Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Tree that Inspired Tolkien

This is Oxfordshire reports some bad news for a tree that's said to have inspired Tolkien's creation of the Ents of Middle Earth. With the headline "The Ent is nigh for Tolkien tree" they note recent damage to the tree and the decision to cut it down: 

IT is said to have influenced the work of JRR Tolkien and inspired creatures in Lord of the Rings.

But now an iconic pinus negra – or black pine – is being felled in Oxford University’s Botanic Garden after two of its limbs fell off over the weekend.

Experts at Oxford City Council and the university have examined the 20-metre tall tree and decided it has to be cut down, but have not been able to determine what caused the limbs to fall off, damaging a wall.

Dr Alison Foster, acting director of the garden, said: “The black pine was a highlight of many people’s visits to the Botanic Garden and we are very sad to lose such an iconic tree.”

Tolkien, who was a fellow of Pembroke College and Merton College and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, was extremely fond of the tree and has been pictured sitting underneath it and standing beside it.

The article goes to explain how much Tolkien “hated the wanton destruction of trees for no reason . . ." Those scenes in The Lord of the Rings, both in the books and the films, when Saruman's Orcs destroy the forests of Isengard to create weapons (The Fellowship of the Ring) and then when the Ents discover what Saruman has done and march to besiege him and destroy Isengard (The Two Towers) certainly demonstrate Tolkien's feelings. [The image of Treebeard is from Wikipedia Commons, created by Tom Loback and used under a Creative Commons License: Attribution: I, TTThom.]

With those sentiments about trees, Tolkien agreed with the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Binsey Poplars. felled 1879":

MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
  Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
  All felled, felled, are all felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
            Not spared, not one 
            That dandled a sandalled
        Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
  O if we but knew what we do
        When we delve or hew— 
    Hack and rack the growing green!
        Since country is so tender
    To touch, her being só slender,
    That, like this sleek and seeing ball
    But a prick will make no eye at all, 
    Where we, even where we mean
            To mend her we end her,
        When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve 
    Strokes of havoc únselve
        The sweet especial scene,
    Rural scene, a rural scene,
    Sweet especial rural scene.

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