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Wandering Noldo
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Post Tokiens love of trees and forests
on: January 29, 2017 06:06
Hi all,

I hope some will be interested in discussing Tolkiens relation to nature, especially forest and trees. I've previously posted this in my realm, but we were too few...

It's probably true, as ElwingAndEarendil wrote elsewhere, that "Tolkien was very much anti-industrialization". And I think we see that especially in the fact that Saruman is (or turns) bad. But also in Mordor. Sarumans hencmen in the Shire tear down trees and build a mill etc.

But I think it's more than that: One of the things I found most fascinating the first time I read LotR, and still do, is how important forests and trees seem to be in Middleearth. There's the two trees, the old forest, Fangorn and the ents and Lothlorien.

I think it showns in several ways.

1) Trees are important as symbols. There are the two trees in Valinor, and in LotR the white tree of Gondor.
2) There' the ents - they are like really special; maybe some of the most Tolkien-specific creatures (after the Hobbits)
3) And then there are all the forests which again and again show up as very unique, very special and very well described places along the travels of Bilbo and Frodo. There's one high mountain pass (Redhorn), one gigantic set of caverns (Moria), one river (Anduin) etc etc - but several forests
- Mirkwood is almost like an independent antagonist in the Hobbit. Not a nice place with Dol Guldur, the giant spiders, Thranduils rather sinister elves and generally a dark and dreary place.
- The Old Forest. Actually one of the places that I find the most fascinating. Clearly there are ents or at least huorns
- Lorien: With the Mallorn trees and the elves lives in the trees
- Fangorn: With the Ents

4) But there are also many other passages where Tolkien takes great care to describe which trees grows in a given area they are passing through.
And there are quotes like these:

"But close under the cliff there stood, still strong and living, two tall trees, larger than any trees of holly that Frodo had ever seen or imagined. ...
Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door was made chiefly for use in their traffic with the Lords of Moria" (Before the doors of Moria)

and

"Initially it was just a feeling, but later I stumbled on this passage, when Frodo first touch a Mallorn tree in Lorien: "He felt a delight in the wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself." (Before entering Caras Galadhon)

It's such a beautiful quote, and I don't see how Tolkien could write something like that without he himself having a profound love of trees.

Please let me hear what you think. I'd be interested in other tree or forest related quotes. And any comments, pro and con, of the above...

Regards,
Wandering Noldo
He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself.
Gandolorin
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on: February 05, 2017 02:40
Hi, Wandering Noldo!

From what I have read, there can be no doubt that JRRT had a love of trees. But he also wrote much about forests, more to the point parts of forests, which he portrayed as dangerous, at the very least. The Old Forest, very much so Old Man Willow. The north of Mirkwood in The Hobbit. Treebeard's comments about parts of Fangorn Forest where the trees (Huorns?) had black hearts. Nothing in JRRT's writings is entirely good, just as nothing is entirely bad - with the possible exception of Morgoth / Melkor, at least after Arda had been given shape.

Perhaps a story which could reveal the most about JRRT's feelings about trees is "Leaf by Niggle", considered by many experts to be his most autobiographical story. I have it in a slim book called "Tree and Leaf", a 2001 paperback edition published by HarperCollins. Close behind in my opinion would be "Smith of Wootton Major", of which I have a 1990 paperback by Unwin Hyman (now a part of HarperCollins).

[Edited on 02/05/2017 by Gandolorin]
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Wandering Noldo
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on: February 05, 2017 06:23
Yes, I read "Leaf by Niggle" which is interesting and one of his early works.

It seems to me that initially, when writing The Hobbitt and the early chapters of LotÅ”, Tolkien shared the old "medieval" view of forests as dark and dangerous places. In some early versions Treebeard was an evil giant. But at some point, on the way to Rivendell, this changed and Lorien and Fangorn were to be nice places - although still percieved as dangerous by outsiders.

Tolkien did aim to explain, but the explanation never made it to his final work.

I found this in The History of Middle-Earth, vol. 7, The Treason of Isengard, chapter XXII, p. 415):
Pippin: Like the Old Forest, do you mean?
Treebeard: Aye, aye, something like, but not as bad as that. That was already a very bad region even in the days when there was all one wood from here to Lune, and we were called the East End. But something was queer (went wrong) away there: some old sorcery in the Dark Days, I expect.

Hence both for Mirkwood and The old forests we have explanations as to why they are "evil", and in the end Mirkwood at least is restored.
He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself.
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