Pippin 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.