Courage is one of the most potent and sometimes overlooked theme of Lord of the Rings. Courage does not require the absence of fear; courage is the act of surmounting that fear. It is the acknowledgement of our fears but the drive and perseverence to continue on in the face of it…no matter the veracity of our fears.
When you think of the ents of Middle Earth, what comes to mind? Trees, shepherds, slowness, sadness, anger, peace? All of these are possible answers, but I now see courage at the forefront. In the book, the march of the ents is the most potent and heart-wrenching example of courage; and one I feel is undervalued.
People who have seen the movies may think the ents are unaware and uncaring of the outside world; unwilling to give any aid. They seem slow. Not only in the entish way, but slow of mind as well. They lack the depth of knowledge and wisdom which should be there. They lack the kindness towards all living creatures, except for trees. They are turned into mindless, tree obsessed trees. It is unthinkable that the hobbits could trick Treebeard to go to Isengard. It is unthinkable that the devestation around Isengard would be the first indication to the ents of Saruman’s treachery. If they were truly ents, truly shepherds of trees, they would have been aware. The shepherd guards the flock, and will protect it from the wolves. So too do the ents. The movie mangles their race, their purpose and their being.
When Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard on the hill in Fangorn, they are greeted by a kind and wise ent. He is cautious, yes, but gentle. He also shows great wisdom, if only through his eyes at times. He is Fangorn. He is the Ent. He is most definately not a lackey of Gandalf as the films seem to indicate. Also, the ents of the films seem positively hasty, I’m sure no ent in his right mind would want that!
What the films mar so utterly is the magnificent courage of the ents. They know that the world is nearing a turning point. They realize their own end may come if they do nothing. They are not separate from the world, the conflict will and has reached them. They also know that if they go to war, most likely they will die.
Treebeard’s words describe it much better than mine:
“Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,” he said slowly, “likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. It was not a hasty resolve. Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song. Aye,” he sighed, “we may help the other peoples before we pass away.” Tolkien p 475
This is the great courage of the Ents. To fight, knowing no aid can come to them, knowing their lives will be changed forever. If ever you read LotR, read closely the chapter Treebeard. You will find both profound courage and saddness.
As a side note:
One of the reasons for this post is my disgust at the treatment of many characters in the films. They are corrupted and mangled beyond repair. Ranting about it doesn’t do anything, I know…and the movies are better than any Tolkien fan could have dreamed. But I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people pass up an opportunity to read the book because they have seen the movies. They are not interchangeable…they cannot even be placed on the same level. While I like the movies, this is the main reason I loathe them as well. It is something that is increasingly evident in our culture: laziness and not reading. People now a days would rather watch a movie or listen to tapes than read a book. I think it is a sad trend.
PS. Thanks for reading my rant. ;p