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Trees in the Shire
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Curious
Half-elven


May 2, 2:04pm

Post #1 of 35 (248956 views)
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Trees in the Shire Can't Post

Quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring:

"A Long-Expected Party

"...There was a specially large pavilion, so big that the tree that grew in the field was right inside it, and stood proudly near one end, at the head of the chief table. Lanterns were hung on all its branches. ...

"The Shadow of the Past

"...'All right,' said Sam, laughing with the rest. 'But what about these tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.'

“'Who’s they?'

“'My cousin Hal for one. He works for Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up to the North farthing for the hunting. He saw one.'

"'Says he did, maybe. Your Hal’s always saying that he’s seen things; and maybe he sees things that ain’t there.'

“'But this one was as big as an elm tree, and walking — walking seven yards to a stride, if it was an inch.'

“'Then I bet it wasn’t an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as not.'

“'But this one was walking, I tell you; and there ain’t no elm trees on the North Moors.'

“'Then Hall can’t have seen one,” said Ted. There was some laughing and clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point.' ...

"Three Is Company

"After some time they crossed the Water, west of Hobbiton, by a narrow plank-bridge. The stream was there no more than a winding black ribbon, bordered with leaning alder-trees. …

"Thin-clad birches, swaying in a light wind above their heads, made a black net against the pale sky. ...

"After a while they plunged into a deeply cloven track between tall trees that rustled their dry leaves in the night. …

"Just over the top of the hill the came on the patch of fir-wood. Leaving the road they went into the deep resin-scented darkness of the trees, and gathered dead sticks and cones to make a fire. Soon they had a merry crackle of flame at the foot of a large fir-tree and they sat round it for a while, until they began to nod. Then, each in an angle of the great tree’s roots, they curled up in their cloaks and blankets, and were soon fast asleep. …

"Frodo woke up first, and found that a tree-root had made a hole in his back, and that his neck was stiff. …

"Away eastward the sun was rising red out of the mists that lay thick on the world. Touched with gold and red the autumn trees seemed to be sailing rootless in a shadowy sea. …

"In front of them they saw the lower lands dotted with small clumps of threes that melted away in the distance to a brown woodland haze. …

"Frodo hesitated for a second: curiosity or some other feeling was struggling with his desire to hide. The sound of hoofs drew eager. Just in time he threw himself down in a patch of long grass behind a tree that overshadowed the road. Then he lifted his head and peered cautiously above one of the great roots. …

"… a lane branched right, winding through a wood of ancient oak-trees on its way to Woodall. 'That is the way for us,' said Frodo.

"Not far from the road-meeting they came on the huge hulk of a tree; it was alive and had leaves on the small branches that it had put out round the broken stumps of its long fallen limbs; but it was hollow, and could be entered by a great crack on the side away from the road. The hobbits crept inside, and sat there upon a floor of old leaves and decayed wood. They rested and had a light meal, talking quietly and listening from time to time.

"Twilight was about them as they crept back to the lane. The West wind was sighing in the branches. Leaves were whispering. …

"There was a sound of hoofs in the lane, some way behind, but coming slow and clear down the wind. Quickly and quietly they slipped off the path and rand into the deeper shade under the oak-trees. …

“'Yes, it is Elves,' said Frodo. 'One can meet them sometimes in the Woody End. They don’t live in the Shire, but they wander into it in Spring and Autumn'...

"The woods on either side became denser; the trees were now younger and thicker; and as the lane went lower, running down into a fold of the hills, there were many deep brakes of hazel on the rising slopes at either hand. At last the Elves turned aside from the path. A green ride lay almost unseen through the thickets on the right; and this they followed as it wound away back up the wooded slopes on the top of a shoulder of the hills that stood out into the lower land of the river-valley. Suddenly they came out of the shadow of the trees and before them lay a wide space of grass, grey under the night. On three sides the woods pressed upon it; but eastward the ground fell steeply and the tops of the dark trees, growing at the bottom of the slope, were below their feet. Beyond, the low lands lay dim and flat under the stars. Nearer at hand a few lights twinkled in the village of Woodhall. …

"At the south end of the greensward there was an opening. There the green floor ran on into the wood, and formed a wide space like a hall, roofed by the boughs of trees. Their great trunks rand like pillars down each side....

"A Short Cut to Mushrooms

"In the morning Frodo woke refreshed. He was lying in a bower made by a living tree with branches laced and drooping to the ground; his bed was of fern and grass, deep and soft and strangely fragrant. …

"The hobbits scrambled down a steep green bank and plunged into the thick trees below. …

"He soon found that the thicket was closer and more tangled than it had appeared. There were no paths in the undergrowth, and they did not get on very fast. When they had struggled to the bottom of the bank, they found a stream running down from the hills behind. Most inconveniently it cut across the line they had chosen. They could not jump over it, nor indeed get across it at all without getting wet, scratched, and muddy. They halted, wondering what to do. 'First check! Said Pippen, smiling grimly.'…

"They all looked, and on the edge high above them they saw against the sky a horse standing. Beside it stooped a black figure.

"They at once gave up any idea of going back. …

"Going on was not altogether easy. They had packs to carry, and the bushed and brambles were reluctant to let them through. …

"They waded the stream, and hurried over a wide open space, rush grown and treeless, on the further side. Beyond that there came again to a belt of trees: tall oaks, for the most part, with here and there an elm tree or an ash. The ground was fairly level, and there was little undergrowth, but the trees were too close for them to see far ahead. …

"After a half an hour Pippin said: 'I hope we have not turned too much towards the south, and are not walking longwise through this wood! It is not a very broad belt — I should have said no more than a mile at the widest — and we aught to have been through it by now.'

"It is no good our starting to go in zig-zags,” said Frodo. 'That won’t mention matters. Let us keep on as we are going! I am not sure that I want to come out into the open yet.'

"Before long the wood came to a sudden end. Wide grass-lands stretched before them. They now saw that they had, in fact, turned too much to the south. Away over the flats they could glimpse the low hill of Bucklebury across the River, but it was now to their left. Creeping cautiously out from the edge of the trees, they set off across the open as quickly as they could. …

“'This is Bamfurlong, old Farmer Maggot’s land.'..."

Quotes from The Return of the King

"The Grey Havens

"The trees were the worst loss and damage, for at Sharkey’s bidding they had been cut down recklessly far and wide over the Shire; and Sam grieved over this more than anything else. …

"So Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed, and he put a grain of the precious dust in the soil at the root of each. He went up and down the Shire in this labor; but if he paid special attention to Hobbiton and Bywater no one blamed him. … The little silver nut he planted in the Party Field where the tree had once been: and he wondered what would come of it. …

"Spring surpassed his wildest hopes. His trees began to sprout and grow, as if time was in a hurry and wished to make one year do for twenty. In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April. It was indeed a mallorn, and it was the wonder of the neighborhood."

Questions:

1. Do you have any general comments or reactions after reading all those quotes about trees in the Shire?

2. Knowing that ents and huorns and other trees that seem mobile exist in Middle Earth -- with some as close as the Old Forest -- do you think the trees in the Shire have any awareness? Do you think Sam's cousin Hal might have seen an ent?

3. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the trees in the Shire are at least as aware and mobile as the trees in the Old Forest. Does that change your reading of those quotes? What actions do the trees in the Shire take, and with what purpose, if they are awake?

4. Did the tree root that made a hole in Frodo's back wake him up on purpose after cradling the hobbits during their sleep? Was it aware of a danger that Frodo didn't know about?

5. Did the trees deliberately hide the hobbits from the Nazgul?

6. It's convenient that the hobbits find a hollow -- but still living -- tree they can hide inside while eating lunch. Is it possible that the trees arranged for that?

7. Is there any significance to the "trees whispering"? Are they talking to each other? Are they trying to talk to the hobbits? Or is it just the wind in the leaves and nothing more?

8. Above the village of Woodhall is a literal wood hall made of living trees where the Elves rest and eat. Do you think any hobbits know about the Elves' wood hall? If not, why not? Does that hall even exist when the Elves are not present? Or is there some kind of magical protection from discovery? Is it possible that the village of Woodhall is named after the Elves' wood hall by some hobbit long ago who met with the Elves?

9. Was Frodo's bower made by a living tree with a bed of fern and grass made by the Elves, by the tree, or both? Do the Elves talk to the trees? Can they make requests? Or are they more like human gardeners who have guided the design of the trees over the years so they have an outdoor camp in the Shire with a hall and comfortable beds? Do you have any other potential explanation? Are the Elves just good Boy Scouts?

10. The trees seem accommodating as long as the hobbits stick close to roads and paths or are guided by the Elves. But when Frodo decides to take a short-cut across country, suddenly sticking to a direction becomes difficult, and indeed the hobbits end up walking several miles south instead of east.

Are the trees guiding them south, the way the trees in the Old Forest guide the hobbits to Old Man Willow? If so, why? Do the trees know Farmer Maggot? Did they guide the hobbits to him? Is it good or bad that the hobbits end up walking a different direction that takes them far from their intended path? What are the pros and cons of taking a longer route than intended?

Or is the hobbits' detour just the result of trying to walk straight through rough country where no path exists?

11. Tolkien names elms, alders, birches, firs, oaks, hazels, ash, and mallorn. Can you pictures those trees? Why is Tolkien so specific?

12. Why did Saruman / Sharkey order the trees in the Shire destroyed? There's no indication that he used all the wood. Was it just spite? Or did he consider these trees his enemies and a threat to his dominion over the Shire?

13. Why didn't the hobbits, over hundreds of years, cut down more trees? Why did they leave a large chunk of the Shire as a wild forest? They didn't have such a great relationship with the Old Forest. Why did they have a different relationship with Woody End?

14. Did the hobbits ever cut down living trees for wood? During Saruman / Sharkey's brief reign, many Hobbit-holes were destroyed and replaced with wooden shacks. Did wooden shacks exist before Saruman came to the Shire?

Was it possible that the hobbits just harvested dead trees for their limited needs? Might they have some kind of unspoken truce or even alliance with the trees in the Shire that they don't have with the hostile Old Forest? Or are the trees just trees and not at all "awake" like the trees in the Old Forest?

15. Tolkien explicitly shows us mobile and awake trees in the Old Forest and Fangorn Forest. But he never shows us mobile and awake trees in the Shire, at least not without ambiguity. Why not? Is it because the Shire doesn't have such trees? Is it because the Shire is more like the real world -- in the late 19th century -- than the rest of Middle Earth? Is it because Tolkien wanted to suggest that trees are awake in the real world?

16. In many ways Tolkien was considered a reactionary, but his love of trees and natural environments and dislike for industry and wanton destruction of nature gave him a connection with the radical youth and environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s. But is Tolkien's love of trees typical of any British people before the 20th century? Or is it an example of early 20th century disillusionment with industry and nostalgia for forests that were eagerly destroyed for fuel, ships, and other uses in earlier eras?

After all, the United Kingdom is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, and the country only started to expand forests in the 20th century. Someone must have cut down all those trees.

In short, is Tolkien's love of trees and natural environments really reactionary at all? Or is he, perhaps unwittingly, just as radical about trees and nature as the youth of the 1960s who embraced his books?

Thanks, and sorry I was late!


(This post was edited by Curious on May 2, 2:06pm)


Roverandom
Bree


May 2, 4:02pm

Post #2 of 35 (248740 views)
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I Speak for the Trees... [In reply to] Can't Post

...or to quote that great song-and-dance man, Clint Eastwood, "I talk to the trees, but they don't listen to me."

Excellent compilation of tree-spotting! Is that a thing? Should be.Unimpressed To answer your questions,

1 & 11. This is the sort of stuff that makes reading TH and LotR really fun. The author obviously has some first-class, and most likely first-hand, knowledge of trees (as well as shrubs, grasses, flowers, mosses, etc., etc.). Adding all this detail is world building at its finest, making each location seem full and realized. We're on topic with the Shire here, but he'll do very well with all of the other biomes of Middle-Earth later in the story!

2-6 & 15. Even at first reading, the introduction of ents immediately brought me back to the first chapter, and I was sure that Hal had spotted an ent-wife. Treebeard implied as much when me mentions that the Shire sounded like a place where they would get to work and order to their satisfaction. Going back to last week's discussion on the Land and the People, I imagine hobbits and ent-wives would get along quite well. Having said that, I don't believe I ever considered that the trees themselves were sentinent within the Shire.

7. Trees whispering as the wind passes through their branches seems like personification. I never thought to take it as more.

8-10. I love the idea of Woodhall as being an elvish-inspired place-name: one of those things that every hobbit knows but doesn't know why they know. The elves absolutely talk to the trees. Treebeard himself states as much, and who are we to doubt?

12-14. Saruman is the anti-Gandalf. The latter is a Steward, and the former thinks only in terms of "how does this help ME?". In general, I think the trees and how they are viewed/treated by people(s) are a way for us to view the good an evil in those people. Orcs cut down trees for no reason = bad. Hobbits, with the obvious exception of Ted Sandyman, understand that a living tree is just as important as firewood = good.

16. We try to have a good relationship with nature here in the American Colonies, too, at least those of us who grew up in the environmentally conscioius 60s and 70s!
Wink

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the threshold of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


Curious
Half-elven


May 2, 7:56pm

Post #3 of 35 (248494 views)
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When I compiled all the references to trees in the Shire, I was surprised at the length of the quotes. [In reply to] Can't Post

I had to work to keep it as short as it is in my post.

I agree that Tolkien's specificity about flora is part of what makes his world building special. I actually think he spends more time describing trees and other flora than he does describing characters. After all, he never does tell us the color of Legolas's hair.

In his illustrations, too, Tolkien seems more comfortable drawing landscapes than characters. I wonder if that affected his prose descriptions.

But the degree of specificity Tolkien uses really does give us a sense of place. And the flora changes appropriately as the characters through different terrains and climates.

I also love Tolkien's description of the evil and warped plants in Morgul Valley, which unlike Mordor is not a desert. It's much creepier than a desert.

