Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Last Entmoot and The Last Supper

     One of the most striking things from this class so far is Tolkien's interest and dedication to incorporating Christian themes into The Lord of the Rings as well as problems of the time, like the question of nature versus industrialism.
     Christianity was certainly a big component of Tolkien's world, and therefore the one he created as well. I think one of the biggest references to Christianity is in the Entmoot scene and chapter. The meeting itself is an extremely rare occasion and something that happens once every age, if even that frequently. The leader, Treebeard, is the appointed representative with knowledge about the war and Saruman's wrongdoing. He is also who calls the Ents together, of which there are many different types of trees present. This scene has lots of reminders to the The Last Supper. Similar to Jesus, Treebeard is a pure and good creature that is concerned with the outside workings of the world, his own race, as well as all races on Middle Earth. He calls his brothers together and they have a solemn meeting that takes time and intense thought.
     The Ents, similar to The Last Supper, have a ritual before the meeting even starts of saying good morning, like the ritual of Christ serving bread and wine. During the meeting, they discuss the destruction Saruman is doing to the forest and the creatures they shepherd and take care of. The unwarranted persecution of forest dwellers is found by the Ents to be reprehensible, resulting in their decision to march one last time together to war.
     At the time of The Last Supper, Jesus and his chosen disciples were being brutally persecuted by the Romans. This persecution was the point of The Last Supper, where is was discussed as well as a plan. After the meeting, each disciple left and went on to fulfill their own separate missions to end the persecution, even though the missions could end in death.
     With this laid out, one can see just how similar these two events are. Both groups met in secret to discuss current events that were causing deliberate and unwarranted harm to their respective groups. Both meetings needed in a call to action, where all the members left to fulfill their duty, fully aware of the dangers as well as the necessity of the mission. It is also a happy coincidence that The Last Supper was supposed to have happened on a Thursday. The Entmoot reportedly happened on March 30th. This year, March 30th was on a Thursday.
     Another concept attached to the Entmoot is the industrialism versus nature theme that pervades throughout The Lord of the Rings. The Ents are not marching to war against machines or industrialism; they are going to war against the atrocities done to their race. Saruman had been killing thousands of trees for months with no repersucciosns. As a wizard, whose job is to protect and guide the beings of Middle Earth, he did the exact opposite by blindly killing for his own selfish gain. The Ents were not marching against what Saruman was cutting the trees down for--creating an army of Uruk-hai--but because he was cutting down the trees at all.
     Rather than fighting against industrialism or the modernization of the world, perhaps Tolkien was instead protesting people exploiting nature and its resources for selfish gain. This process can be seen all over because of motivations created by modernization efforts in Europe. Tolkien, a man who valued nature and natural things--a view only increased by his Christian beliefs-- wanted nature to be protected and respected, which an Ent is the embodiment of. Ents, like Treebeard, are shepherd of the forest. Their whole job is to maintain nature, keep it dafe, and keep everything contact and happy. This is similar to the way Jesus operates. As a leader of a new faith in a tumultuous world, he was concerned with shepherding his people and maintain them as well as keeping them safe and happy.  His call to action was a result of bad people exploiting, abusing, and killing his followers. This concept also hearkens back to the purely evil action of corruption. Saruman by this point had been completely corrupted by evil, which in turn led him to also corrupt the forest with death and malice where it was before peaceful and pure.
     Something that shows the combination of God and nature is expressed in the line, "I saw glory's tree honored with trappings...yet through that gold, I clearly perceived old strife of wretches..." from the poem  The Dream of the Rood from the Vercelli Book. The tree mentioned is referring to a literal tree that holds the body of Christ during crucifixion as well as to Jesus himself in the line about old strife. This poem shows the intertwinement of church and nature, which is, after all, where religion originated. This connection is something both the power and Tolkien recognized both in a historical and a religious basis with Jesus Christ and with the creation of Ents by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings.
     While it is certainly true that the Entmoot does not have nearly the historical, literary, or spiritual importance of The Last Supper, there are a lot of similarities between the two meetings aa well as those in attendance. Both feature important leaders who serve as symbolic figureheads as well as shepherd for their followers, and both meetings are rare and important occurracnes that result in a great call to action to end oppression and unwarranted brutality. These are made even more apparent by the ida athat Tolkien did not hate industrialism, bur thatcher the exploitation of the natural world and its beauty that it may have contributed to.

