Fri
Jul 3 2009 1:20pm

LotR re-read: Two Towers III.4, “Treebeard”

cover of The Two TowersNext up on the Lord of the Rings re-read, chapter III.4 of The Two Towers, “Treebeard.” I think this may be my favorite chapter to date, or at least the one I enjoyed most.

Spoilers for all of LotR and comments after the jump.

What Happens

Pippin and Merry, traveling through the forest, come to a rocky hill where they are startled to met Treebeard (a.k.a. Fangorn), an Ent who they had overlooked as an “old stump of a tree.” After they establish that they are not Orcs and that they know Gandalf, Treebeard takes them to his household where they tell him their story to date (except the Ring). Treebeard decides that he must do something about Saruman, whose Orcs have been destroying the forest. After telling them about how the Ents lost track of the Entwives, they sleep.

The next day, he takes them to Entmoot, where for three days the Ents debate what they should do. (The hobbits spend most of this time with a young and hasty Ent, Bregalad.) The Ents decide to make war on Isengard, apparently accompanied by groves of moving trees. The chapter ends with them looking down on Isengard.

Comments

That is a really bare-bones summary for quite a long chapter, but so much of it is conversation that if I started summarizing in more detail we’d be here all day.

So, long chapter. Also one I enjoyed a lot: I’m really liking seeing Pippin (and Merry, to a lesser extent) grow and respond to the wider world, and I like Treebeard too. His manner of speech tickles me (I can “hear” his poetry and language surprisingly easily, for me), and I appreciate his practicality and his idealism in dealing with Saruman and overall—see, for instance, his mild scorn in describing the Elves’ withdrawal to “ma(k)e songs about days that would never come again.” Also, the bit of sarcasm in his introductory comment: “Almost felt you liked the Forest! That’s good! That’s uncommonly kind of you.”

(Is Treebeard a polarizing figure like Bombadil? I don’t hear him talked about as such, but he does tend to break into poetry and has some quirky mannerisms. On the other hand he also doesn’t represent a radical pause in the narrative.)

* * *

Random POV note: in order to convey Pippin’s impression of Treebeard’s eyes, the narrative goes to an explicit retrospective quote from him, rather than stepping into Pippin’s head to describe how he felt at the time of seeing them—which is what most third-person narratives would do today, I think, and which indicates how distant the omniscient narrative can be even when it follows specific characters.

* * *

The magic properties of Ent waters: I see that the healing and invigorating properties are present from the stream alone, but it takes the version in Treebeard’s home to make the hobbits feel like their hair is growing.

I also think the description of the lights in Treebeard’s home is beautiful:

Treebeard lifted two great vessels and stood them on the table. They seemed to be filled with water; but he held his hands over them, and immediately they began to glow, one with a golden and the other with a rich green light; and the blending of the two lights lit the bay, as if the sun of summer was shining through a roof of young leaves. Looking back, the hobbits saw that the trees in the court had also begun to glow, faintly at first, but steadily quickening, until every leaf was edged with light: some green, some gold, some red as copper; while the tree-trunks looked like pillars moulded out of luminous stone.

* * *

To briefly return to logistics-geeking, the Encyclopedia of Arda calculates that Treebeard’s “seventy thousand ent-strides” are just over fifty miles. Because I know you all were wondering. (Like Pippin, I would totally have tried to keep track of ent-strides, but I imagine I would have gotten lost well before three thousand.)

* * *

The Entwives: I know you will all be very surprised that this story causes me to roll my eyes a great deal.

First, there’s the name. Entwives? Why not just “female Ents,” or “Enthusbands” and “Entwives”? That is, why are the male members of a species the default, while the female members are labeled only in terms of a relationship with the males?

