yes, whimpering; and affront. On Friday I endured two entirely separate conversations with colleagues that included the handy phrase “As the son of a dairy farmer…”.

I have decided that diets can best be compared to religion – interesting when used as a point of intelligent discussion, rude when used as a way of passing judgment. Great to talk about amongst a community of like-minded people, possibly best kept quiet otherwise. (I’m not sure if these posts are hypocritical, or a reasonable exception under the soap-box clause.) In my offline life I’ve only been communicating the change to people that I dine with, because I feel like they should know why I’m ordering “the bacon sandwich with no cheese, no butter and no… no something else as well”. *

Aside from these incidents it has actually been going well. I’ve discovered that a few of my friends are lactose-intolerant, and dab hands at a rocket, spinach, pear, walnut and cranberry salad. I’ve been assured that the Oreo Cream Pie is well worth making. My daily soy hot chocolate is entirely palatable, if less rich than my old “Choc o’lait”. Porridge made with oat milk is just as delicious as when made with dairy milk. And Arnott’s Raspberry Shortcake biscuits, the closest thing we have to Jammie Dodgers, are vegan. Hurrah!

*actual dialogue from a waitress on Sunday, served with a side of scorn.

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Cheese, cheese, wherefore art thou cheese?

September 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm (Diary of a Dairy Addict) (, )

I’m having a difficult time finding decent (non)cheese. The word on the internet is all about Cheezly for that melty non-dairy goodness, but locating this UK product in Australia is proving to be a challenge.

You can buy Cheezly online from the Melbourne-based Vegan Perfection, or the Sydney-based Cruelty Free Shop, but the idea of having a cheese sit on my doorstep all day, especially in the impending warm weather, is not very appealing whether it’s shipped with a cold-pack or not.

After reading through a lot of vegan forum posts from 2007 about stores that no longer exist, I tried Belgrave Organics. While they don’t currently stock Cheezly they were very helpful and have offered to try and order some in. I’ll be calling them back in 10 days to see if that’s been successful.

Researching dairy free diets has also been more complicated than I would have liked. Coming into it as an omni and not (at this point in my life) transitioning to a vegan diet, I feel disconnected from both. While I might have most in common with the lactose-intolerant, their motivations are entirely different and they have a few lactose-free dairy-laden goodies at their disposal. Although I have more ingredient options than vegans, I have been impressed by their strong communities and wealth of recipes.

The honour roll of sites that have guided, inspired, and impressed me over the last few days are:

Lisa Dempster‘s invaluable series of posts on How to be vegan.

Miss T: Princess Vegan – especially this post, which tests out the vegan Apple, Onion & Cheddar Pizza (from a site that is a delight in its own right – how can you not love a blog with the tagline Recipes that will make you scream with unbridled pleasure?)

– Post Punk Kitchen: vegan cookies. (It’s impossible to feel gloomy about a diet without dairy looking at those pictures and recipes.)

Dairy Free Cooking. If I can get my hands on some Tofutti this weekend, I hope to be able to make the Oreo Cream Pie for morning tea at work.

I’ll also have to visit Vege2go for some take-away nom! Check out that vegan dessert list (with apologies to non-Melbournians)! Tiramisù! Chocolate Mousse! Chocolate raspberry cake! Crumble!

Not long ’til October now. Tonight I had what may be my last at-home dairy dinner, glorified in many shades of yellow…

L-R: scrambled eggs made with milk and butter, topped with parsley and cheddar cheese; King Island Dairy double brie; Tasmanian Heritage blue brie.

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Arresting Audiences – part two

September 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Identifying Your Audience – Dan Gregory (SMART and The Gruen Transfer)

Dan Gregory opened with the concept that “we’re all in marketing” – the way we present ourselves to the world, the way we engage in relationships, whether consciously or not is all an act of marketing ourselves. It’s a concept I’ve had presented to me before, at a Creative Women’s Circle event, only in that instance it was done more gently with an emphasis on talking about your work or business in a positive manner rather than a self-deprecating one because you never know who might be listening. Maybe it’s just me, but there does seem to be something repugnant about marketing when it’s divorced from honesty or fun, and the notion that relationships might be engaged out of self-interest rather than interest in the other is decidedly unappealing. Fortunately, fun is how Dan delivered the nine key messages for identifying your audience [my own emphasis in red]:

1. Accessable
– Audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented. You can’t just throw your product out into the world and expect an audience to be there. You need to know who they are, where they are, and what their interests are.
– Technology is changing ways audiences can be accessed – what used to be water-cooler conversation is now happening immediately via mobile devices.
– Dan used the branding of Nandos via a late-night tv campaign as an example, and for our entertainment included an anecdote about his business partner Kieran Flanagan bounding into a sex store asking for bondage outfits… that can fit chickens.

2. Unique
– Audiences can be identified by demography, geography and psychological behaviour.
– Identifying a unique audience allows you to speak to the “primary driver” and communicate top values.
– UK film recognises four audiences: Mainstream; Mainstream Plus; Afficianados; and Avids.

