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Meanderings by josh m. shepherd: #5: Fangorn and the Church
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Treebeard Walks With Merry and PippinTreebeard. "Do not be hasty, that is my motto," says the 14-foot-tall Ent when he first meets Merry and Pippin. To the hobbits and Tolkien's readers, Treebeard seems too discouraged, too traditional to be anything but a slow diversion. Yet this oldest of the Ents (sometimes called simply "Fangorn" because of his close connection to the aging forest) has simply seen enough years to know Man's nature. Underneath his "rough exterior" is a certain care and discernment.

Comparing Treebeard to a priest or pastor gets easier as one examines his occupation. As Merry and Pippin ride on his branches, the ancient Ent explains his calling. "We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed. We are tree-herders," he says, much like congregations have their "shepherds."

Treebeard's Home Deep in FangornThe Entmoot. Traveling deep within Fangorn Forest, they arrive at Treebeard's ent-house — an organic, open air "sanctuary" of trees glowing with color and a brisk stream running through it. (A comment could be made on how many churches lack "color" in their presentation or message, and are instead stagnant; but that certainly reads into the text.)

A great gathering of Ents, to occur the following day, originates in conversation with the hobbits. The talk begins lightly but soon becomes serious. The topic turns to Saruman, the wizard who wages a war in which Treebeard's race has refused to choose sides. "I do not like worrying about the future," Treebeard says. Yet, in a testament to friends who don't evade issues, a simple question from Pippin incites the old Ent to righteous wrath.

A Gathering of Ents"I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" Treebeard exclaims. The next morning, he organizes all his kindred in a massive assembly, sure to last a while considering the Ents' long-winded language. Call it a church committee to the "Enth" degree.

The March to Isengard. Merry and Pippin wait in anticipation. What they saw in the Entmoot were creatures overly patient and pensive. Treebeard had warned that "Many are growing sleepy, growing tree-ish, as you might say." Yet they hope beyond hope that the Ents can be "roused." Days later the hobbits hear a rumbling in the distance.

Th Ents Lay Waste to Isengard"Then with a crash came a great ringing shout," to quote Tolkien's incomparable text of The Two Towers. "The Ents cried in many voices, 'Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone / We go to war!'" The resulting siege of the enemy's stronghold — seen in all its special-effects splendor in the Extended DVD Edition — is history.

The Point. Within the very bark, or fabric, of the Church is a potency to wreak havoc on our enemy's devices. He is real, "false and tricksy" as Gollum might say. One key for effective combat is holy, genuine anger, as Amos 5:15 exhorts: "Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate." The Ents had to understand how Saruman threatened their very existence. Because evil had crept in slowly, they resigned themselves to the fact that hundreds of their own brothers and sisters has been axed and burned!

Treebeard Decides For WarTolkien once wrote, "I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories)..." (Letter #288). Writing from his framework of faith, he brought into being the fantastic race of Ents. Lethargy and tradition held back their passions for a season, yet in time Treebeard and his living forest proved the truth of Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry, and do not sin."
- Josh M. Shepherd, co-founder of cMusicWeb.com, holds a marketing position in Colorado Springs, CO. He can be reached at baggins@oru.edu... when he's not watching the new Return of the King Extended Edition, of course.
December 2004
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