Second, there’s the gender-based stereotyping of the Ents and Entwives. Entwives are settled, domestic, not scholarly, and minor (but presumably benevolent) tyrants: “They did not wish to speak with these things; but they wished them to hear and obey what was said to them. . . . the Entwives desired order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them).” Ents are wanderers, explorers, absent-minded, and not willing to put that much effort into relationships: “Our sorrow was very great. Yet the wild wood called, and we returned to it. For many years we used to go out every now and again and look . . . . But as time passed we went more seldom and wandered less far.”

Third, there’s the Elvish song which casts the separation as the fault of the Entwives, who refuse to come when the Ents ask them to return (though, to be fair, the ending verses reverse this in telling of their eventual reunion “when darkness falls at last”).

So, while I can regret the lack of Entwives and the dim prospects for the continuation of the species, the rest of the story is pretty much not my thing.

* * *

Treebeard’s opinion of Saruman: he may have been too slow to act, but he is a fine judge of character in retrospect. That tinge of sarcasm comes through again when he notes that Saruman “was polite in those days, always asking my leave (at least when he met me).” And I thought “his face . . . became like windows in a stone wall: windows with shutters inside” a surprisingly good descriptive metaphor.

Treebeard says, and I don’t think we have any reason to doubt him, that Saruman’s Orcs must be new because things from the Great Darkness (when Morgoth, Sir-Barely-Appearing-Until-the-Appendices, ruled Middle-earth) cannot bear the sun. Treebeard speculates that they could be ruined Men or a mix of Men and Orcs; he later says that Morgoth made Trolls as “counterfeits . . . in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves,” which I think must be a genuine creation or Treebeard would have said that Morgoth had taken actual Ents and warped them, a much greater injury. Saruman, of course, is just not as powerful as Morgoth.

* * *

The Entmoot. Tree people, can you identify the trees that ring the dingle, and do they have any significance? They were “dark evergreen trees . . . : they branched out right from the roots, and were densely clad in dark glossy leaves like thornless holly, and they bore many stiff upright flower-spikes with large shining olive-coloured buds.”

I don’t know if Pippin is just more tolerable from inside his head or the reader stand-in function of the hobbits is more prevalent now that we’re so far away from known things, but like with the ent-strides, I’m sure I too would be “wondering, since Entish was such an ‘unhasty’ language, whether they had yet got further than Good Morning.” Also, I appreciated that we got an explicit statement that the two hobbits missed and wanted to see Frodo, Sam, and Strider.

I thought the text did an effective job of building suspense after the hobbits left the Entmoot. The weather turns colder, greyer, more urgent (“hurrying clouds and fitful stars”); then on the third day, as the Ents near a decision, it goes still and expectant through the wind dropping, which parallels the later sudden silence of the Ents before their crashing echoing shout.

For some reason the forest having followed the Ents is always a surprise to me every time the local members of the Company are reunited at Isengard, and I don’t know why, as they’re explicitly mentioned at the end of this chapter. Granted Pippin isn’t sure what he’s seeing, but it’s not that ambiguous.

And we end on another great line: “‘Night lies over Isengard,’ said Treebeard.” Because I almost never stop at the end of a chapter when I’m reading, I hadn’t noticed how well Tolkien uses chapter breaks in LotR before, so that’s one of many things this project is helping me see.

* * *

Word looked up this chapter: “At nightfall he brought them to his ent-house: nothing more than a mossy stone set upon turves under a green bank.” The web claims it’s an archaic plural of “turf,” which being an American I’m not used to thinking of as a building material, probably why I didn’t recognize it.

* * *

Oh, and like last time, I’ll be doing a movie re-watch post, so feel free to save discussion of the movie’s depiction of this chapter for then.


« Two Towers III.3 | Index | Two Towers III.5 »

48 comments
EmmaPease
1. EmmaPease
I think homesteaders in the American plains built sod houses (sod=turf).

The two basins giving off light is a bit like the Two Trees except gold and green instead of gold and silver.
Kate Nepveu
2. katenepveu
Hey! Hi!

I have a vague recollection of sod houses from the _Little House_ books myself, but very vague.

