An analysis to accompany SO1EO8 by Will Sherwood
The last march of the Ents is a momentous, pivotal moment in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (1954) and Peter Jackson’s adaption (2002). The plot that leads up to this moment however is presented as strikingly different because of the mediums of novel and film. Here I will briefly outline how Tolkien and Jackson work up to the march in order to engage the reader and audience most effectively in the story and emotions of the characters.
In the novel, Treebeard has ‘often wondered . . . what [he] should do about Saruman’ (Tolkien, 2007, p. 473). He is fully aware of Fangorn’s deforestation but has not decided what to do about the wizard. He blames himself and his heated speech changes from complex to anaphora marked simple sentences: ‘I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!’ (ibid, p. 474). His fury starts to build and an Entmoot is called to decide what must be done. The meeting lasts for several days and Merry, Pippin, and the reader are not privy to its contents. Without any warning, the march suddenly begins with a ‘crash’ and a rallying marching song whose internal rhyme, anaphora, repetition, assonance, alliteration, use of Entish, exclamation marks, and short clauses strongly conveys the bubbling wrath of the Ents (ibid, p. 484):
We come, we come with roll of drum: ta-runda runda runda rom!
We come, we come with horn and drum: ta-rūna rūna rūna rom!
To Isengard! Though Isengard be ringed and barred with doors of stone;
Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone,
We go, we go, we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door;
For bole and bough are burning now, the furnace roars – we go to war!
To land of gloom with tramp of doom, with roll of drum, we come, we come;
To Isengard with doom we come!
With doom we come, with doom we come! (ibid, pp. 484 – 485).
In the novel the events take time and gradually grow in a truly Entish fashion. The reader is not included in the decision making, they are swept up in the momentum and carried along with Merry and Pippin, we are powerless to stall the ‘avalanche’ and feel a wave of sublimity and excitement (ibid, p. 496).
Jackson’s reframing of the march is dramatically different as it deliberately reveals information in a way that forces a twenty-first century audience to empathise with Treebeard. In Jackson’s adaption, Treebeard does not encounter the deforestation until after the Entmoot where it is decided that the Ents will not fight in the War of the Ring as it is ‘not [their] war’ (Jackson, 2003). When he does encounter the scars left by Saruman’s Orcs, Treebeard’s immediate horror is accentuated by the sudden fading of Howard Shore’s score and the Ent stopping mid-sentence. The camera pans out to survey the bleak, grey, dead desolation that stretches the entire valley before zooming back in to witness the sorrow that animates his face. Now, this is the first time in the theatrical cut of The Two Towers when the audience is privy to the deforestation of Fangorn which magnifies our horror. In the Extended Edition (2003), a scene is included earlier where Saruman demands an Orc burn the forest because there is not ‘enough fuel to feed the fires’ (2003). Inevitably this softens the impact of the scene with Treebeard.
To an early twenty-first century audience, this scene followed a decade of peak deforestation. The Amazon had undergone significant scarring in the 1990s where ‘over 10,000 square miles of forest could be cut down in a year’ and the National Curriculum sought to highlight the horrors of the decade (Borunda, 2019). The audience mourns with Treebeard and in turn feels his fury when the lets out a great cry across the forest, rallying Ents to his cause. Jackson makes us feel that we are a part of Treebeard’s decision making, we yearn for the Ents to enact revenge on Saruman for the abuse he has inflicted on the natural world.
Jackson utilises the visual aspect of film that Tolkien ultimately lacked to hammer home the catastrophes of deforestation. By shifting Treebeard’s revelation to within the told story, the audience connects with the Ent more deeply, becoming supporters in the campaign to stop deforestation for good. Whether Tolkien would have appreciated the adaption is up for debate but it was certainly enough to reignite a fondness for nature in many new viewers, particularly those of a younger and far more impressionable age.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. 2003. [DVD] Directed by P. Jackson. New Zealand: New Line Cinema.
Tolkien, J. R. R. (2007). The Lord of the Rings. London: HarperCollins.Borunda, A. (2019). See How Much Of The Amazon Is Burning. How It Compares To Others Years. [online] National Geographic. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/08/amazon-fires-cause-deforestation-graphic-map/#:~:text=Amazon%20deforestation%20peaked%20in%20late%201990s%20and%20early,to%20cropland%20for%20soy%20or%20grazing%20for%20cattle (Accessed 8 November 2020].