Monday, October 4, 2010

Is it scary here? Or is it just me?

I seem to linger on one or two authors; this time I feel like another Tolkien spot, not far from last time's locus.

After stumbling along for some way along the stream, they came quite suddenly out of the gloom. As if through a gate, they saw the sunlight before them. Coming to the opening they found that they had made their way down through a cleft in a high steep bank, almost a cliff. At its feet was a wide space of grass and reeds; and in the distance could be glimpsed another bank almost as steep. A golden afternoon of late sunshine lay warm and drowsy upon the hidden land between. In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, blocked with fallen willows, and flecked with thousands of faded willow-leaves. The air was thick with them, fluttering yellow from the branches; for there was a warm and gentle breeze blowing softly in the valley, and the reeds were rustling, and the willow-boughs were creaking.

`Well, now I have at least some notion of where we are!' said Merry. `... This is the River Withywindle!...'
I suppose there's not much frightening about that, as far as it goes --- but you have to read the book! I love the way that "willow" note recurs, like an ostinato counterpoint. Or perhaps it's a flatted dominant? For myself, "willow" is one of my "cellar door"s, quite apart from how I admire willow-trees in person. But here...

... There were armies of flies of all kinds buzzing around their ears, and the afternoon sun was burning on their backs. At last they came suddenly into a thin shade; great grey branches reached across the path. Each step forward became more reluctant than the last. Sleepiness seemed to be creeping out of the ground and up their legs, and falling softly out of the air upon their heads and eyes.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Go read the book, now, if you don't remember it. But it's worth noting that willows, while lovely and graceful, are not the trustiest of trees; their wood is rather too soft for structural uses, and they tend to fall apart as they get older. A venerable old specimen in one of my favourite boyhood parkly haunts was dismantled recently, to forestall it's falling down on unsuspecting visitors. Tolkien's rather more willful Old Man Willow character, who very much defines this place, is an alarming extrapolation of my poignant beloved trees.

--Some Guy on the Street, for

The River Withywindle
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien


Paul Stilwell said...

Oh, it's alarming alright! The part when Samwise (at least I think it's Samwise; I should know this after reading it how may times) comes running back and sees...well, it's a scary place.

And the way 'willow' is repeated, I very much concur. It makes the place so thick with them.

Sullivan McPig said...

Willows do indeed have something creepy.

Belfry Bat said...

The odd thing is, for myself I can't find willows scary at all. I really like them. But Old Man Willow is another kettle of fish altogether.

Enbrethiliel said...


I have some vague memories . . .

Is this the forest that seems to be making it so that the hobbits get lost in it? I remember being really unsettled by that.

Belfry Bat said...

Yes, that's the one; by now they've been in all morning and into the afternoon.

Post a Comment