The Last March of the Ents
I think that ’Treebeard’ closely resembles the Lothlórien chapters in the way they all describe peoples and places that are fading, a world that is passing. But neither the Golden Wood nor Fangorn are ready to go quietly.
First of all, I’m intrigued by the way Treebeard uses comparison to both Elves and Men as a way to describe Ents:
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 colour of the outside, you might say. Or better at both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer.
Now, for an Ent to call himself and his kin ‘more changeable’ than Elves, is to call Elves well-nigh immutable. And that’s not all Treebeard has to say of Elves, or the Elves of Lórien in particular: ‘They are falling rather behind the world in there, I guess,’ he said. ‘Neither this country, nor anything else outside the Golden Wood, is what it was when Celeborn was young.’ In essence, he’s saying Celeborn has some nerve to warn the Fellowship off Fangorn, while ensconcing himself in the self-contained pocket of past glory and magic that is aptly named ‘Dreamflower’.
Although Fangorn could also be dubbed an enclave, Treebeard is not ignorant nor indifferent to the goings-on in the world outside; in fact he’s eager for news, and it’s one item in particular – that of Saruman’s treachery and day-walking Uruk-hai – that provides the proverbial final straw, the spark that rouses him to action, quite hastily, it seems at first.
But in truth the slow anger of Fangorn’s guardians has been a long time in brewing. It seems they only ever needed a slight – hobbit-size – nudge to come together, because the decision to go to war is reached so quickly to surprise even Treebeard.
However, the resolution is not without a price: ‘Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth of a song,’ Treebeard says, and the sentiment and words echo: both the Last Alliance of the previous Great War, and ‘such an end as will be worth a song’ called for by Théoden at Helm’s Deep.
It is such sad thought that Ents might be marching to their doom, in a final effort to try and preserve what is theirs to shepherd and protect, and thus giving up on their chance to ever find the Entwives, if any yet remain to be found within the circles of the world. Then again, I recall what Sam said of tree-things seen beyond the North Moors of the Shire (see ‘Shadow of the Past’): ‘this one was as big as an elm tree, and walking – walking seven yards to a stride,’ which sounds very close to the ent-strides of Treebeard as witnessed by Merry and Pippin in the present chapter. Also, it’s worth noting how Treebeard describes Entwives:
’They did not desire to speak with these things [fruit-bearing trees and edible plants]; but they wished them to hear and obey what was said to them. The Entwives ordered them to grow according to their wishes, and bear leaf and fruit to their liking; for the Entwives desired order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them).’
Now this sounds familiar. This sounds positively hobbitish. And I can’t help wondering if it is a pure coincidence – or start wishing for a more hopeful outcome for Ents and Entwives than ‘it is foreboded that that [them finding one another again] will only be when we have both lost all that we now have’. The tale of Brown Lands is grim enough; Fangorn being laid waste in like manner does not bear thinking.
Which is precisely why those who would not be roused in finally are compelled to do so – and when that dam bursts, it is Isengard that is flooded.