Interesting about the Two Trees--I just looked at the description in the _Silmarillion_ and had forgotten that they literally _dripped_ light that was collected in great vats.
EmmaPease
3. DemetriosX
Entwives: That -wife ending is fairly common in archaic Germanic languages. Probably the only even marginal holdover is in "fishwife". It may not be quite as sexist as it seems. It comes from a time when every noun had a gender and it was appended to words that were nominally male but when speaking of a specific which was female.

Also, the entwives are not tyrants. They represent ordered nature: agriculture, gardens, orchards. The ents are wild nature. It is often theorized that women invented agriculture, so this isn't necessarily that far off the mark.

I'm not sure about most of the various ents at the Entmoot. Holly has magical properties in Celtic folklore. Bregalad apparently represents rowan (quickbeam being another name for it), and rowan trees were believed to have protective properties and were good at keeping away evil spirits.

Light: Tolkien's description of the light is an excellent recreation of the light in an old forest. I once happened to be reading this chapter while visiting the redwoods and it really added something to the whole experience.

Treebeard polarizing: I think in general he isn't. Although my oldest daughter is generally very frustrated by him. But then she is very "hasty".
Kate Nepveu
4. katenepveu
DemetriosX @ #3, okay, though I still grump quietly about adopting that aspect of an archaic language . . .

And I think that desiring not two-way communication with things, but for them to follow your orders, is not an inaccurate description of minor tyranny.

(Also I am rather dubious that anyone can prove that women invented agriculture in all the different places it independently happened, rather than rationalize just-so stories after the fact, but whatever.)
EmmaPease
5. DemetriosX
katenepveu @4, bear in mind, too, that we only have Treebeard's version of how the entwives behaved. As one of the oldest spirits of wild nature, his view of what the entwives were trying to do is bound to be somewhat colored. He doesn't like the idea of things growing in neat, orderly rows and staying put and he may have just assumed that the entwives didn't do any listening. Basically, this is pastoralists versus agriculturalists.

(As for proving that women invented agriculture, well, no, you can't. I'm just saying that it's a common theory that's been around for quite awhile. Tolkien may very well have been aware of some form of it.)
EmmaPease
6. Nicholas Waller
"Midwife" is another -wife word; I thought that this meant "with-woman", ie was anyone who is with (mid or mitt) a woman (wif) during childbirth (and this meaning is referenced on the web).

But I've also seen it (Shorter Oxford) specifically meaning a woman who attends a mother, a man-midwife being the male profession - though in fact man-midwife implies man-with-woman and in turn implies midwife really means with-woman after all.

All this is complicated as "woman" apparently comes from "wifmon" (wife-man) itself.

Tolkien, being an Anglo-Saxon scholar and all that, presumably mainly meant by Entwives "Entwomen" rather than commenting on their marriage status (or maybe he meant both).
EmmaPease
7. EmmaPease
Also Entmaidens.

Note the song was written by Elves who at least by this time in Middle Earth weren't known for their farming and gardens (are there any fields in Lothlorien?) but rather their love for woodlands. The writers might have had a bit more sympathy for Ents than Entwives (even though Treebeard thinks Ents could have said more).

(oh, and hi back to Kate)
EmmaPease
8. legionseagle
Rather than worrying about the name "Entwives"(with which I'm with Kate, btw) wouldn't it be more productive to notice what Treebeard says about them?

Namely:

1) Ents and Entwives pursued different interests in different parts of the world;

2) Despite major wars, neither sex expressed the slightest interest in finding out what had become of the other;

3) Very much later, the Ents became mildly curious about what might conceivably have become of the women they had left in a warzone overrun by the powers of ultimate evil and were unable to find out.

4)Then the Ents angsted about the terminal loss of interest in them of the Entwives. Oh WOEZ!

