When I’m besieged by stress or sorrow, when I’m overwhelmed by life and all its suffering, I turn to The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. Tolkien is my respite, my comfort, my solace. His characters are my old and dear friends.
I’ve read the series countless times, mostly in autumn. Perhaps it has become a bit of a fall ritual for me or perhaps autumn–my favorite season–is also the one most often full of troubles. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the books. At least twenty, perhaps closer to thirty.
Every section of the book brings me its own joys, but this read-through, the Ents are a larger-than-life, realer-than-real anchor for me. I love Tolkien’s use of language when describing both the Ents and Fangorn forest. I love the ways the Ents themselves use language–their rolling, poetic Hoom, hom, ha, baroom, ta-rundas. I love that Ents’ names tell their stories, I love how they are slow to rouse, then terribly fierce when angry. Would that more of us followed that pattern, instead of flying off the cuff in quick-tempered ire over the slightest of offenses. I love their expressive eyes, their limbs, their feet that step toe-first in great strides. I love their love for the trees. Has anyone ever loved anything as much as the Ents love their trees? I wish I could meet the Ents and spend time in their forest. I wish I could bring into our world their fierce dedication to preserving and defending their trees. I wish we each had a tenth of their poetry in our language.
Listen. We all need to listen.
Treebeard: “For Ents are more like Elves: less interested in themselves than Men are, and better at getting inside other things. And yet again Ents are more like Men, more changeable than Elves are, and quicker at taking the color of the outside, you might say. Or better than both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer.”
Treebeard: “He [Saruman] has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.”
Merry, on Ents: “Somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well, funny as they seem. They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused. If that happened, I would rather not be on the other side.”
“Quickbeam often laughed. He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stopped and splashed his feat and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees.”
Quickbeam: “And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of each was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder.”