Surely Bilbo and Frodo are not the only hobbits to ever meet with the elves. So I can see someone long ago founding Woodhall near the elves' wood hall, and making sure no hobbits disturbed the elven camp in the woods above the town. In return, perhaps the elves blessed their harvests.

In Letter 241 Tolkien expresses his sense of outrage at the treatment of a huge poplar visible through his window. His foolish neighbor was about to have it felled. Tolkien loved the tree and was anxious about it.

He spoke of the tree as if it was a friend, and I really think Tolkien thought of trees as his friends. And if the trees of the Shire have any sentience at all, and have been protecting the hobbits all these years, that's all the more reason to mourn their destruction.

But it's true that Tolkien never actually says the trees of the Shire are awake. It's only implied when you realize that they are awake pretty much everywhere else -- awake and malevolent in the Old Forest and much of Mirkwood; awake and benevolent in Rivendell and Lothorien; awake and angry at orcs in Fangorn Forest.

I think the English may appreciate trees even more than Americans, because they have so few of them. 33.2% of the U.S. is forested. 13% of the U.K is forested, and that's more than double what it was in the early 20th century.

Much of that U.K. forest is in Scotland or the far north of England, too, and not near Oxford, where Tolkien lived. There are patches of woods near Oxford, but none of them are extensive by American or even Scottish standards.


(This post was edited by Curious on May 2, 8:01pm)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 2, 9:03pm

Post #4 of 35 (248404 views)
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"Thin-clad birches, swaying in a light wind above their heads, made a black net against the pale sky." [In reply to] Can't Post

This is why I read certain passages of LOTR over and over and over and over . . .

(Just the beauty of the language, and of the scenes.)



Silvered-glass
Lorien

May 2, 9:56pm

Post #5 of 35 (248352 views)
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Trees [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
2. Knowing that ents and huorns and other trees that seem mobile exist in Middle Earth -- with some as close as the Old Forest -- do you think the trees in the Shire have any awareness? Do you think Sam's cousin Hal might have seen an ent?


I think in the real world all trees have awareness of some sort.

I think Hal probably did see an Ent or else a person who had drunk too much Ent-draught and was partially turned into an Ent. (If giant-draught can turn someone into a giant, then why wouldn't Ent-draught turn someone into an Ent? Merry and Pippin grew taller from drinking Ent-draught, though no plant qualities were reported in the text. Long term effects are unknown though. The change in Merry and Pippin may have paused or their condition may be progressive...)


In Reply To
3. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the trees in the Shire are at least as aware and mobile as the trees in the Old Forest. Does that change your reading of those quotes? What actions do the trees in the Shire take, and with what purpose, if they are awake?


I think the quotes don't really have the trees doing anything much except perhaps whispering.


In Reply To
4. Did the tree root that made a hole in Frodo's back wake him up on purpose after cradling the hobbits during their sleep? Was it aware of a danger that Frodo didn't know about?


I think Tolkien was probably just being descriptive about problems with sleeping in a forest. That way the Elves' superior camping location seems genuinely special and not just a product of the author being ignorant about forest floors.


In Reply To
5. Did the trees deliberately hide the hobbits from the Nazgul?


Hobbits are well known for their excellent innate stealth abilities.


In Reply To
6. It's convenient that the hobbits find a hollow -- but still living -- tree they can hide inside while eating lunch. Is it possible that the trees arranged for that?


I think all mature Ents are hollow, which is why they are able to trumpet loudly, but a proper Ent wouldn't have leaves and decaying wood inside its core, unless it was an Ent going end-stage treeish, and even then probably not. Ents are supposed to have unlimited lifespan, and decaying wood doesn't go well with that, unless the wooden core decaying is how Ents finally die. I think the hollow tree that the hobbits find is likely just a normal tree.

I think Old Man Willow is likely a proper Ent, by the way, even if he isn't as active as Treebeard.


In Reply To
7. Is there any significance to the "trees whispering"? Are they talking to each other? Are they trying to talk to the hobbits? Or is it just the wind in the leaves and nothing more?


I've never heard of a hobbit that could understand the whispering of trees. If the whispering has any plot significance at all, I'd connect it to how Treebeard is somehow able to get news from afar. The whispering trees may have alerted Old Man Willow.


In Reply To
8. Above the village of Woodhall is a literal wood hall made of living trees where the Elves rest and eat. Do you think any hobbits know about the Elves' wood hall? If not, why not? Does that hall even exist when the Elves are not present? Or is there some kind of magical protection from discovery? Is it possible that the village of Woodhall is named after the Elves' wood hall by some hobbit long ago who met with the Elves?


The Book of Lost Tales calls such circles korin, and they are deliberately made by Elves. I agree that Woodhall was quite possibly named after the nearby wood hall.


In Reply To
9. Was Frodo's bower made by a living tree with a bed of fern and grass made by the Elves, by the tree, or both? Do the Elves talk to the trees? Can they make requests? Or are they more like human gardeners who have guided the design of the trees over the years so they have an outdoor camp in the Shire with a hall and comfortable beds? Do you have any other potential explanation? Are the Elves just good Boy Scouts?


I'd say it was made by Elves using unspecified magic that made the plants grow the way the Elves wanted.


In Reply To
10. The trees seem accommodating as long as the hobbits stick close to roads and paths or are guided by the Elves. But when Frodo decides to take a short-cut across country, suddenly sticking to a direction becomes difficult, and indeed the hobbits end up walking several miles south instead of east.

Are the trees guiding them south, the way the trees in the Old Forest guide the hobbits to Old Man Willow? If so, why? Do the trees know Farmer Maggot? Did they guide the hobbits to him? Is it good or bad that the hobbits end up walking a different direction that takes them far from their intended path? What are the pros and cons of taking a longer route than intended?

Or is the hobbits' detour just the result of trying to walk straight through rough country where no path exists?


I think it's possible that Old Man Willow's power has been quietly growing to extend on the other side of Brandywine.


In Reply To
11. Tolkien names elms, alders, birches, firs, oaks, hazels, ash, and mallorn. Can you pictures those trees? Why is Tolkien so specific?


I'm not that familiar with all of those species, but Tolkien being specific is a big part of what makes his landscape descriptions so good. It gives a sense of place.


In Reply To
12. Why did Saruman / Sharkey order the trees in the Shire destroyed? There's no indication that he used all the wood. Was it just spite? Or did he consider these trees his enemies and a threat to his dominion over the Shire?


I think it was probably just spite... against the Ents of Fangorn.


In Reply To
13. Why didn't the hobbits, over hundreds of years, cut down more trees? Why did they leave a large chunk of the Shire as a wild forest? They didn't have such a great relationship with the Old Forest. Why did they have a different relationship with Woody End?


My theory is that the hobbits imported Dwarf-mined coal from the Blue Mountains.

When you think about it, it's really strange how the Shire has plenty of hobbits, plenty of trees, and a general mindset that sees conservation of fuel as unnecessary and tyrannical. This can all be made to fit with the assumption that cheap fuel is brought in from outside the Shire borders, but Lotho wanted to go all domestic.


