looked behind. The number of the Ents had grown—or what was happening?
Where the dim bare slopes that they had crossed should lie, he thought
he saw groves of trees. But they were moving! Could it be that the
trees of Fangorn were awake, and the forest was rising, marching over
the hills to war?
The march of the army of treelike Ents
at the end of Book III, Chapter 4, indicates
the universality of the War of the Ring in the context of the entire
realm of Middle-earth. The struggle for the Ring is not a mere squabble
between greedy parties who yearn for a magic object to enhance their
personal power. Nor is the Ring an ancient heirloom fought over
in some otherworldly realm that has little to do with the more immediate
world of Men. Rather, the struggle for the Ring involves the whole
cosmos, the entire scale of creation from top to bottom. Even the
trees, which normally sleep through the various disturbances and
conflicts of Men, as Fangorn tells us, cannot remain uninvolved
in this battle. Their march to war here symbolizes not just another
party joining the action, but rather the involvement of all creation
in the struggle against evil.
Pippin’s amazement at the spectacle of the moving trees
is also our amazement, as the hobbit reflects our reaction to the
extraordinary events of Middle-earth. Unlike other fantasy novels
in which the characters are accustomed to the events that occur
in their world—however bizarre they may seem to us as readers—Pippin
is just as flabbergasted as we are. Tolkien emphasizes the psychology of
the scene by allowing us to read Pippin’s thoughts as they appear in
his mind. “Or what was happening?” and “Could it be that . . . ?” are
not the authoritative statements of the narrator, but private questions
that Pippin is asking himself. This inward, psychological focus
helps us keep a more personal perspective on the surreal and epic
events unfolding in the novel.