The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 35, The Treebeard Option

After escaping from the orcs, who were rushing to take them to Saruman, Merry and Pippin meet one of the most remarkable and surprising characters in the tale: Treebeard, the great caretaker and shepherd of the forest of Fangorn.

After interrogating Merry and Pippin, Treebeard comes to realize that Saruman has become a threat to Fangorn and the whole of Middle Earth. The news isn't wholly unexpected, as Treebeard has been watching and worrying about Saruman for quite sometime. But the tipping point has come, action must be taken. Treebeard concludes:

"I cannot overlook him. I must do something, I suppose...I think that I now understand what he is up to. He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels, and he does not care for growing things...And now it is clear that he is a black traitor."

Fleming Rutledge makes a contrast here between Tom Bombadil and Treebeard. Recall our WILDLY CONTROVERSIAL Week 7 post on "the uselessness of Tom Bombadil," where, in contrast to Rivendell, Rutledge criticizes Bombadil for not caring about or participating in the struggle against Sauron. Many didn't like Tom being called out, arguing that Tom's work in caring for his patch of the world is a form of resistance. Alan Jacobs even speaks of us choosing the "the Bombadil Option."

All of which is very well argued and observed. Resistance can involve withdrawing from the larger fight to control history to care for the particular and the local. And yet, in the middle of that debate we find Treebeard, who seems to embody the best of both Rivendell and Bombadil. Like Tom, Treebeard is a caretaker and steward of the local and the particular. And yet, while slow and deliberative, Treebeard can be roused to take action against evil, joining Rivendell in the fight. 

I know, I know, of the making of "Options" there seems to be no end. But our choice isn't just the Rivendell Option or the Bombadil Option, choosing, for example, between social justice warriors and the withdrawl of the Benedict Option. Between involvement in history versus care of the local and particular. There is a middle path here. There is the Treebeard Option. A preference for the local and the particular. A slow, considered, deliberative, wise and watchful approach to "getting involved." No emotional hot takes from the Ents! But also a capacity to be roused and get involved "for such a time as this." 

For even the Ents, slow and patient as they are, get to a point where even they have to say, "I must do something."

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