If I'd been an Entwife, I'd have off-buggered, too.
Soon Lee
9. SoonLee
I find Treebeard more likable than Tom Bombadil despite similarities in their characters. I think it's because Treebeard is integral to the story, despite all his reminiscing & philosophizing, he and the Ents & Huorns are instrumental in defeating Saruman in Isengard & dealing with the orcs post-Helms Deep. Treebeard (eventually) is roused from passivity into action. Bombadil in contrast does very little.
EmmaPease
10. kjhass
WRT the Entwives: Wif is Old English for "woman", not necessarily the Modern English usage of "married woman" ("wife" is the descendant of "wif"). In this part of Middle Earth, Tolkien uses Old English as the language of Rohan (or a "translation" of it), so Fangorn being in the same region it's possible Tolkien is using Old English here to refer to female Ents. Or not. I could be stretching it, since the modern spelling "wife" is used, and Treebeard seems to be referring to the mates of the male Ents, but that's the first thing that came to mind when reading your commentary.
EmmaPease
11. Nancy Lebovitz
I have a notion, based on no actual information, that the way Treebeard talked about the Entwives is based on some bachelor professors Tolkien knew.

The Ents are very nice world-building. Tolkien doesn't just say there are humanoid trees, he works out how they'd move and think and what sort of culture they have.

I'm very fond of "I'm not altogether on anybody's side because no one is altogether on my side.... It's kind of neat to have that coming from a good character in a story which is basically a good vs. evil.
EmmaPease
12. clovis
I was also looking forward to this chapter and remember it as one of my favourites and, for the first time, I was troubled by the entwives as discussed above.
On every reading I find Treebeard a breath of fresh air, fun and humourous and pleasingly pragmatic (for years I've been meaning to put 'I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side' into latin and adopting it as a motto, along with 'it is easier to shout "stop!" than to do it'). Along with his lack of awe at wizards, elves and men the character acts as a corrective to the solemnity that in LOTR often threatens to topple into pomposity.
EmmaPease
13. skinnyiain
Nancy @ 11:
Treebeard's way of speaking, at least, is said by some to be reminiscent of C.S. Lewis.
EmmaPease
14. Chris Johnstone
I was going to comment on Entwives as a word but a bunch of other people have, so I'll be brief.

It probably is a little olde fashioned sexist to use Entwives in the sense that we don't have Entmen or Entboys in the story, yet Entwives and Entmaidens are in there. As others have noted Tolkien probably used Entwife because of the usage of wife in anglo-saxon to denote female, as in trollwife, which still turns up occasionally in fairy tale books.

*Entwif could well have been a word that existed at one point. Certainly, as Ent comes from Eten n ordering of the world without flexibility seems like a tyrant baby-step in Tolkien's world-view, anyway.

There's a barrel of sexist stereotyping in there too, but that's already been covered.

I guess, perhaps if the ring had fallen into the hands of the Entwives then all of Middle-Earth would be forced to engage in flower-bed arrangement for the rest of eternity. A last alliance of men and elves marches on the annual flower show... Maybe. I'm being a bit, um facetious, if it's not clear. Certainly, no offense intended...

Now. I need to put some turves on my roof.

Chris
EmmaPease
15. Chris Johnstone
'order to world according to THEIR wisdom'

Sorry.

C.
EmmaPease
16. Jormengrund
Not to put TOO fine a point on it, but your Treebeard summary isn't appearing in the index, so I'm kind of late getting to this chapter!

On to the memories..

My favorite chapter in this book was Merry and Pippin meeting and interacting with Treebeard. The fiesty young hobbits not only met Treebeard, and learned from his actions and wisdom, but they also infused the Ents themselves with some vitality and vigor of youth as well. If not for the heart, courage and belief of the Hobbits, I highly doubt that Treebeard and the other Ents would have marched against Isengard.
EmmaPease
17. MKUhlig
I too have always loved this chapter and this character the best.

