The Watchwood

2019-10-31

in Books and literature, Security

In chapter 10, book 3 of the Lord of The Rings, Treebeard describes to Gandalf how Saruman will be guarded in Orthanc following the destruction of Isengard by the Ents:

‘Leave it to the Ents!’ said Treebeard. ‘We shall search the valley from head to foot and peer under every pebble. Trees are coming back to live here, old trees, wild trees. The Watchwood we will call it. Not a squirrel will go here, but I shall know of it. Leave it to Ents! Until seven times the years in which he tormented us have passed, we shall not tire of watching him.’

It is a line which has been in my head on account of an enhanced need for watchfulness in the last year and six months.

Later when they meet in chapter 6 of book 6, Treebeard greets Gandalf with a reference to this new Watchwood:

‘Welcome to the Treegarth of Orthanc!’ he said. ‘I knew that you were coming, but I was at work up the valley; there is much still to be done. But you have not been idle either away in the south and the east, I hear; and all that I hear is good, very good.’ Then Treebeard praised all their deeds, of which he seemed to have full knowledge; and at last he stopped and looked long at Gandalf.

Soon Treebeard explains that he already released the man he was meant to be guarding:

‘But he is gone. Yes, he is gone seven days. I let him go. There was little left of him when he crawled out, and as for that worm-creature of his, he was like a pale shadow. Now do not tell me, Gandalf, that I promised to keep him safe; for I know it. But things have changed since then. And I kept him until he was safe, safe from doing any more harm. You should know that above all I hate the caging of live things, and I will not keep even such creatures as these caged beyond great need. A snake without fangs may crawl where he will.’

‘You may be right,’ said Gandalf; ‘but this snake had still one tooth left, I think. He had the poison of his voice, and I guess that he persuaded you, even you Treebeard, knowing the soft spot in your heart. Well, he is gone, and there is no more to be said.’

Gandalf shortly after Gandalf says to Frodo:

‘Yes, I think you had better do that,’ said Gandalf. ‘But alas for Saruman! I fear nothing more can be made of him. He has withered altogether. All the same, I am not sure that Treebeard is right: I fancy he could do some mischief still in a small mean way.’

That seems applicable to my own situation as well. I shall try to do better than Treebeard at incorporating a necessary ongoing watchfulness into a healthy growing thing, both with the thought of the enduring of the vigil and of the mental balance of those carrying it out, who must remember why the world deserves protecting.

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