Birnam, Fangorn, and Ephraim

RivendellThese last few days I’ve been thinking how this time of year, this time of life, would be a great time for a nice visit to Rivendell, the Last Homely House East of the Sea.  Something about deep rest, I think.  Fireside and song and a kind of leisure often not found in the day-to-day.  As I was thinking about it, I looked back to The Hobbit to see what all had to be said of the place in Tolkien’s first published work: there really isn’t much, mostly just moon runes.  The House of Elrond gets a much fuller rendering in The Fellowship of the Ring.

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Something else Lord of the Rings came to mind this morning during my Bible reading.  It actually traces from Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood to Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest to a moment in the story of David from 2 Samuel 18.  At this point in the story, David has been exiled from Jerusalem.  Absalom is seeking to take over the kingdom fully and has decided to bring an end to his father.  Then this happens:

So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

You just kind of want to imagine that the forest was more than just a location . . . that some kind of long-traveling band of Ents showed up in the shadows of the story of David bringing justice with their branches.  Ah well.

(Rivendell image from Tolkien himself)

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