Tolkien’s Trees and Wonderful Transformation
If I had the privilege of serving as executive producer for an upcoming Tolkien flick—either big screen or television—I know how I would craft the opening scene. Sunbeams would swiftly rise over a mountain peak. This leading camera shot would roll our vision into a shimmering, green-grass field with morning mist. The shot would then take us up close on a lone tree in the center of the dew-dripped, steaming field. The stately tree would be beautifully shimmering with golden leaves. Suddenly, the pervasive steam would wisp upward into a smoke-like ring. Then, with gathering momentum, it would rush with rapid descent into the stump of a pipe. Viewers would discover the pipe to be in the mouth of a middle-aged author seated on a felled log, sketching words in Elvish script.
Alas, I am not the producer. But I am confident I could make my case for such an opener based on the prominence and deliberate role of trees in Tolkien’s Legendarium. After all, opening scenes in The Lord of the Rings reported grand party preparation: “There was a specially large pavilion, so big that the tree that grew in the field was right inside it, and stood proudly near one end, at the head of the chief table. Lanterns were hung on all its branches.” On the night of the long-expected party, “Bilbo left his place and went and stood on a chair under the illuminated tree. The light of the lanterns fell on his beaming face . . .”1