I will not comment on the movie other than to say I felt offended at the time by movie's take on the hobbit's making the Ents take action. But on my re-reading and in tune with #16 Jormengrund above, there is some truth that it did take the arrival and the energy of the hobbits to start the avalanche (as I think Gandalf describes it later). The Ents would have done something, but it may not have been at this time, and it may have not been in time to be of any use to the Rohirrim.
Kate Nepveu
18. katenepveu
I appreciate all the linguistics history, folks, but it doesn't actually change my objection that Tolkien decided to label males the default members of a species. At least two, actually, since humans are "Men."

As for Treebeard's comments about "sides," it reminded me of this less elegant but still heartfelt exchange from Terry Pratchett's _Small Gods_:

"You're not one of us."

"I don't think I'm one of them, either," said Brutha. "I'm one of mine."


clovis @ #12, good point about Treebeard's lack of awe; no wonder he and the hobbits get along so well.

Chris Johnstone @ #14, see also Galadriel's comment about what she would do if she had the Ring--it would begin with her stopping injustice, but not end there . . .

Jormengrund @ #16, thanks for the note about the Index; I'll poke the appropriate people to update it.

MKUhlig @ #17, the text very definitely takes the position that the hobbits' arrival was the immediate cause of the Ents' timely action, but also I think does a nice job of not overdoing it and making clear they were just the pebbles, as you say.
EmmaPease
19. legionseagle
Kate, have you read Zoe Karelli"s poem "Man, Feminine Gender"? Not reading Greek, I've only read it in translation (Kimon Friar) but am always moved to tears by it. It's a beautiful illustration of why a point like Ent/Entwife and the convention of referring to God by masculine pronouns and titles is not, simply, semantics; the semantics shape the thoughts expressed and, both in the case of the poem's narrator and the Entwives, estrangement results.
EmmaPease
20. DBratman
Tolkien decided to label males the default members of a species. At least two, actually, since humans are "Men."

The latter was hardly Tolkien's decision, but the way the language was used in his time. And I'd give Tolkien some credit for being enlightened enough on this point to have that default assumption turn around and bite the Lord of the Nazgul on the neck. "But no living man am I."

I also agree with the suggestion that at least some of the Ents' sexism was the characters', not the author's.
Kate Nepveu
21. katenepveu
DBratman, point about the Nazgul prophecy. Remind me if there were prior mythological antecedents in that specific direction, rather than Odysseus and Noman?
Hugh Arai
22. HArai
I thought that since the Ents were created at Yavanna's behest to protect plants after she discovered Aule's creation of dwarves, it wasn't that Entwives were tyrants in the making, instead it was just that they were the ones that were supposed to protect agricultural plants. Still a sex-based division but more charitable as to the Entwives's motives I suppose.

katenepveu@21: Not DBratman, and certainly no expert, but I'm sure I read something similar in a starter book of Hindu mythology. The "bad guy" had been granted protection from "man and god" so a goddess was created to beat him. Perhaps that will ring a bell with someone more familiar with the topic.

With respect to the Nazgul prophecy isn't it also finessed by Merry being a hobbit man, but not a Man?
EmmaPease
23. birgit
DBratman, point about the Nazgul prophecy. Remind me if there were prior mythological antecedents in that specific direction, rather than Odysseus and Noman?

In the Mabinogi, Lleu Llaw Gyffes cannot marry a human woman, so Gwydion creates the flower woman Blodeuwedd for him. There are also very specific conditions for killing Lleu. When Blodeuwedd falls in love with another man, she tricks Lleu into demonstrating these conditions so her lover can kill him.
Sam Kelly
24. Eithin
I'm not sure Lleu's case is the same, though - the first boils down to his mother resenting him and telling him he can't have an independent existence (name, weapons, wife) till she gives him one, and the death-conditions are something he has to do rather than ones the attacker must meet. (It's also a specific magical protection laid by a bard, rather than a prophecy - though the distinction is complex and very fuzzy.) It's a folklore-xerox of a similar, less complex prophecy about Agamemnon. (No goats. Agamemnon didn't rate a goat.)

That said, though, there is one attacker-side condition - the spear he uses must have been a year in the making, and only worked on while people were at Mass on Sundays. There's a couple of lines in Eowyn and Merry's CMoA about how no lesser blade than Merry's could have served to harm the Witch-King enough, I think.

