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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Treebeard — 3. ‘My voice went up and sang in the sky’

visualweasel
Rohan


Apr 30 2008, 1:50pm


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Treebeard — 3. ‘My voice went up and sang in the sky’ Can't Post

As I mentioned in my introduction on Monday, “Treebeard” is a chapter full of singing, and moreover, each of the verses represents a different type of song – just as we have Ents that seem to correspond to different types of trees, I might suggest. All of them, the songs and the trees, seem to be tinged with an undercurrent of the elegiac or nostalgic. Let’s take a closer look at the five verses in this chapter, shall we? While we’re answering questions, take a moment to tell us which of these poems you like, which you don’t, and which is your favorite?

1. “Learn now the lore of living creatures!”

This is a ‘lore’ poem, made to be recited as if one were at school (one pictures Sam standing with has hands behind his back). Moreover, it’s alliterative, not rhyming. Such verses find their source in medieval bestiaries, primarily Germanic ones, and as such (i.e., with an Anglo-Saxon antecedent), they might be best suited to Rohan. That being said, there are all sorts of ‘lore lists’ in other places as well (e.g., Hediod, Apollodorus, the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Eddas, the Mabinogion, just to name a few). Tolkien would have known all of these – and plenty more than I can think of!

In the case of the “old lists that [Treebeard] learned when [he] was young,” who made these lists? The Elves? The Ents? Or Men – since the poem adheres to a distinctly Rohirric form! We read that the Elves are the “eldest of all,” yet the Ents are “old as mountains.” Hm, hoom, weren’t mountains around before Elves? Is this mere hyperbole? (Mispronounce that word and you get another cheap pun – you’re welcome! ;) A bit further along, is “bear bee-hunter” a thinly veiled reference to Beowulf, perhaps? A bit further along still, does “ox in pasture” suggest animal husbandry? And if so, I must ask again, who made these lists – and when?

For those of you who might like to comment, is there any connection between this verse and Tolkien’s other ‘bestiary’ verses, the “Adventures in Unnatural History and Medieval Metres, Being the Freaks of Fisiologus”, with its constituent verses, “Fastitocalon” and “Iumbo”.

2. “In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring”

This poem is essentially a soliloquy, chanted quietly, and touched with profound nostalgia. This poem doesn’t rhyme either, but its much more free-flowing than the previous verse. If feels as though it alliterates, but not in any systematic way. The lines are all of differing lengths, too. To me, the poem seems to undulate like a tree bending gracefully back and forth in the wind. It also makes its way from Spring to Summer to Autumn to Winter. What might that seasonal progress represent?

The landscape here is that of Beleriand. What effect is achieved by such geographical remove? For readers before 1977, most of these names would have been nothing more than that – mysterious names. After 1977, we can actually point to them on a map. In which direction(s) was Treebeard moving over the course of the poem? And what was Tolkien doing, placing Treebeard so far away, both in time and place? And it seems he was once quite an explorer! Had he retained this adventurous disposition, might he not have tracked down the Entwives? When and why did he settle down?

Do you make anything of Tolkien’s systematic reversal of the forms of each geographical name? Tasarinan becomes Nan-tasarion; Ossiriand become the Seven Rivers of Ossir; Neldoreth becomes Taur-na-neldor; and Dorthonion becomes Orod-na-Thôn. The second form of each is rarely – or never – used by Tolkien elsewhere. And Fangorn itself gets four other names in the short poem. Thoughts?

Finally, Treebeard says “the years lie thicker than the leaves” – a very evocative line. One imagines a carpet of ages and ages of fallen leaves. But Pippin said “most of the trees seem to be half covered with ragged dry leaves that have never fallen” (emphasis added). Was Treebeard merely being poetic? Or is Pippin a neat freak?

3. The Song of the Ent and Entwife

Here we have a dialogue, “an Elvish song [..,] never an Entish song.” Why didn’t the Ents create a song of their own? This one rhymes – it’s pretty impressive that Treebeard can translate an Elvish song into rhyming Westron verse, isn’t it? :) The poem also alliterates, often but inconsistently.

This poem, too, follows a seasonal pattern; however, it skips Autumn. What do you make of the seasonal pattern here? Does it relate to the one in the previous poem? And why is their no Fall? The winds also seem to be moving around, recalling the lament for Boromir a few chapters ago? A deliberate, archetypal echo? Or a failure of imagination on Tolkien’s part?

The more traditional gender roles (hunter versus gatherer) seem reversed here, don’t they? The Entwives are the explorers, the wanderers, the adventurers. The Ents are the stay-at-home dads, evidently. Why is this? The Entwife also refers to “harvest com[ing] to town” – what town? Where are they?

The Entwife concludes by singing that she’ll “look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again.” But did she? Or was this the Elves’ idea of what happened – or what should have happened? The Ents did look for the Entwives, according to Treebeard – at least, a bit. Why would the Ents and Entwives accept this estrangement? The Ent and Entwife both sing: “Together we will take the road that leads into the West, / And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.” Is this the Uttermost West? And are we meant to think that the Ents could go to Aman? Or is this an Elvish addition, projecting their own longing onto the Ents? Or is it just meant to convey a land in the west of Middle-earth?