In Reply To
14. Did the hobbits ever cut down living trees for wood? During Saruman / Sharkey's brief reign, many Hobbit-holes were destroyed and replaced with wooden shacks. Did wooden shacks exist before Saruman came to the Shire?

Was it possible that the hobbits just harvested dead trees for their limited needs? Might they have some kind of unspoken truce or even alliance with the trees in the Shire that they don't have with the hostile Old Forest? Or are the trees just trees and not at all "awake" like the trees in the Old Forest?


When Sam sees Ted Sandyman fell trees in the Mirror of Galadriel, Sam gets angry because Ted is felling the wrong trees, ones that provide pleasant shade, not simply because someone is felling trees. This demonstrates that hobbits see felling trees as normal but care about their surroundings.

The Wood Elves in The Hobbit fell trees too. Lumber is their main export.


In Reply To
15. Tolkien explicitly shows us mobile and awake trees in the Old Forest and Fangorn Forest. But he never shows us mobile and awake trees in the Shire, at least not without ambiguity. Why not? Is it because the Shire doesn't have such trees? Is it because the Shire is more like the real world -- in the late 19th century -- than the rest of Middle Earth? Is it because Tolkien wanted to suggest that trees are awake in the real world?


Most of Middle-earth doesn't have mobile trees, at least openly. Fangorn is a very special place.


Curious
Half-elven


May 2, 10:29pm

Post #6 of 35 (248317 views)
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It's like a short poem. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thin-clad birches,

swaying in a light wind above their heads,

made a black net against the pale sky.


Curious
Half-elven


May 2, 10:37pm

Post #7 of 35 (248309 views)
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I'm not so sure the trees of Woody End aren't mobile. I think it's ambiguous. [In reply to] Can't Post

But perhaps Woody End, being a periodic habitat of Elves, is different from the rest of the Shire.

I do think you make a great point about Sam's vision of felled trees. You are right that he's not outraged about felling trees, but about felling the wrong trees. Here's the quote from The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel":

"'Hi!' cried Sam in an outraged voice. 'There's that Ted Sandyman a-cutting down trees as he shouldn't. They didn't ought to be felled: it's that avenue beyond the Mill that shades the road to Bywater. I wish I could get at Ted, and I'd fell him!'"


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 2, 10:45pm

Post #8 of 35 (248296 views)
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Well, yes, I hadn't thought of that. [In reply to] Can't Post

Very Haiku-ish.



noWizardme
Half-elven


May 3, 11:06am

Post #9 of 35 (247377 views)
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Someone must have cut down all those trees. [In reply to] Can't Post

Many thanks for starting this thread, Curious. The chapters you are quoting from have become some of my favourite since I settled in an Oxfordshire village about 30 years ago. Of course I like these chapters! That is because they contain a loving, carefully-observed descriptinon of something very like my beloved local scenery, in beautifully sonorous prose. As your grand collection of quotes shows.

But, as you ask, who cut down all the trees (near me, with some extrapolations for the Shire)?

In Tolkien's day people used to imagine the primaeval Wildwood as being all dense, closed canopy a squirrel could go from tree to tree... . Since then further studies means we think that Neolithic peoepl arriving in what's now Oxfordshire would be finding more of a mosaic of mature woods and natural clearings. So some clear felling was done, presumably.

But thse neolithic folks also introducd coppicing: a cut-and-come-again system that means you can repeatedly harvest wood on a 5-30 year cycle. Genius because not only does it yeild far more wood than growing a full size standard tree and felling it; it also yields wood of much more useful size and shape for everyday needs. It's easily managed with hand tools. I do it with a pruning saw, a bush saw and a hatchet -- I'm not a lumberjack and I'm OK (with that. Also the wood is easy to carry off, although there is a long tradition of itenerant woodworkers setting up camp near the wood and working it there with simple machine tools - bodging. I imagine the quality of the work was varied, because to bodge something can mean to make a mess of it. But on the other hand, a body to promote green woodworking has adopted the name - organising The Bodgers Gazette, and the (wonderfully titled) Bodgers' Ball.

Because of this, a lot of copses, coppices and small woods in England are still where they have been for hundreds of years. And many are probably remains of the old Wildwood. If you can prove your wood has been a wood since 1600, it can be registered as Ancient Woodland, and recieve some legal protection. Try and fell it and we ...er... call the copse!

Ancient Woodland is a farly rare classification - there would have been more land eligible had the system existed at the time of Tolkien's birth. Unsure

Ancient Woodland won't necsarrily contain trees that look like they are from from 1600 or earlier. If the wood has been continually coppiced you might see big ''stools' with a lot of young trunks, but no huge trees (whcih a visitor might be expecting, having been told the wood's age). A conseuence of this was that Europeans arriving in North America's woods were flabgergasted at the collossal old-growth trees they could see; unlike anything at home. (IIRC disputes over felling rights for the choice ones was one source of friction between American colonists and the British Crown. The Crown wanted the big trees for the demand of ever more, ever bigger ship masts for the Royal Navy. Enacting that monopoly was one thing; enforcing it an ocean away among an un-coperative poulace quite another).

Massive trees, including Ancient Trees are more likely to be on parkland, farmland, country estates, or what is confusingly called 'forest' but isn't the dense wildwood you might imagine. A history of the New Forest (in Hampshire) explains how we got this kind of Forest:

Quote

In 1079 William the Conqueror took ownership of the area as his own hunting forest. He enforced a forest law, preventing local communities from using the forest to graze their livestock, hunt and forage for food or even build fences, as these activities would interfere with William’s hunting pursuits.
After the death of William, and his successor Rufus, the rights of the common people were eventually restored in the 1217 Charter of the Forest. A special Verderers' Court was set up to enforce the laws of this Charter and protect these rights.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/...ry-of-the-new-forest


(Since then the New Forest has developed a complex system of shared ownership and use, and a community that has and will see off most kinds of messing with it.)

A lot of English Woodland is a living palimpsest of many things. For example Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire (next to Oxford City and a very likely place for Tolkien to have walked):


Quote
The wooded parts of the Wytham Estate comprise ancient semi-natural woodland (dating to the last Ice Age), secondary woodland (dating to the seventeenth century), and modern plantations (1950s and 60s). The fourth key habitat is the limestone grassland found at the top of the hill. Other smaller habitats include a valley-side mire and a series of ponds.
The site is exceptionally rich in flora and fauna, with over 500 species of plants, a wealth of woodland habitats, and 800 species of butterflies and moths. Wytham Woods are often quoted as being one of the most researched pieces of woodland in the world. Covering 1000 acres, they are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
https://www.wythamwoods.ox.ac.uk/about


Tolkien's lifetime was during a period that was not good for English trees. Changing land use resulted in a lot of ancient woodland (and hedgerow) being dug up. There was a time of planting dense tree farms of conifers all in neat rows for mechanical harvesting. There was (and still is) Dutch Elm disease. Woods did not have the legal protections, supportive conservation organisations and community support they often do enjoy now. Just maybe, Tolkien was one of the inspirations for that change.

So we start from a low baseline and have as dieback and climate change to worry about. But there are good grounds for booth hope and work.