The canonical example of this sort of prophecy-twisting is Macbeth, though - "none of woman born".
Kurt Lorey
25. Shimrod
Anyone who is interested in the discussion of gendered language might like to consider this perspective.

"Against the Theory of Sexist Language"
Kate Nepveu
26. katenepveu
HArai, I'd forgotten about the _Silmarillion_'s origin story for Ents, not that a sex-based division of responsibilities makes any sense for exactly the reasons that we see in the text of _LotR_!

Yes, the Nazgul prophecy also has the hobbits-are-not-humans thing going for it, and as I recall that leads to some debate about who "really" destroyed the Witch King; we'll get there.

Eithin, we joked after SteelyKid was born that she's clearly on a fast-track to a Destined Future: she was a prophecied boy who turns out to be a girl (for values of "prophecied" equal to "everyone who saw me thought so") _and_ is "none of woman born"!

Shimrod, this comment box is insufficiently big to describe my disagreement with that essay, so I will not, though I appreciate your leaving the link.
Kurt Lorey
27. Shimrod
@26 katenepveu.

If our paths ever cross, I would be pleased to allow you to expound at length upon the subject, because I would like to understand.

I'm afraid I fall amongst those who tend towards the thesis of that essay, and have some difficulty accounting for the vehemence of your point of view.
Kate Nepveu
28. katenepveu
To try and reduce it to the very most fundamental disagreement: I do not think that the only thing that matters is the intent of the speaker.

If I'm not looking where I'm going and step on your foot, and you say "hey, ouch!", I should say, "gosh, I'm sorry, I'll look where I'm going from now on," not "well, I didn't mean to step on your foot, so I haven't done anything wrong and am not going to change my ways."

If I say something is "lame" to convey that it is bad, and someone says "hey, that hurts my feelings and perpetuates stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes towards the disabled," I should say, "I'm sorry, I will use a different term from now on," not, "well, since I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, I'm just going to saying it because my intent is the only thing that matters." (And bonus: my language will be more precise and powerful as a result.)

We can choose to be polite and lose what thereby? Nothing. "Fire fighter" is more descriptive than "fireman"; "people" is just as good as "men" or even better, because it allows for less ambiguity when "men" is used.

And this is going to be a sudden drop in tone, but I just came across it elsewhere and can't resist:

Kurt Lorey
29. Shimrod
Thank you very much for being patient with me. I understand your position much better now.

And btw, I've always liked that poster. I'm a big Demotivators fan.
Kate Nepveu
30. katenepveu
You're welcome. I'm glad it was useful.

I don't know how I didn't notice that poster until now! I'm wondering if the T-shirt is worth getting--the picture on the website makes it look like the white text might be too small to really come across.
Kurt Lorey
31. Shimrod
Oh, I don't know. Depends upon just how close you want people to get in order to read your shirt.

My two favorite posters:

Propaganda

Worth
Heather Johnson
32. HeatherJ
No brilliant comment here, just wanted to say that this has always been one of my very favorite parts. I first read this in elementary school and I still clearly remember being enthralled with the idea of Ents and their slow ways. They remain my favorite things from the series even today.

I'm really enjoying your chapter posts - great work!
EmmaPease
33. DBratman
Shimrod: Thank you for passing on that truly inane essay. It's good to have confirmation of how bankrupt those arguments are.

While I do not think we should criticize persons of the past for speaking in the language of their time, I also think that language changes. The point of the essay seems to be that language is what people say it is, and in case the author hasn't noticed, more and more people are saying that default male is not the way they're going to use the language. The result: the language has changed. That train has left the station. The "language police" who criticize outdated sexist language (they can't fine you for it or put you in jail, so calling them "police" is hyperbole to begin with) are no different from the "grammar police" who criticize split infinitives or whatever, and with considerably more justification.

