Our hobbits are up early in the predawn, but don’t get on the road until 6am. Now riding ponies, they clop slowly along until they reach the hedge separating Buckleberry from the Old Forest, which they enter through a tunnel of sorts. They bid good-bye to Fatty Bolger and Merry tells Frodo, Sam and Pippin what he knows about these strange woods.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 6 (p109-110, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
“There,” said Merry. “You have left the Shire, and are now outside, and on the edge of the Old Forest.” Hobbits seem to enjoy both the telling of stories and being suspicious. When they can combine the two pastimes, all the better. So it is with the Old Forest. Just as they entered the tunnel, Pippin asks Merry if the stories he’s heard about the place where true.
In this, Merry is more of an expert than anyone, since he’s been inside the Old Forest a few times – and once or twice at night! He didn’t believe the “old bogey-stories Fatty’s nurses used to tell him, about goblins and wolves and things of that sort.” Apparently, hobbits held that orcs and (I assume) wargs bandied about the Old Forest. According to Merry, that wasn’t true. “But the Forest is queer.”
Merry then goes on to tell what he knows. “Everything in it is very much more alive,” he explains, specifically mentioning the trees. “They watch you.” But not only do they watch, they’ll sometimes stick out a tree branch to trip you. Merry has heard for himself that the trees seemed to be whispering to each other. He has also heard that the trees can even walk, and relates a story about them attacking the Hedge which surrounds Buckleberry.
There doesn’t seem to be a date given anywhere for this attack, but the hobbits then cut down hundreds of trees and burned them. This was when they (the trees) became rather passive aggressive.
In letter #339 of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, he says this: “In all my works I take the part of trees as against all their enemies. Lothlorien is beautiful because there the trees were loved; elsewhere forests are represented as awakening to consciousness of themselves. The Old Forest was hostile to two legged creatures because of the memory of many injuries.”
This was in response to an article that ran in the Daily Telegraph about forestry, saying that where there was once beauty, was now “transformed into a kind of Tolkien gloom….” He objected to the idea of “gloom” being connected with him and forests. He ends the letter: “The savage sound of the electric saw is never silent wherever trees are still found growing.”
In the case of this passage, Tolkien is siding with the Huorns – which are a sort of sub-species of Ents. According to Treebeard the Ent, there are trees that are more Ent-like, and Ents that are more tree-like. Huorns fall in the middle. And it is probably Huorns who occupy the Old Forest. And though Tolkien defends trees overall, the Old Forest is actually something a bit different, as we’ll see. Think of it as Mirkwood if Mirkwood had never been returned to Greenwood by the Elves. But there’s something older in this Forest. According to Treebeard, the trees here might even be older than he is.
“If there are no worse things ahead than the Old Forest, I shall be lucky.” – Frodo
Thoughts on the Exercising
Well, figuring that I should have taken a break today, I decided to unloosen the tension completely on the elliptical machine. It was like running (or whatever) on air. Of course, it was much easier, but I was able to get my heart rate up without my legs hurting. I’ll add a bit of tension next time (because it was seriously cake… mmmm, cake), but for now, I feel great again. And in my defense, Frodo and company are riding ponies at this point.
- Miles today: 4
- Miles thus far: 77
- 58 miles to Bree
- 137 miles to Weathertop
- 381 miles to Rivendell
- 1,702 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Just as we enter the Old Forest. (Map)