3. Defined
– Identifying an audience gets complicated by multiples.
– Need to think of distributors as well as consumers.
– Audience can be defined by who you DON’T want to talk to – who are you prepared to offend?

4. Identifiable
Identity beats quality.
Your brand needs to be ownable and identifiable. This identity needs to resonate with and be relevant to the audience, or they’ll tune out.
– e.g. Nike’s marketing campaign is not selling a shoe, it’s selling a lifestyle…

Remind you of someone?

5. Emotional
All decisions are emotionally driven.
– “Psychos are killing demos” – the commonality of consumer behaviour overrides demographic differences.

“People go to films to escape – if it doesn’t provide that you miss a key emotional driver.”
– Dan Gregory, via @GaryPHayes

6. Numerous
– Don’t confuse numbers with dollars. A small audience with passion can generate as much revenue as a large audience that isn’t engaged.
Target and engage your audience – get a dialogue going.
– e.g. For one campaign the tag “Choose your words carefully – you’ll only have four.” was chosen (based on the fact that at the peak of Mt Everest, the altitude prevents you from saying more than four words per breath). This was used in social media to open up a dialogue with the audience about what their four words would be.

7. Connected
– People don’t always know what they want until you give it to them.
– e.g. Audience had asked for a natural-tasting energy drink but when they got it (Mother) they didn’t like it.
– With audiences being more connected online, your product/campaign flies or dies faster.

8. Engaged
– Need to frame the old in a new way, that the audience hasn’t seen before.

9. Sold
– You need to be comfortable with selling and marketing.
– Need to develop an individual strategy.
Build an audience, don’t find it.
– Audience perception is greater than truth.
– To sell Australian film, make it congruent with the Australian “brand”. New Zealand has done this successfully with their film and tourism (100% Pure New Zealand).

Any insistence upon an Aussie brand irks me. As a genre geek with an affinity for fantasy I’d like to see, and would love to be a part of, films of that ilk being grown on Australian soil. Pipe dream? Maybe. Yet even Dan emphasised the importance of identity, and engaging with a target audience no matter its size. Surely the financial obstacles traditionally associated with fantasy films can be pruned, and a low budget version can find a home here? Sadly, the proliferation of “Aussie” flicks is a self-perpetuating cycle: funding bodies offer support for “Australian” themes and content, “Australian” films are made and promoted, so the audience expects “Australian” films, emerging film-makers think they have to make “Australian” films, so they submit for funding for “Australian” films…

Okay, so enough abuse of quotation marks. Maybe Aussie branding is the smart way to market a film – especially to an overseas audience. Like a franchise, it offers the power of a recognised brand and an established market presence. You may even find financial backing more easily. All you have to do in return is adhere to the product expectations. For me, this is too great a price – by tacking all our industry onto one identity we’re selling ourselves short. Let’s not be typecast. Let’s dream big.

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Diary of A Dairy Addict

September 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm (Diary of a Dairy Addict) ()

I had the most traumatic shopping trip of my life yesterday.

You see, a few weeks ago I discovered my belief that dairy cows naturally produce milk all the time, because that’s what dairy cows are, is entirely naïve and incorrect. (And I’ve lived next to a dairy farm!) My discovery of how the dairy industry really works has upset me to the point that I’m contemplating giving up dairy. And I love dairy. I love dairy with a wild joy and reckless abandon.*  I even own a gorgeous brooch that proclaims ‘Just add cheese’. So I’m easing myself into this “dairy free” concept with a 31 day trial – for the month of October, I’m attempting to eat a diet entirely devoid of dairy. If I find this to be reasonably anguish-free, then I intend to evolve into a dairy-avoidant lifestyle.**  If not, well, I guess my conscience and my taste-buds will have to come to some sort of an agreement.

Thus, with heavy-heart, I began the last dairy-laden shopping trip. I nearly cried on the way to the supermarket when I realised I might never eat peppermint ice-cream again. I actually cried when I found myself overwhelmed with choice in the not-milk aisle – soy! Oat! Rice! Tricksy lactose-free, which is not dairy free! Regular! Lite! Extra creamy! Extra vitamins! Extra fibre! Extra calcium! (I eventually settled on the Vitasoy regular soy milk and the Vitasoy oat milk. I have since been (lovingly) chided for not selecting Bonsoy.)

I returned home with some old favourites to bid farewell to:

…and some new additions to get used to:

I am, quite frankly, rather scared. Especially by the soycheese. Over the next few dairy days I’ll be doing some serious googling to find out where and what the best dairy-free cheeses are. With those, some sorbet, some dark chocolate, and some Oreos… it just might be easy.

Any tips and recommendations greatly appreciated.

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*Except for milk. Flavoured or used in other things, fine, but the taste of pure milk itself has never appealed to me.
**I might be naïve about some things, but not about the chances of me occasionally crumbling at the sight of camembert, and if someone unknowingly gifts me dairy-laden baked goods I’m not going to throw them back in their face or in the bin.