3 comments:

  1. I really like the comparison between the Last Supper and the Entmoot. However, I feel like you are missing one (the most) crucial element of the Last Supper: its role in the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus.

    The Last Supper clearly predicts the death of Christ, with full knowledge of the events to come. It is a necessary step on the road to Crucifixion. "And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.'" (Luke 22:15-16). The Last Supper--as with much of Holy Week scripture--is touched with sadness. There is an expectation of death looming in the future.

    Similarly, at the Entmoot, the Ents see death on the horizon. Without the Entwives, there cannot be more Ents. And while there is not the same certainty of death as Christ predicts, Treebeard (the 'leader' of the Entmoot and thus the surrogate Jesus in your analogy) does say "'Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,' he said slowly, 'likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents.'" (p 92 in my edition, 4th from last paragraph in Chp 4, Treebeard, in Two Towers, Book III).

    The expectation of death is also shared across the analogy, and the willingness to undertake the endeavor regardless for a common goal. The Entmoot is like the Last Supper--where plans are laid in the face of a dangerous future. The looming crucifixion is a fundamental part of the Last Supper which you did not address in your original post, but I think the analogy holds even when that element is considered.

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  2. I found your point about the origin of religion in nature very interesting when thinking about how Tolkien might think about organized faith traditions. He embraces the order of the Church as holy, but still establish boundaries for the extent of the Church's influence on his life.

    On one hand, as you point out, shepherding seems to The Church is very much a human sub-creation, a civilized organized worship that is just a subset of our human connection to Nature or Creation. To Tolkien, the human contribution of order seems necessary to maximize the diffusion of light, just as in the case in which human contribution cuts and polishes natural stones into light-casting jewels.

    But Tolkien does establish limits on submitting to order. As in our discussions of evil, sub-creative power can be used to possessively isolate, wrongfully subjugate, and carve off for one's own pieces of Creation. As far as I know, Tolkien never had any such explicit accusations for the Catholic Church of his time. But he does seem to establish certain boundaries of the influence of organized religion on his nature, especially notable in light of his embrace of order as well as the strength of his faith. Despite his embrace of organization, his faith seems almost radically personal, using Church doctrine as only a springboard to deeper spirituality. In several cases we observed in class, he very much preferred to exert his own interpretations of spirituality, bordering on contradiction with organized doctrine. In many of his letters, this concern manifested as his defending his compatibility with the Church’s order. Evidently he felt tempted to overwrite some doctrine, but stayed his hand—at least in public—to preserve the holiness of order.
    This illuminates what Tolkien's attitude towards organized religion must have been: that it should cultivate faith but never seek to control or monopolize spirituality. Nature should similarly be gardened and maintained in artistic expression, but corruption enters with the industrial greed and desire to isolate Nature's value. In fact, the over-doing/corruption of organized religion or industry are actually separations from the natural origins. Perhaps this means that not industrialization in particular, but polarization of Man and Nature, is what Tolkien fears?

    -JJ
    (blog comment #4)

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  3. I am most convinced by the analogy with the Dream of the Rood: the Trees as warriors or weapons to be wielded by God. I need some more convincing on the Entmoot as Last Supper comparison. The Ents' attack on Isengard could be compared to Joshua's taking Jericho--I think particularly of the use Joshua made of horns as compared with the Ents' booming as they march. Tolkien himself says he was inspired to include the forest going to war not by Scripture but "Macbeth." RLFB

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