My name is Paola Beatriz López Sauri. I am in the Literature profile of the ALC program. Although I usually prefer to write creative works, I also enjoy writing analytical essays, for they give me an opportunity to focus on details that I might have initially overlooked in a particular work. When interpreting a film or a novel, I tend to keep an eye out for female characters, interesting metaphors and instances of symbolism; I believe these types of details often provide insight on the story being told, and the person behind it. I will continue my studies (and essay-writing) at Concordia, in the fall of 2019.
“Leaves were whispering”:
The Personification of Nature in The Fellowship of the Ring
By Paola B. López Sauri
J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous book, The Lord of the Rings, touches upon many themes and ideas close to his life, such as war and friendship. Another recurring theme that might not always seem quite as meaningful, despite its obvious presence, has to do with nature. In The Fellowship of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien portrays nature as a living, breathing entity. Nature serves as a mentor of sorts, often guiding its visitors (though not always in their desired direction), providing them with hiding places, and encouraging their internal growth.
In Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, nature constantly guides the characters wherever it wants, regardless of their desired destination. Instead, it often takes them where they need to be. In the sixth chapter, the four hobbits–Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry–head into the Old Forest to gain distance from the Shire. For the most part, they follow the most convenient path for them, heading northward, but the trees close in dangerously on them, often forcing the hobbits “towards the Withywindle valley,” which was “not at all the direction they wished to take” (Tolkien 114). Since Merry, who has been into the forest several times, tells them that at night, “things can be most alarming” (110), Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry believe that the forest’s intent is malevolent. In reality, however, the trees have been guiding the hobbits towards something helpful: Tom Bombadil. Although Tom’s appearance when Merry and Pippin have been taken hostage by the willow-tree seems purely coincidental at first, it is not the case. At his house, Tom tells the hobbits that he “had an errand [in Withywindle]” (126). Therefore, the Forest, which is aware of its surroundings, must have been leading them to him. In fact, the Old Forest leads them “into the heart of the Forest” (114), which might be Tom Bombadil himself, the “Master of wood, water, and hill” (124). Additionally, in the chapter “The Ring Goes South,” it seems that “the malice of the mountain” causes an untimely weather that forces the Company–the four hobbits, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli–into Moria, which seems like a very dangerous idea (293). Nevertheless, the journey seems to be, to a certain extent, quite beneficial. The fellowship finally learns what became of Balin, Ori and Óin, the Dwarves sent to reclaim Moria thirty years ago, putting their doubts to rest. Even Gandalf’s fall, which seems to be a great grievance, proves to be for the best as it causes his rebirth, which makes him wiser and stronger. Therefore, nature seems to purposely lead Tolkien’s characters to places that will help them on their quest, rather than towards their original destination.
Nature also provides protection to the characters in The Fellowship of the Ring several times throughout their quest. In the third chapter, right before encountering the Ringwraiths, the hobbits find refuge inside of a hollow tree, where they “rested and had a light meal” (77). Since it is unlikely that there are many hollow trees big enough to host four hobbits, the forest in the Shire led them there purposefully. The Forest’s protection of the hobbits is made even more evident when one considers the fact that Sam, Frodo, Merry and Pippin manage to stay hidden from the Black Riders, despite having “no time to find any hiding-place better than the general darkness under the trees” (78). This is the trees’ way of protecting the hobbits, for nature is more likely to favor the innocent, small creatures over the unkindly strangers that are the Black Riders. In fact, when the four hobbits stay with Gildor and the other High Elves, nature is downright nurturing, as Frodo wakes up in “a bower made by a living tree … deep and soft and strangely fragrant” (86). Similarly, Rivendell and Lothlórien, two natural places, serve as safe houses for the Company. Generally, it seems that nature favors good and protects those who represent it.
Last but not least, nature seems to have a good influence on the heroes of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, constantly affecting and encouraging their internal development. While some of them, such as Legolas and Gimli, blossom slowly under the trees of Lothlórien, getting past age-old rivalries and becoming close friends, others are affected differently. Aragorn, for example, seems to become greater under nature’s influence. While riding along the river, he looks kinglier than ever, seemingly having embraced his royal lineage, for he wishes to “look upon the likeness of Isildur and Anárion” (393). Aragorn no longer hides under his hood, which is “cast back,” but instead sits “proud and erect” with his hair “blowing in the wind” and a newfound “light … in his eyes” (393). In a sense, it is as if the air surrounding him were filling him with pride, ridding his mind of old worries of exile. Furthermore, nature often heals, in one way or the other, its inhabitants. When in Rivendell, Frodo notices that “Bilbo smiled and laughed happily” during his stay (232) and Frodo himself manages to overcome an unhealable wound only once he reaches Rivendell. Although it is Elrond who does the actual healing, the mostly natural environment in which he does it should not be dismissed. This proves that nature wants the Company to fare well, while helping them to grow.
To conclude, nature, at least in Tolkien’s world, is more than a setting; it is a conscious being. Nature often leads the heroes in the right direction, provides shelter for them, and helps them grow into more vigilant, mindful people as the plot unfolds. Thus, nature acts as a mentor to the characters in The Fellowship of the Ring, proving itself as a fundamental character to the story and a human-like entity.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring. The Lord of the Rings, 50th anniversary ed.,
Harper Collins Publishers, 2004, pp. 21 – 407.