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Boston College
COMM 1010
Robert May

Rhetoric II The Lord of the Rings 25 October 2013 J.R.R. Tolkien’s work The Lord of the Rings consistently depicts nature as a reflection of the history and cultures associated with different settings.As Frodo, Sam, and the rest of the Fellowship carry out their journey, they encounter several different forests, including the Old Forest, Lothlórien, and Fangorn Forest. Tolkien’s descriptions of the forests develop a sense of their significance in Middle-earth as they encompass the different cultures represented in the fight against evil. In Cynthia M. Cohen’s essay “The Unique Representation of Trees in The Lord of the Rings”, she states that Tolkien enables “his readers to see trees. . . in a vivid, new light” by “making trees. . . significant in the narrative” (“Trees” 119). Cohen specifically discusses the role of Primary World trees—trees that appear to do nothing out of the usual but which Tolkien pays close attention to the details of their colors and behaviors. Tolkien idealizes trees as a way to establish their importance and significance, not only with regards to their ability to illuminate the characteristics of the different cultures in Middle-earth, but also in their ability to create unique atmospheres that develop and change the Company in important ways. Tolkien’s descriptions of the appearances of various Primary Trees reflects the significance of different cultures and histories within Middle-earth. At the start of the journey Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry encounter the Old Forest as they make their way out of Hobbiton. Other than the Black Riders, the Old Forest appears to be the most dangerous obstacle the hobbits must face. Tolkien describes the trees as “queer” and “much more alive” (Tolkien 110). Before they enter, Merry offers “the trees do not like strangers” and they “[whisper] to each other” and “actually move” (110). Tolkien’s description of the trees encompasses the atmosphere of the entire Old Forest. The liveliness of the trees reflects their defensive attitudes. Symbolically, the Old Forest lies just outside the Shire, emphasizing the contrast between the safety inside the Shire and outside its bounds. Because the Hobbits come from the Shire, they are vulnerable to the nature of the trees and forest. Tolkien uses the description of the trees’actions to bring them to life, and to make them an altering force within the story.Also, Tolkien uses the appearances of the trees in the Old Forest to characterize them and make their presence significant. As the hobbits enter the forest, they can only see “tree- trunks of innumerable sizes and shapes” and stems of “green or grey with moss and slimy, shaggy growths” (111). The descriptions of the trees resembles the trees’attitudes towards outside guests. The Old Forest has a vast history, reflected in its tangled roots and overbearing trees. Because of this, the trees represent more than objects; they become major forces in the story as they shape the hobbits’journey, present them with challenges, and assume their own ind
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