Extrapolating this pattern of tree-humman interactions to the Shire...

IIRC Marcho Blanco et al. didn't arrive in an area of wildwood: they were taking over soem abandoned farmland (with licence from the Crown - important for those law-abiding hbbits).

So, depending on how long abandoned? and what was growing? maybe The Knepp Estate is a starting point for visuals.

If coppices hadn't existed before the hobbits arrived, we know the hobbits put them in:


Quote
“For a short way they followed the lane westwards. Then leaving it they turned left and took quietly to the fields again. They went in single file along hedgerows and the borders of coppices, and night fell dark about them.”

(the evening in which Frodo sets off from Bag End)


My guess would be that hobbit various needs for wood were being met from these coppices. Note Tolkien puts the one above handily (and so very plausibly) near Hobbiton - shorter trip with your hand-cart or the sort of wicker backpack you can see a chap carrying on the Led Zeppelin album cover here) You'd also get a fair bit of wood from orchard management. And I think from hedgerow management too. I would know more about the latter if the hedge-laying workshops I keep trying to go on don't keep being cancelled for various reasons. Maybe there is an unfortunate Defence Against The Deer Arts side to that.

Hedgerows and coppices also seem the likely source of various foraged items - for example berries, and the hobbits' beloved mushrooms.

~~~~~~
"I am not made for querulous pests." Frodo 'Spooner' Baggins.

(This post was edited by noWizardme on May 3, 11:07am)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 3, 3:10pm

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This is fabulous! More later, but [In reply to] Can't Post

yes about the Dutch Elm disease. Elms were my favorite tree, and my whole neighborhood had at least one immense tree per yard. It was heartbreaking--and rather sudden--when they all went. I remember the city spraying them all with DDT--the whole street (imagine!). It didn't work at all, except on the wildlife MadFrown. Everything was dripping, and my dad, who seemed to have a better understanding of the nature of poisons than many in his generation, made sure I didn't go outside.

And now, in a completely different part of the country, I have 4 elms growing, one fairly large. They all popped up and started growing after we moved in here many years ago when we cleared a lower slope of years of leaves, weeds and debris. it's been 30 years, and no dutch elm yet, although with poor sandy soil, they're not that healthy. But it feels wonderful to have them. (I occasionally say a few words to the biggest one. Smile)



Silvered-glass
Lorien

May 4, 1:56am

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The Book of Lost Tales has the ruler of Tol Eressëa live in what appears to be a bigger version of the wood hall in the Shire, except the Tol Eressëa version has the ruler's residence in the middle.


Quote
....and here in a great korin of elms dwells Meril-i-Turinqi.

(Now a korin is a great circular hedge, be it of stone or of thorn or even of trees, that encloses a green sward.)



Quote
....and he sought the dwellings of Meril-i-Turinqi in her korin of elms.

Now the house of that fair lady was in that very city, for at the foot of the great tower which Ingil had built was a wide grove of the most ancient and beautiful elms that all that Land of Elms possessed. High to heaven they rose in three lessening storeys of bright foliage, and the sunlight that filtered through was very cool -- a golden green. Amidst of these was a great green sward of grass smooth as a web of stuffs, and about it those trees stood in a circle, so that shades were heavy at its edge but the gaze of the sun fell all day on its middle. There stood a beautiful house, and it was builded all of white and of a whiteness that shone, but its roof was so o'ergrown with mosses and with houseleek and many curious clinging plants that of what it was once fashioned might not be seen for the glorious maze of colours, golds and red-russets, scarlets and greens.

Innumerable birds chattered in its eaves; and some sang upon the housetops, while doves and pigeons circled in flights about the korin's borders or swooped to settle and sun upon the sward.


The smooth grass in particular appears to be noteworthy and similar to the wood hall in the Shire.

The Lost Tales word list connects korin to the religious words korda (temple) and kordon (idol). Tolkien dropped the inclusion of these words later on, but perhaps the sentiment behind them didn't entirely vanish.

Later on in LotR we see another example of a possible korin at the cross-roads in Ithilien:


Quote
Presently, not far ahead, looming up like a black wall, they saw a belt of trees. As they drew nearer they became aware that these were of vast size, very ancient it seemed, and still towering high, though their tops were gaunt and broken, as if tempest and lightning-blast had swept across them, but had failed to kill them or to shake their fathomless roots.

[..]

At length they reached the trees, and found that they stood in a great roofless ring, open in the middle to the sombre sky; and the spaces between their immense boles were like the great dark arches of some ruined hall. In the very centre four ways met.


I wonder if the statue of the unidentified bearded king inside the ring of trees might represent Manwë? (According to Tolkien Gondorians didn't have beards.) Frodo and Sam have a spiritual experience in the circle, which would fit with the place being an old Elven hallow. We don't know a lot about how the Elves practice religion, but we know that they do sing hymns to Elbereth, so organized practices are not out of the picture with Elves even if Tolkien tried to avoid the subject a lot.


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 4, 7:43pm

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I had no idea there were so many references. How'd I miss all this?! Thank you for finding all this.

Questions:

1. Do you have any general comments or reactions after reading all those quotes about trees in the Shire?

First, there's frequently a sense from how Tolkien worded things, that trees in general have, or appear to have some wort of person-hood, or agency: They are proud, they rustled their dry leaves (as if they did it without any external cause), they sail, and whisper.

And then there seems to be 3 main categories for the Hobbit's interactions with trees:
1. trees as comfort: “deep resin-scented darkness of the trees, and gathered dead sticks and cones to make a fire. Soon they had a merry crackle of flame at the foot of a large fir-tree and they sat round it for a while, until they began to nod. Then, each in an angle of the great tree’s roots, they curled up in their cloaks and blankets, and were soon fast asleep.“ And: “He was lying in a bower made by a living tree with branches laced and drooping to the ground.” But never really adapted to the needs of other creatures: Frodo found that "a tree-root had made a hole in his back, and that his neck was stiff.”

2. Trees for shelter and safety: “ . . . peered cautiously above one of the great roots,” and “ . . . could be entered by a great crack on the side away from the road. The hobbits crept inside, and sat there upon a floor of old leaves and decayed wood,” and “Quickly and quietly they slipped off the path and rand into the deeper shade under the oak-trees,” and “"The hobbits scrambled down a steep green bank and plunged into the thick trees below.”

3. Just plain joy and beauty:
"So Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed.”

"Spring surpassed his wildest hopes. His trees began to sprout and grow, as if time was in a hurry and wished to make one year do for twenty. In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April. It was indeed a mallorn, and it was the wonder of the neighborhood."

2. Knowing that ents and huorns and other trees that seem mobile exist in Middle Earth -- with some as close as the Old Forest -- do you think the trees in the Shire have any awareness? Do you think Sam's cousin Hal might have seen an ent? See my first comment, above. I think Tolkien likes suggesting the idea of some awareness and limited mobility, while leaving it deliberately uncertain whether he really had anything like that in mind with these "regular" trees. That's really part of what creates the sense of romance, and of the unknown, hanging just out of sight.

However, I always did think it was an Ent Hal saw, although someone somewhere on the boards recently said that it predated Tolkien's fully-fleshed-out ideas of Ents. But Tolkien left it in, even after he had finished the Ent chapters; and I'm sure he would not have been unaware that after encountering Treebeard, most readers would expect Hal's sighting to be something Entish.

3. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the trees in the Shire are at least as aware and mobile as the trees in the Old Forest. Does that change your reading of those quotes? What actions do the trees in the Shire take, and with what purpose, if they are awake? I personally don't think they're mobile in terms of moving from one place to another--for the most part. I think most are just ordinary trees, but I think that ordinary trees (at least in Middle-earth), are much more aware and possessed of agency than anyone expects or assumes.

4. Did the tree root that made a hole in Frodo's back wake him up on purpose after cradling the hobbits during their sleep? Was it aware of a danger that Frodo didn't know about? I just think it meant he was lying on a knob on the root, and it made a dent when he rolled over during the night, in keeping with the uncomfortable sleeping arrangement which caused his stiff neck. I don't think we're meant to picture an actual, bleeding "hole": and I think also not something caused on purpose. I think the idea is to convey that, while other creatures may find trees convenient and helpful, it's mostly by accident. The trees exist for themselves, and have importance simply as creatures in their own right--not as creations simply for the use of others. And in some ways, I think this leans towards the idea that even ordinary trees have some sort of semi-self-awareness.

5. Did the trees deliberately hide the hobbits from the Nazgul? I think, with my idea of limited sentience, except for a few Huornish outliers, it's possible to an extent, given the obvious evil and threat of the Nazgul, that some trees may have had something of an impulse to help; but I think it's largely that the Hobbits were (as Tolkien said) just really good at hiding, in the best way that presented itself.

6. It's convenient that the hobbits find a hollow -- but still living -- tree they can hide inside while eating lunch. Is it possible that the trees arranged for that? Not sure--but for entirely different purposes, the vegetation in the Old Forrest" shepherded the Hobbits towards Old Man Willow.

7. Is there any significance to the "trees whispering"? Are they talking to each other? Are they trying to talk to the hobbits? Or is it just the wind in the leaves and nothing more?
I believe Tolkien meant to let us think of the possibility, without giving anything at all away, to think of them as actually whispering, if we're so inclined (my impression is of them whispering to each other).

More later!



(This post was edited by Ethel Duath on May 4, 7:51pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


May 7, 6:17pm

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16. In many ways Tolkien was considered a reactionary, but his love of trees and natural environments and dislike for industry and wanton destruction of nature gave him a connection with the radical youth and environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s. But is Tolkien's love of trees typical of any British people before the 20th century? Or is it an example of early 20th century disillusionment with industry and nostalgia for forests that were eagerly destroyed for fuel, ships, and other uses in earlier eras?

After all, the United Kingdom is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, and the country only started to expand forests in the 20th century. Someone must have cut down all those trees.

In short, is Tolkien's love of trees and natural environments really reactionary at all? Or is he, perhaps unwittingly, just as radical about trees and nature as the youth of the 1960s who embraced his books?


Phew, that's a big question! But I'll give it a go.

For starters, I think William Blake was and is right:

Quote
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.

William Blake (English engraver, poet, painter, revolutinary and eccentric: 1757-1827)


I think there have always been those two viewpoints.


What was happening during Blake's lifetime was an increase in the ability of those who saw the tree as a "green thing that stands in the way" to remove it. And, an increase in the number of peoepl likely to be thinking about the tree as so much timber or cordage that would look better as an entry in the Company's books than as a living thing in a landscape.


But this is also the start of the Romantic Movement!
Romantic Movement? Wikipedia will probably suffice for an approximate introduction to that, should one be wanted:

Quote
Romanticists rejected the social conventions of the time in favor of a moral outlook known as individualism. They argued that passion and intuition were crucial to understanding the world, and that beauty is more than merely an affair of form, but rather something that evokes a strong emotional response. With this philosophical foundation, the Romanticists elevated a number of key themes to which they were deeply committed: a reverence for nature and the supernatural, an idealization of the past as a nobler era, a fascination with the exotic and the mysterious, and a celebration of the heroic and the sublime.

Romanticism - in Wikipedia (at least when retrieved, 7 May 2024)


Certainly in the time between Blake and Tolkien some outdoorsy pursuit such as climbing mountians no longer suggested that the mountaneer was a lunatic. The new sensibility led to it suggesting a sexy combination of physical fitness, 'grit', daring and rarefied sensibilities. We also get into a time period where there's an adoration of manliness, and a paranoia about 'decadence'. So up the montains went the bold young men (and some women). And down again most of them came, though some died up there, and some descended at ten metres per second squared until they hit something. Mountineering has always been dangerous, and I suspect that's one reason why folks do it.

If you didn't have the leisure time or money to go to the Alps (much more feasible once te steam boat and the railway cut journey times), you could go stomping around 'discovering' Wales (George Borrow, 'Wild Wales', 1862); or you could be part of the poetic movement that includes Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron. Or you could listen to Delius, Elgar, Vaughn Williams. Or join the collection of British folks songs and folk tales. Or be part of the revival of Morris dancing. Or, or, or...

There's way too much for me to cover here, so I'll recommend a couple of books by Robert Macfarlane. Mountains of the Mind and The Old Ways cover a lot of the interaction between the (mostly British) traveller and the landcscape. Macfarlane also writes beautifully about his own climbs and travels.

(This also speaks to TH and LOTR as being in the tradition of travel adventures of Tolken's time and a bit before - which some of us have discussed before.)

Anyway my first point is: to me it makes a great deal of sense to see Tolkien as a late-blooming flower of the Romantic movement.


Was Tolkien a pioneer in in his love of nature and its conservation? Goodness me, no (thoug I think his tales may have been a way for some folks to get into a pre-existing movement) .
As a quick way of getting at this, I think I should mention the history of the National Trust, a convervation charity. It was founded 1884 (so a little before Tolkien's birth). It says of itself:

Quote
The founders of the National Trust believed that everyone needs nature, beauty and history, so they set up the Trust to look after the nation’s coastline, historic sites, countryside and green spaces.

The history of the National Trust



It was already buying nature reseves in 1899, and its first big fundrasier in 1902 appealed to a wide range of different people:


Quote
The Trust launches a nationwide campaign to raise funds for the purchase of Brandelhow on Derwentwater. Many contribute to the appeal, including the daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise, and factory workers in the Midlands.

History of the National Trust, ibid


I would expect that those factory workers were quite likely part of a movement aiming to open up access to the countryside for working people to enjoy duiring their spare time. The sort of thing that led to the famous mass tresspass on Knder Scout in 1932.

Today the National Trust is enormous in membership terms, easily dwarfing the membership of the main British political parties combined:


Quote
With 5.37 million members, 10,000 staff and thousands of volunteers, the National Trust is now the biggest conservation charity in Europe, caring for more than 250,000 hectares of farmland, more than 780 miles of coastline, and more than 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves, for everyone, for ever.

ibid

Today (as I think was likely always the case) this cause attracts people from across the political spectrum - which can make the AGM quite lively! But as far as I know, members don't currently have the sheer eccentric swash or buckle of The Furguson Gang (a fun story).