I was really, really put off by the opening quote. There's nothing wrong with being a "chair" (it's a perfectly good metonym) if you don't like "chairperson" or if you don't want to vary among "chairman" or "chairwoman" depending on who's there. As for Henry Higgins, there is nothing whatever in nonsexist language rules to prevent him from distinguishing men and women - and, by the way, proving himself a clueless sexist pig with every word he speaks; that's the WHOLE POINT of the song.
EmmaPease
35. legionseagle
DBratman@33: there is nothing I can add to your comment above except a heartfelt (if unimaginative) Word!!! Thank you for nailing it so precisely.
EmmaPease
36. Jason Fisher
@Nicholas Waller (#6)
All this is complicated as "woman" apparently comes from "wifmon" (wife-man) itself.

Bear in mind that "man" in this case originally just meant any person, regardless of sex. Just as "deer" originally just meant any animal, and "meat" originally just meant any solid, as opposed to liquid, food.

@Chris Johnstone (#14)
*Entwif could well have been a word that existed at one point. Certainly, as Ent comes from Eten < Ettin < Eotayn < Jotun (literally, eater, devourer) and denotes a giant, Entwif seems a pretty likely word construction in early English.

You could very well be right. After all, in Beowulf Grendel is described as an eoten, so his mother must certainly be one as well; and she is called a wif also. I can't recall ever seeing the two put together in a compound, but it's certainly a plausible one.
Kurt Lorey
37. Shimrod
@33 DBratman.


Hmm. Interesting. I took the proposition of that essay to be that indignation directed towards language is driven more by ideological biases, rather than via some kind of rational linguisitic critique. In effect, don't blame the language, blame the context. If nothing else, context is what drives meaning in English.

The problem I see is that you have an expectation that a consensus exists regarding the disempowerment of androcentric contexts. That consensus does not yet exist. It's a problem because cultural changes don't follow Boolean logic. It cannot be either/or when it comes to something like language (at least, English). Language certainly does change (even though the French seem determined to prevent it in their own case). In fact, English is one of the most malleable of all of the major contemporary languages, and I agree that the trend is towards a gender-neutral context in usage. But, it isn't like throwing a switch. There are complex sets of transitory phases which extend across relatively long periods of time. On top of that, there are other socio-economic variables which affect the trending of context. Plus, how about non-native speakers brought up with a different set of cultural values or whose native language is more precise, for example?

While it isn't unreasonable for you to expect me to write in a gender-neutral manner, I just think it might be slightly unreasonable to expect that everyone else does so as well just because you deem it ideologically correct. Still, if you catch me writing in an overly androcentric manner, I would appreciate you mentioning it as I really do try not to (just cut me some slack if you ever hear me speaking, because old habits are very difficult to break).

On a related topic, do either of you have similar opinions concerning usage in international signage?
Andrew Foss
38. alfoss1540
Sorry to be late to the post. We were down the shore last week and just returned to comment on 2 posts.

Treebeard - the chapter and the character - add so much richness to this story.

Another enchanted forest - the chapter both dispells the mystery of Fangorn the forest while maintaining the peril of it.

Ent Draughts - Kind of like Alice Shrooming in Wonderland or Neo's choice of the red or the blue pill. When all is said and done, the Hobbits take the drugs and all is changed.

Thanks to the poster mentioning reading this in the Redwoods - I can totally see that as well. Back to the Sierras!

In addition to the great scenery, this chapter - and the next - make us look back and take notice of where we have been and where we must go - and gives the beginning of a pathway for the rest of the story.

As for the Sexism - I always giggled at the non sexist term woperit - doubleplusgoodduckspeaking if you ask me.

Though I despise sexism and racism to the fullest, politically correcting the past is just stupid. When they have to retranslate the Bible to change the points of view of the sexist middle easterners 2000 years ago, it is just because they are ignoring the point that was being made when the Catholics wrote the Bible 200 years later - and King James commissioned 1600 years after that. We haveall been a buinch of pigs throughout the years. You can't cut off our balls now because of the faults of cultures past.
EmmaPease
39. DBratman
Shimrod @37: Actually, the consensus does exist. New rules have been codified, and are being followed by all polite speakers. A tremendous amount of work has been done in this area in the past 40 years.

