Depiction of Nature in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Series

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In The Lord of the Rings growing-things are treated as organisms that can feel pain, anger or pleasure; which can express and defend themselves and whose well-being is being constantly put on stake. The personification of trees and natural accidents such as rivers or mountains is treated as something common, and the greatest examples of this personification frequently transforms this nature from the notion of locus amoenus to a perilous might which provokes terror and reverence. Aragorn’s description of Lothlorien as ‘fair and perilous’ [Lord 338] can be also extrapolated to the whole Middle-earth’s natural complexity. XXXXX observes that ‘Tolkien aligns himself with the Romantic concept of sublime nature – the idea that there should be some awe, fear, and humility in interaction with un-tamed nature.’ [Representations of Nature p. 24] Nature is constantly endangered in The Lord of the Rings, but that does not mean that it does not fight for survival. Some of this personifications exemplify this fight: ‘Mordor was a dying land, but it was not yet dead. And here things still grew, harsh, twisted, bitter, struggling for life.’ [Lord 921]

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Regarding this struggle for life of nature, Tolkien’s own vision can be inferred in The Lord of the Rings as the predominant point of view from which the events are narrated. Tolkien’s vision is parallel to the life-centered theories of environmental ethics, which claim that ‘the physical state that the organism defends is a valued state.’ [Environmental ethics 145] As XXXXXXX explains, ‘the good of an individual non-human organism […] is realized to the extent that it is strong and healthy.’ [Env. Eth. 75] Growing-things then would have a value of its own and not depending on how useful they are to humans. But Tolkien’s portrait of nature goes far beyond, since he uses the different cultures of his mythology to propose alternative managements and considerations of nature. A brief analysis of three of these perspectives (the most respectful with nature) is useful in order to better understand this element.

The first culture that is presented in the book is that of hobbits. The reader is expected to identify the Shire with home, and its agriculture represents that of traditional England. The first part of the prologue is centred on them. We are told that ‘They do not and did not understand or like machines’ [Lord 7], an element that is obviously aligned with technology and industry and against the interests of nature, and that they have ‘a close friendship with the earth’ [7]. Such close is this friendship that they live in holes dug in the earth, something that, for an entity such representative of nature as Treebeard, ‘sounds very right and proper.’ [Lord 465] Another feature of this race that proves their connection with the natural world is that ‘certainly gardeners are honoured’ [Lord 681] just as in other cultures warriors would be. The very essence of the Shire is the huge presence and meaning of nature in the towns and culture, resulting in a sort of bucolic paradise.

The uniqueness of this culture results from the nature of hobbits. By making them simple and small, Tolkien drew them close to nature and unconcerned about issues that do not affect their daily life. Hobbits, then, are free from such corruptions as greed, ambition and will for domination, which in Tolkien’s ideas are the source of industrialism. It is not casual that one of them, Frodo, is chosen among so many great heroes and warriors as the Ring-bearer. This choice is proved to be right when Sam is tempted to use the Ring and transform Mordor into a huge ‘garden of flowers and trees’ [Lord 901] (an ambition that is coherent with their attention to nature, though). This lust is quickly vanished: ‘The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.’ [Lord 901]

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Depiction of Nature in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Series. (2020, December 14). WritingBros. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
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