Thursday, February 3, 2011

Forests

We started to talk about this a little bit in class today, but I find it interesting that all of the forests in both The Hobbit and the LOTR, seem to be personified as evil. In the Hobbit, Mirkwood is very sinister and full of dark creatures. Already in FotR, we see that the Old Forest attacks the hobbits. And later on, Fangorn is always portrayed as evil and dark, and people want to avoid it. I wonder why this is. The trees are like a whole other people group in the story (in the same way that Tolkien personified animals). This might just be in the movie, but I know that Treebeard said something to the effect of: "We aren't on any side, because no one is on our side. No one cares for the trees anymore." So, maybe it is an environmental sort of message that we need to care for the trees, but it's an interesting topic to think about.

6 comments:

Idril said...

It seems Tolkien portrays forests in this manner to play on the inherent "fear of the unknown." Even the Orcs and Goblins share this fear, which explains why the forests account for the last areas untouched by evil forces. I wouldn't say that the forests posses "evil" qualities; rather, Mirkwood, the Old Forest, Fangorn and Lothlorien all posses "other-worldly" qualities that stand separate from both good and evil (their histories probably reached back before good or evil even existed on Middle Earth). Even Sauron can't compete with the darkness and ambiguity of the ancient forests. I completely agree that Tolkien's emphasis on forestry could function as an environmental allegory.

Theodred said...

I agree that Tolkien portrays forests as dark and mysterious places in order to prey on the "fear of the unknown." Perhaps he was influenced in this decision through beliefs of other cultures, mainly those who would revere the environment, and probably treated forests as sacred places. I would also agree that Tolkien's portrayal of forests as ancient places that should be respected seems to be sending a message about the respect people must give to the environment.

Thengel said...

I agree with the trend of mystery and darkness found in several of Tolkien's forests, but I'd also like to argue that Tolkien presents two sides of that coin. Idril points out a trend of otherworldly qualities that I think is more accurate. When the Fellowship walks through the Golden Wood in Lothlorien, for example, they need to be blindfolded so as not to behold the sacred beauty. This forest is one of the most secluded and beautiful places in Middle Earth, and its sanctity is preserved even during the darkness of the War of the Ring. Mirkwood is also a fallen forest; before evil infiltrated it, it was Greenwood the Great.

Tolkien's environmental message may argue against the infiltration and desecration of natural places, but I think he also just plainly exalts them within the narrative as places of retreat and simplicity. Take Tom Bombadil's happy seclusion in the forest, or the way that hobbits interact with nature. Even the darkest and most corrupted of Tolkien's forests, caves, and landscapes have some sort of inherent beauty, or are looking to reclaim beauty they've lost.

Fingolfin said...

I would agree with Idril here, the forest is just full of mysteries and things waiting to surprise you and (in my opinion) rare is the person/dwarf/hobbit/whatever that enjoys things like that. I also found it confusing, however, because Tolkien normally portrays the industrialization of things in Middle Earth as a bad thing, yet the forest (by its very nature it's the opposite of industrialization) is portrayed as evil at first as well. I think it's to illustrate that things are never what they appear to be because Tolkien makes use of the idea many times throughout the novel.

Elladan said...

I'm not sure that Tolkien portrays ALL forests as evil. I concur that he often uses fear of the unknown when describing forests. However, the in the cases of Lothlorien and Fangorn, those with honorable intentions and good hearts have nothing to fear. At first, many of the Fellowship feared to enter Lothlorien, not knowing it would be their last place of rest before the betrayal of Boromir and the breaking of the Fellowship. The Hobbits flee into Fangorn to escape the Uruks, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli also express anxiety upon entering. Once again, the "good" side gains an extremely important ally in the Ents, and meet the reincarnated Gandalf the White.

Finwe said...

I agree. I do think that Mirkwood is a message about civilization destroying the environment. I think Tolkien is saying that if we continue to turn our backs on the environment, one day when we need it the most, it will turn it's back on us.