How Powerful Are the Ents?

The Gentle Power of Growing that Splits Rocks.

How powerful are the Ents?

“My business is with Isengard tonight, with rock and stone.” Treebeard.

What can be more vulnerable than a gentle sprout springing from under the ground? You can easily step on it and trample it underfoot. You can knock it off with a stick or break it with your fingers. And yet, in Tolkien’s lore, the power of growing things prevails over the power of the Machine.

In The Lord of the Rings, The One Ring is the epitome of the ultimate Machine, a technology used to control other wills. In Tolkien’s philosophy, the Machine is an external technique or device designed to subdue reality to my will.

By the last [the Machine] I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents — or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognized. . . The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines.

Saruman didn’t believe in the power of growing. He didn’t care for growing things. He believed in the Machine. He believed in forcing. Forcing is the opposite of growing. Growing is allowing things to be as they are. Forcing is imposing your will upon another. As Treebeard says of Saruman,

He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for living things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.” 

Ironically, Isengard was defeated by “the things that grow” – the Ents and Huorns (trees) who were roused enough to unleash their hidden power. But where does this power come from?

There are two types of magic in The Lord of the Rings. One is black magic called the Machine, and the other one is Art. The Machine is using external means to bulldoze reality into my mold. Art is the magic that grows out of who I am. Hobbits and elves love “all things that grow” because they are attuned to the “deeper magic.”

For all hobbits share a love for things that grow.

Saruman wasn’t attuned to the “deeper magic,” the magic of growing – the magic that grows slowly and is rooted in the soil.

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Gandalf

What does Aslan say about the “deeper magic”?

C.S. Lewis mentions this “deeper magic” in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan says of the White Witch:

The Witch knew the Deep Magic…but there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.

In Magician’s Nephew, we see this deeper magic unfold in the way Narnia springs into existence from the primeval darkness — as an echo of The Song. The deeper magic of Aslan’s Song makes all things grow. All living things literally spring out of the ground, from the soil of the earth.

The White Witch was there, in Narnia, but, preoccupied as she was with sheer domination, she was unable to see what was happening in the stillness and darkness before the dawn of Time. She didn’t see the deeper magic flowing out of Song — the magic of growing. Nor did she hear the Song.

The Song, or the Music of the Spheres, is “the deeper magic” that hobbits and Elves are in tune with. They love all things that grow. It’s the deepest magic because it grows from the soil. Its power is in the Secret Fire of Iluvatar that throbs at the heart of Eä.

The magic of the Elves is art. It grows out of their character and is the reflection of who they are. The Machine is the province of those who lust for power; art is the province of those who “grow things.”

‘Are these magic cloaks?’ asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
 ‘I do not know what you mean by that,’ answered the leader of the Elves. ‘They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are Elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.

In some sense, these cloaks were not made; they grew out of their love of Lórien. Their magic was spun by the twilight under the stars of Varda.

The power of a tiny shoot breaking the ground is truly amazing. It literally splits rock and stone. It’s gentle and vulnerable, yet it grows into a mighty tree thriving on bare rock. Metaphorically speaking, it grows into a power that no Saruman of this world can reckon with.

The Sarumans of this world are preoccupied with domination. They don’t perceive “the deeper magic” growing under their very nose. They don’t see it. They trust in metal and wheels – not on roots and acorns.

In the end, they will be defeated by the gentle power of a sprout that splits rock and stone.

‘‘My business is with Isengard tonight, with rock and stone,” said Treebeard.

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