Recalling my discussion yesterday, did you notice that the word garth makes an appearance in the poem? So I didn’t really steal it after all! :)

4. “O Orofarnë, Lassemista, Carnimírië!”

This poem is an elegy, sung softly by Bregalad, on the deaths of the beloved “rowan-trees that took root when [he] was an Enting.” It is a more complex verse, rhyming both internally and terminally (no pun intended).

Have any of you tried to determine the meanings of the rowans’ names in the first (and last) line? For those who have Parma Eldalamberon 17, Tolkien has done the job for you! Are they appropriate? For those who don’t know what they mean, how do you feel reading them here? To the hobbits, the song “seemed to lament in many tongues the fall of the trees” – is that how you feel? Is this “fall of the trees” the missing Fall from the Song of the Ent and Entwife? Or is that grasping at straws?

Is the image of the floral crown meant to foreshadow the statue at the Cross-roads? Do any of you think of that image here?

“For ever and a day” – too hackneyed? Tolkien’s versification is often criticized. Since we have a good sampling of it here, what do you think of it?

5. “We come, we come with roll of drum”

This is “a marching music [..] like solemn drums, [..] voices singing high and strong” – and it’s a martial march, at that. (Is “martial march” redundant? ;) It’s vigorous, powerful, has accompanying percussion (and ‘horns’), and it is sung – or bellowed – in chorus, making it quite a bit different that the preceding songs and a nice note to end on. It represents very well the sudden change that has come over the Ents, doesn’t it?

Does this kind of music, contrasting as it does with the gentler singing from before, strike a chord with Melkor’s music? Okay, I know that’s an awfully strange comparison to suggest, but Melkor’s theme:


Quote
had now achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice [..]



Not dissimilar descriptions! Thoughts?


Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish

The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2

Subject User Time
Treebeard — 3. ‘My voice went up and sang in the sky’ visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Apr 30 2008, 1:50pm
    I'll Try Tolkien Forever Send a private message to Tolkien Forever Apr 30 2008, 7:55pm
        "And the days dwindle down, to a precious few: September... November" N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand May 1 2008, 2:37am
            Don't get it Tolkien Forever Send a private message to Tolkien Forever May 1 2008, 6:05am
                A-lalla-lalla-literation-rumba-rumba-rhyme? visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 1 2008, 1:59pm
                Long paragraphs Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 1 2008, 7:31pm
                    Sorry Tolkien Forever Send a private message to Tolkien Forever May 1 2008, 8:32pm
                        Wow, that's the longest sentence I've seen Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 1 2008, 9:23pm
                            “... the story went on and on, rather like this sentence ...” visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 1 2008, 9:45pm
                            I try Tolkien Forever Send a private message to Tolkien Forever May 2 2008, 1:10am
                            You don't know your Joyce, do you? sador Send a private message to sador May 2 2008, 8:48am
                                As the string said to the bartender in the old joke Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 2 2008, 7:22pm
                                Single sentence chapters Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 2 2008, 8:50pm
    A few answers Menelwyn Send a private message to Menelwyn May 1 2008, 12:15am
    ooh I loove the songs in this chapter! Elenedhel Send a private message to Elenedhel May 1 2008, 4:46am
    Some thoughts. Canto Send a private message to Canto May 1 2008, 2:29pm
        thoughts on musical thoughts Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo May 1 2008, 2:51pm
            Not all that clear actually! Canto Send a private message to Canto May 1 2008, 3:09pm
        Brilliant! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 1 2008, 3:09pm
            How about a link to that "lengthy section"? // Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 1 2008, 7:34pm
                I'm flattered! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 2 2008, 1:44am
                    Thank you! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 2 2008, 8:52pm
                        I'm so glad you liked it! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 2 2008, 8:57pm
    The psalmist Treebeard: "We wept, when we remembered Tasarinan" a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 1 2008, 11:45pm
    Who needs "Parma Eldalamberon"? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand May 2 2008, 5:40am
        Could you grate some onto my pasta?// Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo May 2 2008, 5:54am
            *snert* / Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua May 3 2008, 1:45am
        Hey don't make fun of my hometown! weaver Send a private message to weaver May 2 2008, 12:59pm
    Some answers Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow May 4 2008, 5:36pm
        Gender Attitudes Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 4 2008, 10:31pm
            I agree Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow May 5 2008, 12:39am
                Quite right about Ceres/Demeter! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer May 5 2008, 2:19pm
        Looking backward? visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 5 2008, 4:22pm
    The Seven Rivers of Seven-River-Land squire Send a private message to squire May 5 2008, 5:01pm
        Being too hard on the good Professor? Or on Treebeard? visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel May 5 2008, 5:38pm

 
 
 

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