~~~~~~
"I am not made for querulous pests." Frodo 'Spooner' Baggins.


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 8, 3:40am

Post #14 of 35 (229901 views)
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"I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
However, I always did think it was an Ent Hal saw, although someone somewhere on the boards recently said that it predated Tolkien's fully-fleshed-out ideas of Ents. But Tolkien left it in, even after he had finished the Ent chapters; and I'm sure he would not have been unaware that after encountering Treebeard, most readers would expect Hal's sighting to be something Entish.

Even given the lively, academic, and well-researched debates about what Tolkien wrote and when, and HOME and Letters etc, I come back to the basic point that Treebeard specifically told the hobbits that Ent-wives would like the Shire, and most people on first read conclude Hal saw an Ent once they get to the Ent chapters, and I think that's the author-intent. But they were clearly shy and didn't mingle with other races, just as Treebeard's Ents didn't mingle with their neighbors either.


5. Did the trees deliberately hide the hobbits from the Nazgul?
6. It's convenient that the hobbits find a hollow -- but still living -- tree they can hide inside while eating lunch. Is it possible that the trees arranged for that?
7. Is there any significance to the "trees whispering"? Are they talking to each other? Are they trying to talk to the hobbits? Or is it just the wind in the leaves and nothing more?

To me, 5 and 6 assign more agency to trees than I can infer from my own readings, but as Ethel said, trees are both a comfort and a shelter to hobbits, so I think in the abstract, there is a hobbit-Shire-tree connection that somehow equals "magic" which somehow leads to the hobbits being partially hidden from the Nazgul, but only partially. I think it was just good hobbit hiding ability that kept them safe after the near encounter with the first Nazgul, and it was the Elves who rescued the hobbits the 2nd time, then the 3rd time it was Frodo's decision to leave the road and horse-worthy paths that foiled the Nazgul pursuit.

I think the hobbit-tree connection is more like a nebulous relationship where hurting one hurts the other, and likewise the renewal of one reinforced the renewal and prosperity of the other. A positive symbiotic connection. (I have to say "positive" because looking it up just now, parasites can be classified as symbiotes too, and that's definitely the wrong word here.)

9. Was Frodo's bower made by a living tree with a bed of fern and grass made by the Elves, by the tree, or both? Do the Elves talk to the trees? Can they make requests? Or are they more like human gardeners who have guided the design of the trees over the years so they have an outdoor camp in the Shire with a hall and comfortable beds? Do you have any other potential explanation? Are the Elves just good Boy Scouts?
I'm gonna leap ahead to the cloaks and rope made in Lorien with the explanation, "for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make." I don't think Elves even "manufacture" in our modern sense or make anything without there being some ethereal love connection involved, and Elves love trees, so maybe the Elves asked the trees to make the bower, or maybe the bower was part Elf doing and part tree cooperation. I think this also answers your other question: when Frodo woke with a tree root in his back, I think that was just the bad luck of camping and sleeping on the ground (as a former camper, I can attest to this), whereas sleeping in the Elves "hall," Frodo was guaranteed a good night's sleep because of the much deeper Elf-tree connection. Elves talk to trees; hobbits don't.

12. Why did Saruman / Sharkey order the trees in the Shire destroyed? There's no indication that he used all the wood. Was it just spite? Or did he consider these trees his enemies and a threat to his dominion over the Shire? Pure spite.

13. Why didn't the hobbits, over hundreds of years, cut down more trees? Why did they leave a large chunk of the Shire as a wild forest? They didn't have such a great relationship with the Old Forest. Why did they have a different relationship with Woody End?
Good question, because I recall reading somewhere that deforestation caused serious environmental harm to high-population areas as far back as 1000 BC, and with the enduring Tragedy of the Commons embedded in human behavior (such as chopping down trees until none are left, but you need the wood, right? and it's up to Nature or someone else to replant the trees, right?), I suspect the Shire still has forests because the population is low enough that trees grow back on their own.


But it is possible that the hobbits have an innate sense of stewardship of the land (minus Ted Sandyman and Lotho), so they may protect certain woods and also undertake replanting when needed. At least, replantings wouldn't surprise me as a hobbity thing to do. They are close to the land and seem to sense its needs. I just don't see hobbits deforesting the Shire the way Numenor did Eriador when it wanted lumber for ships and building.



(This post was edited by CuriousG on May 8, 3:41am)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


May 8, 2:15pm

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13. Why didn't the hobbits, over hundreds of years, cut down more trees? Why did they leave a large chunk of the Shire as a wild forest? They didn't have such a great relationship with the Old Forest. Why did they have a different relationship with Woody End?
Good question, because I recall reading somewhere that deforestation caused serious environmental harm to high-population areas as far back as 1000 BC, and with the enduring Tragedy of the Commons embedded in human behavior (such as chopping down trees until none are left, but you need the wood, right? and it's up to Nature or someone else to replant the trees, right?), I suspect the Shire still has forests because the population is low enough that trees grow back on their own.


But it is possible that the hobbits have an innate sense of stewardship of the land (minus Ted Sandyman and Lotho), so they may protect certain woods and also undertake replanting when needed. At least, replantings wouldn't surprise me as a hobbity thing to do. They are close to the land and seem to sense its needs. I just don't see hobbits deforesting the Shire the way Numenor did Eriador when it wanted lumber for ships and building.



There are really only two, relatively small areas of woodland in the Shire: Bindale Wood in the Northfarthing; and Wooy End which encompasses much of the Green Hill Country. Neither region is insignificant, but they also are not all that large. I just accept that hobbits love trees and left those areas as they were just because they could.

“Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.” - Tony Isabella

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on May 8, 2:17pm)


oliphaunt
Lorien


May 9, 5:42pm

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Quote
though no plant qualities were reported in the text


I do recall their hair growing and curling as the effects of the draught rose upward from their feet to their heads.

Now hobbits, unlike trees, grow taller all over their bodies.

Not sure about Ents, do they grow like hobbits, or like trees that gain girth all over but height from the ends of branches?


*** Middle Earth Inexpert ***


oliphaunt
Lorien


May 9, 10:32pm

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Woods in Farmlands [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
13. Why didn't the hobbits, over hundreds of years, cut down more trees? Why did they leave a large chunk of the Shire as a wild forest? They didn't have such a great relationship with the Old Forest. Why did they have a different relationship with Woody End?


How large a portion of the Shire is actually wooded? I took a look at the map. Between Bindbole Wood and WoodyEnd maybe 10% is forested? Hobbits are farmers, and farmers means fields.

Hobbits did not clear cut the primordial forests which once covered much of Eriador. The land had been previously settled by Men :


Quote
The land was rich and kindly, and though it had long been deserted when they entered it, it had before been well tilled, and there the king once had many farms, cornlands, vineyards, and woods - Prologue


I'm sure the woods provided game for the king's tables and wood for his fireplaces and carts and barns etc.

