Abstract Detail

Plenary Address - Walter Judd

Judd, Walter [1], Judd, Graham [2].

Flora of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Many readers of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings believe that the events of these books occur in an imaginary world and thus have no connection with the world around us. However, J. R. R. Tolkien sought to correct this misconception, stating that Middle-earth “is just the use of Middle English middle-erde (or erthe)…the name for the inhabited lands of Men ‘between the seas.’” His writings should not be considered escapist, but instead are meant to reconnect us to the world in which we live—including the landscapes of our natural environment—and especially plants! In Tolkien’s legendarium, plants are the primary concern of Yavanna Kementári, the Giver of Fruits (and over 140 species and/or genera are included in his writings). As related in The Silmarillion, she is the “lover of all things that grow in the earth, and all their countless forms she holds in her mind, from the trees like towers in forests … to the moss upon stones or the small and secret things in the mould”. Understandably, she is held in great reverence by the elves, as are the natural environments she oversees. Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle-earth are richly detailed, including succinct verbal sketches of many of its plants, and thus create a realistic stage for his dramas. His detailed treatment of plants plays a major role in the creation of this stage—providing the distinctive landscapes and natural locales of Middle-earth—from the tundra and ice-fields of the north, to the extensive prairies of Rohan, and the coniferous forests of Dorthonion, as well as the broad-leaved forests of Doriath or Fangorn and wetlands such as the Gladden Fields. The dominant species within each plant community are always mentioned, especially the trees, which Tolkien, like Yavanna, held most dear. Thus, it is critical for our appreciation and understanding of Middle-earth to envision these scenes accurately. These plants, however, do more than merely provide descriptive detail, enhancing the veracity of the tales of Middle-earth. The plants within Tolkien’s legendarium are actually part of the story, and in ways that are more deeply significant than merely evident in the actions of Ents—anthropomorphized trees—that “speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them”. Their significance can be seen in the numerous connections between plants and important individuals in the myths and history of Middle-earth.

1 - University Of Florida, Department Of Biology, 220 Bartram Hall, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL, 32611, United States
2 - Augsburg College, 100 Richmond St. E, South St. Paul, MN, 55075

none specified

Presentation Type: Special Presentation
Abstract ID:445
Candidate for Awards:None

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