Uh...is the Entwash a drug to ents? Edit
So, this is the first time I'm rereading the series in over a decade - first time as an adult - so I'm picking up on a few things that I never noticed before. This one is probably out to lunch, but if it were true, it'd go a long way in explaining why the Ents don't do anything about Saruman before Merry and Pippin show up.
The scene in question is a couple of pages after they arrive at Wellinghall, the first place Treebeard stops after picking up Merry and Pippin. Treebeard spends several paragraphs musing about the evil works of Saruman, and how much has changed since the days when he would drop by and visit Treebeard, and they would wander the woods together. Various things come up like how Treebeard suspects the Uruk Hai are either orc/man halfbreeds or they're despoiled men the way orcs are despoiled elves, and especially the fact that Isengard has been converted into an industrial facility that's consuming trees cut from Fangorn itself to fuel its fires, and how some of the trees aren't even burned, just cut down because the orcs find it fun. (Orcs are weird - forestry without modern chainsaws is a hell of a lot of effort.)
At this point, he curses Saruman "root and branch", saying many of those trees were his friends, but have been lost forever. He ends with "I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" He then gets up from his bed, strikes the table hard enough to disturb the magical light urns enough that they spray fire (I can only assume that means things are serious, given Ents aversion to fire. He then booms out "I will stop it! And you shall come with me!" He outlines a snippit of the plan they end up going with, which is basically "suicide charge Isengard and kill everything."
After Merry and Pippin say a few words of encouragement, he suddenly calms down. "But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become to hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it." He then lumbers off to where his little offshoot of the Entwash runs by and stands under it. The next line I'll quote directly: "Then he laughed and shooh himself, and wherever the drops of water fell glittering from him to the ground they glinted like red and green sparks. He came back and laid himself on the bed again and was silent."
This is eerily similar to some portrayals of addicts I've seen. When they're coming down from their drug of choice, they become emotionally unstable, prone to sudden rage. After an emotional outburst, they fairly quickly recognize it, then they go and get their fix, and then they're calm and quiet. (I'd guess this portrayal is meant to be more for depressants like opiates rather than stimulants, because a freshly drugged methhead is far from calm and quiet.)
It doesn't seem to fit very well because of the timeline - Tolkien was writing these between '37 and '49, mainly, and they were all published by 1955 - I wasn't around at the time (my parents were little kids at time of publication), but the impression I get is that the behavioral patterns of drug abuse didn't really come into public view until the 60s or 70s. But if we assume Tolkien knew someone who knew someone that had faced those demons (in fairness, his portrayal of addiction regarding the Ring is kinda impressive for the time, too), it's in the realm of possibility
So here's my theory. Saruman is known to have traveled in Fangorn - Treebeard and Eomer both admit as much, and I'm pretty sure Treebeard at least can tell the difference between Saruman slinking around and Gandalf the White waiting for his friends. What if one of the purposes of this activity (which seems out of place since it seems to have continued well after he started gathering his orc host and openly turned on Treebeard) was introducing some manner of concocted depressant tailored for Ent consumption into the water supply of the forest? Treebeard knew about the orcs massacring his people (kinda stretching the term, but the trees in question do talk to him) long before Merry and Pippin, so why didn't he lash out in rage right away the way he does in the theatrical release (in which he discovers the destruction of the southern border of Fangorn while escorting Merry and Pippin out of the forest, and immediately calls on the ents to attack Isengard.). One might argue that he's too old and cautious to do that directly, but then why not call the entmoot the way he does in the books? What changes with the arrival of Merry and Pippin? The only thing I can think of is that they keep him on-topic long enough to get the Entmoot called and a decision made. And again, this hearkens back to portrayals of drug addicts I've seen in other novels - they have trouble maintaining focus themselves because of the effects of their drug and their need to satisfy cravings, but the influence of a clear-headed ally - someone not partaking in the drug, or, in this hypothetical scenario, not effected by it (I think it's safe to argue that Ent biochemistry is rather significantly different from that of Hobbits) - can give them enough focus to actually see things through. Generally in other books it doesn't end well, and in this case, it probably wouldn't have gone so well if not for the fact that the ents are far tougher than your average Tolkien biped, and they struck at a time when Saruman's army was busy getting slaughtered at Helms Deep...certainly their strategy, as I already mentioned, isn't exactly sophisticated.
I have to admit, I don't think this theory is as intended, and Tolkien's ghost may well be on its way to Canada to haunt me (or would be if not for the fact that it's almost certainly prioritizing Peter Jackson over me - this is the author who wrote a preface to the second edition complaining about the copy editors changing his use of the word "Dwarves" to "dwarfs"...he would not have been pleased with any of the Jackson movies.) It's certainly a lot to extrapolate from about a page of Treebeard's near-monologue. I still think it's an interesting interpretation. And I think it's something that Saruman would easily be capable of doing (from a character perspective). Indirect solutions are kinda his thing.
188.8.131.52 07:43, October 15, 2016 (UTC)