“If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth”. – JRR Tolkien
( https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/j-r-r-tolkien-quotes )
“When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold, Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold; When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West, Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!” -JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings).
I have some book posts to catch up on. I confess, I sometimes struggle to find enough time to get everything done, trying to make sure I post regularly, so in the meantime thought I would share this.
Tolkien and his attitude to nature and trees in general came up in conversation recently and given my last post about fiction and trees thought this was a relevant place to mention this. When it comes to trees in fiction how could we forget the Ents, those grand tree beings in Lord of the Rings.
I have a sad confession to make; I have never actually read Lord of the Rings in entirety. I have made many false starts over the years usually getting to around page 90 to 100 every time before getting distracted by something else. This is a confession I am embarrassed to make. I am afraid Lord of the Rings failed to capture me the way Mervyn Peak’s Gormenghast saga did. I think it was the prose style that I always found rather masculine and clunky, it always slowed me down and I seemed to mentally wander off onto something else. Maybe the time was never right, and then after Peter Jackson’s movies I sort of let reading the books fall by the wayside. After a conversation with B, who is currently completely absorbed by middle earth, I realise, I really need to have another go at getting through Tolkien’s magnum opus. So onto the bedside table it goes for those sleepless nights. The Fellowship of the Ring is my insomnia read for the moment and I am giving myself up to five months to finish it, while still reading other titles, so no pressure.
It is Tolkien’s obvious love of the natural world and trees that has really struck B and which has made me think it is time for me to give it another go. Funny that same kind of prose style is characteristic of William Morris who Tolkien admired greatly. Morris was also a great lover of the natural world and was in philosophical revolt against the evils of industrialisation. Amongst Morris’ many claims to fame is that he was an early exponent of the modern fantasy genre with works like The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End or the historical romance; The House of the Wolfings, afraid as much as I admire Morris, I am not a great fan of his prose style either. We have been discussing the extent of William Morris’ influence on Tolkien as well.
How do you think trees and the natural world feature in Lord of the Rings and other fantasy for that matter? Certainly, there is often a sylvanian aesthetic to much fantasy but is there an obvious environmental ideology underpinning that I wonder? Would Tolkien’s work make good choices for the Gaia/nature reading challenge?