Now, over time, farmland is reclaimed by young woods. The land where I live was once farmed, but trees have returned. There are many places where old piled stone walls that once divided crop and pastureland can be found in the woods. Even so, these younger woods would have been easier for hobbits to clear than old-growth forest.

Farmers leave some trees for erosion control, for shade, as a windbreak, for hunting, or due to difficult terrain. They house insects that are needed for pollination. They provide wood for crafting and burning. It is not unusual for 10% of land in farming areas to be tree-covered.


*** Middle Earth Inexpert ***


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 16, 1:21am

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"I think the trees and how they are viewed/treated by people(s) [In reply to] Can't Post

 are a way for us to view the good an evil in those people."
It's funny, I never had thought about it consciously, but among other things that really is an indication of people behaving or not behaving in a way that Tolkien approved of. It certainly resonated with me back in the 1970s as a young teen and lifelong tree lover.Smile



Felagund
Rohan


May 20, 6:26pm

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a dendritic delight! [In reply to] Can't Post

Another fascinating thread on the Shire, with another great opening post! Thanks Curious :)

When I first read LotR, I really don't remember much of the Shire-based chapters. Not just because it was a long time ago (!) but because I was impatient for the 'real' adventures to begin, which had been promised in all those shadows of the past. It wasn't until I was an adult reader that I began to see these early chapters as the sublime works that they are - and much of that stems from Tolkien's loving description of the natural environment of the Shire. Whenever I read those chapters, I feel transported to a wonderful cross-country walk, taking my steps alongside those Hobbits, intrepid in the making. And Woody End is a central part of that for me.

I only have a handful of remarks, beyond saying thank you for taking us all on this cross-country walk with you.


In Reply To
8. Above the village of Woodhall is a literal wood hall made of living trees where the Elves rest and eat. Do you think any hobbits know about the Elves' wood hall? If not, why not? Does that hall even exist when the Elves are not present? Or is there some kind of magical protection from discovery? Is it possible that the village of Woodhall is named after the Elves' wood hall by some hobbit long ago who met with the Elves?


This is an interesting one, not least because we're talking about two peoples who can remain unseen to others, if they put their minds to it! I note that there were Hobbits who had seen Elves passing through the Shire, other than Bilbo and Frodo. For example, in 'The Shadow of the Past' chapter, we have "Elves, who seldom walked in the Shire, could now be seen passing westwards through the woods in the evening...". And we learn that Sam thinks he's seen one before, when he's engaged in a bit of banter & pints down at The Green Dragon with Ted Sandyman. But all of this to say, if the Elves didn't want Hobbits to know about their own little wood hall, then I suspect hiding it wouldn't have been a problem for them.


In Reply To
14. Did the hobbits ever cut down living trees for wood? During Saruman / Sharkey's brief reign, many Hobbit-holes were destroyed and replaced with wooden shacks. Did wooden shacks exist before Saruman came to the Shire?

Was it possible that the hobbits just harvested dead trees for their limited needs? Might they have some kind of unspoken truce or even alliance with the trees in the Shire that they don't have with the hostile Old Forest? Or are the trees just trees and not at all "awake" like the trees in the Old Forest?


I think the answer must be yes, the Hobbits must have felled living trees for their domestic needs - although I heed noWiz's reference to coppicing. I almost signed up to a course in coppicing when living down in Kent, many years back. Perhaps this thread will spur me on to getting my act together...!

Back to tree-felling. For a society and economy such as that described in the Prologue, I don't reckon harvesting only dead wood would have worked. From simple Hobbit-hole dwellings to vast smials, all would have required timber-shoring of some description. And then there's the shift to above ground housing ("many houses of wood, brick, or stone") in Hobbiton, Tuckborough and Michel Delving; and accompanying references to "sheds and workshops" and "farmhouses and barns". Some trades referenced in the same section of the Prologue, all of which would have required wood at some stage in productions and/or infrastructure, eg. smiths, cartwrights, millers.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Felagund
Rohan


May 20, 6:41pm

Post #20 of 35 (157016 views)
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HoMe is still where the heart is ;) [In reply to] Can't Post

I chuckled to myself when I read your HoMe reference :)

And then my curiosity got the better of me and I opened up HoMe VI, just for a peek... and was fascinated to find that the mysterious Tree-man from beyond the North Moors wasn't planted (pun retrospectively intended) after Tolkien had written his Entish chapters but predates these in the creative process.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 7:52pm

Post #21 of 35 (157017 views)
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Thanks for 'rooting' out that leftover 'stump' in the writing process [In reply to] Can't Post

I should 'leave' it alone, and I will try. So the word in that 'branching' debate is Hal's tree-man predates Ents, so he didn't see one, and the tree-thing belongs with the talking fox, Trotter, and other leftovers from early drafts. Bummer: my hopes have been 'felled.' But Treebeard still brings it up twice, so I see author intent 'sprouting' later as well, and thus we live in tree-mendous ambiguity.


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 20, 8:53pm

Post #22 of 35 (156938 views)
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Actually, I think we're still OK. That's pretty much [In reply to] Can't Post

what I meant in my post--that since Tolkien didn't take out Hal's tree (Hail to Hal!), when the Ents had been fully written in, I'm pretty sure at that point he'd have to know most readers would be saying "Ent!" or at least "Ent?" And perhaps in HoMe, although I haven't read it so I may be wrong, that northern tree-ish man or mannish tree was the prototype that, ahem, hmm, seeded the idea from which the Ents grew.
Anway, I think if Tolkien wanted us to definitely know that it wasn't an Ent, or didn't want Ents in the Shire, he easily could have changed it once he'd gotten Treebeard et al all figured out.
And as usual, he loves his ambiguity. What fun to think of an entirely separate race of sentient trees wandering around here and there, but never apparently interacting with other races at all.




CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 11:24pm

Post #23 of 35 (156910 views)
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Maybe Hal saw a Blue Wizard instead, if we accept ambiguity. Or a wingless Balrog. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


(This post was edited by CuriousG on May 20, 11:24pm)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


May 20, 11:36pm

Post #24 of 35 (156908 views)
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There is no such thing [In reply to] Can't Post

as a wingless Balrog.
Angelic



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


May 21, 1:41am

Post #25 of 35 (156725 views)
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The Giant of the Shire [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
what I meant in my post--that since Tolkien didn't take out Hal's tree (Hail to Hal!), when the Ents had been fully written in, I'm pretty sure at that point he'd have to know most readers would be saying "Ent!" or at least "Ent?" And perhaps in HoMe, although I haven't read it so I may be wrong, that northern tree-ish man or mannish tree was the prototype that, ahem, hmm, seeded the idea from which the Ents grew.
Anway, I think if Tolkien wanted us to definitely know that it wasn't an Ent, or didn't want Ents in the Shire, he easily could have changed it once he'd gotten Treebeard et al all figured out.
And as usual, he loves his ambiguity. What fun to think of an entirely separate race of sentient trees wandering around here and there, but never apparently interacting with other races at all.



At no point is the giant described as looking like a tree. It was a "tree-man" only in it's great height.

“Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.” - Tony Isabella

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