Even to the extent that the new rules are not always followed, they are very common, and idiotically argued, self-righteous defenses of the unjustifiable, like the one you linked to, are a bloody waste of time.
Kurt Lorey
40. Shimrod
@39 DBratman. Funny. Self-righteous might define your attitude on this subject as well.

The consensus you believe to exist defines only formal usage, whether in publishing, academia, or anywhere else. I'll grant you this is a big change over traditional usages.
But informally, I still believe this still to be in transition. Artificial change can hardly be enforced upon informal behavior, no matter what is fair, or not. And calling anything you disagree with idiotic, self-righteous and/or unjustifiable doesn't gain you any debating points in a rational discussion about it.

I have simply found this discussion coolly amusing. Why? Because I see no effort at all to find time to direct any of your indignation towards the ads for the game Evony that appear on this site, while railing about whether you want to be referred to as Man, Person or Jovian.

Offhand, I would think at least some of your indignation about how women are addressed verbally might be better directed at how they are addressed visually. Or maybe, I am just missing the point?
EmmaPease
41. DBratman
I'm arguing for equality, not for self-righteousness.

I'm not interested in gaining debating points with that article. It is too idiotic to be worth debating with. That was my attitude from the beginning, when I thanked you for showing how bankrupt the notions are.

I find it extremely quaint that you should believe that, just because I choose to follow a LOTR discussion that happens to be hosted on this particular board, that I am therefore required to evaluate, for your benefit, the sexism of every ad on the entire Tor web site. I did not get into this discussion to pass judgments on the entire world's sexism quota. You brought this article up, and I am responding to you. I haven't even seen the ads to which you refer, and why should I say anything about them anyway? Shouldn't my opinion be obvious without my having to say so?
Kurt Lorey
42. Shimrod
@41 DBratman.

It is pointless to continue when there is no common ground for a rational discussion. I was going to say something snarky, but that isn't worth the effort either.

In the end, I should have simply paid more attention to your chosen screen name. It speaks volumes, about your attitude and your own androcentric biases.
Kate Nepveu
43. katenepveu
Shimrod, that's actually an abbreviation of his offline name.
EmmaPease
44. DBratman
Shimrod: As "androcentric" means "specifically male-oriented," and that's exactly the perspective I was arguing against, to accuse me of that bias suggests that you are even more confused than I thought you were.

This also reflects your perception of my attitude. Make arguments that deserve no more than casual dismissal, and they will be casually dismissed. It's up to you, really.

Lastly, I very much do not appreciate your attempt at mockery of the name I was born with.
Chris Meadows
46. Robotech_Master
Interesting to note the parallels between this and the "Old Man Willow" chapter from Fellowship. Whereas in that chapter, hobbits wandering in a spooky forest meet a tree that wants to do them in, in this one they meet a very friendly tree.

And I see nobody connected up Treebeard's suggestion that the Shire is the sort of country the Entwives would find attractive with the pub mention in Fellowship of "walking trees". (Treebeard has obviously never been there, so apparently they didn't look quite everywhere for the Entwives after all.) Things that make you go hmmmm.
Kate Nepveu
47. katenepveu
Robotech_Master @ #46, I think we mentioned the possible Entwife sighting back in the Shire chapter. => But we might not have caught the resonance/revisiting of "Old Man Willow" here, so thanks.
Chris Meadows
48. Robotech_Master
Though one of my Tolkien-fan friends did point out Tolkien said in one of his letters that the Entwives were probably all dead, it's not something that's apparent in the text.
Kate Nepveu
49. katenepveu
Nope; I think someone here looked at maps and did some extrapolation where they'd gone and what had happened there and decided it was likely, but hey, they can move fast when they want, after all.

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