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Arresting Audiences – part one

September 25, 2010 at 11:24 am (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Who Do You Think They Are? – Mark McCrindle (McCrindle Research)

Mark eased the audience into the world of statistics by comparing them to a book of 3D images – at a cursory glance they are just patterns and colours, but looking deeply reveals meaning and context. The sales pitch quickly derailed when he then examined a helpful little book on How to Survive the ’80s and started talking about the “timeless realities of us as humans”, temporals, and DNA. I half expected Doctor Who to make an appearance just to chip in with “wibbley wobbley timey wimey”.

Eventually, we got around to the 7 trends in audiences – of which I got 6. (And I don’t feel bad, because @FilmVictoria missed #3 as well. Or maybe it disappeared into a temporal wormhole.)

1. Booming

I can’t say I keep an eye on birth rates myself, so it was a surprise to learn that last year there were over 300,000 births – which is 30,000 more than the peak rate in the post-World War II baby boom. It seems Australians have been, well, productive since 2001, when we hit our lowest birth rate. Of course, we’re also increasing our population – and our multi-culturalism – through immigration.

Some film and television viewing stats about this booming audience that may piqué your curiosity:
– 85% say that they watch Australian content (film + tv)
– 1/3 of this group couldn’t actually name an Australian film that they have watched
– 1/5 of Australians do not watch Australian film
This last figure did not surprise me. I had recently hypothesised to a friend that Australian films can be categorised into three main types: larrikin, intense family drama, and horror. Regardless of debates over the quality of, or even the quantity at which we produce films – without having a greater variety there’s always going to be a fair proportion of the audience who is just not interested. This debate really came to the fore during the fourth panel Investigating Genre.

2. Changing
– Households are smaller (with single households, and couples without kids, being the fastest growing type of household).
– Age demographics are shifting: by 2020 there will be as many 15-19 year olds, as there are 60-64 year olds.
From this point on, an interesting rift developed in the summit audience. While Mark and audience members were telling anecdotes about “kids these days” and laughing at the generational differences, Tweeters (#fvaudience) started getting annoyed by the stereotyping, and the patronisation of “dot com kids” – the very audience that the industry is trying to “arrest”. I think @GaryPHayes highlighted the issue best when he tweeted:

‘seeing other generations as very different not a good stance, look for behavioral, psychographic common ground’.

3. ?

4. New lifestages
child > adult
child > teenager > adult
child > tween > teen > kippers > adults

While I contained my distaste at the term “kippers” (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings, approx. 20-24 year olds), Mark emphasised the time poor, sophisticated, and demanding nature of today’s audience (a “narrow bandwidth of interest”), and the Twitter debate continued.

5. Influences
Summit attendees were surveyed prior to Arresting Audiences. Turns out that within the industry itself – for every person who thinks the industry is healthy, three say it needs work.
So, according to these results, the industry itself thinks it needs innovation and change. And, according to McCrindle Research, the audience wants user-created content, social validation, and the fulfilment of short-term needs. Apparently the solution is not necessarily changing what you say, but how you say it. Because this is a…

6. Post-structural
…world full of young post-structural people with the attention span of- oh look! Something shiny!

In seriousness, Mark did demonstrate the importance of products evolving to meet changing audience needs with examples such as the recent questioning of the relevance of printing the Oxford English Dictionary, given its success in online publication.

7. Post-rational
Mark identified four types of post-rational relationships:
By engaging with your audience in both a cognitive and emotive manner, they will fully embrace your product. Or, as 10 Things I Hate About You puts it:

Bianca: There’s a difference between like and love. I mean I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.
Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
Bianca: That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.

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Arresting Audiences – the beginning

September 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm (Conferences) ()

I was lucky enough to secure a ticket to Film Victoria’s sold out summit Arresting Audiences, which kicked off its programme today with a bang and is set to wrap up the investigation tomorrow. If you are unable to attend but interested to hear what’s happening, you can follow the twitter hashtag #fvaudience, and shiver in anticipation for Film Victoria to launch their online portal of tools and resources.

The tone of a conference is set the moment you are handed your inaugral showbag, and Arresting Audiences did not disappoint. As well as items both practical and thoughtful (pen, notepad, and a Film Vic KeepCup), I was delighted at the crime-investigation themed folio of information:

The genre glee continued as the summit opened with Law & Order spoof opening credits (bom-bom), before getting down to some serious statistics and stimulation. For me, today inspired a lot of thoughts about genre, especially in an Australian context, that I really want to share and hear others’ thoughts on. I’m so keen about it that I started this gorram blog! (Well, blog-ish thing. Anyone who knows me knows I am a hopeless blogger.) Of course, I’ll also be sharing my general notes of each session, which are smattered with my subjective reactions and ruminations. For now, however, I’ve spent so much time setting up this space that the details will have to wait in favour of sleep.

Were you at the summit? Any initial thoughts? Unexpected reactions? Favourite sessions?

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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

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[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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