Treebeard has become one of my favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings. He has a way of speaking that I just enjoy. I don’t know if it’s the inflection I imagine in his voice, if it’s the way he acts once he makes a decision, or if it’s his seemingly limitless knowledge and sense of humor about that knowledge. Everyone knows that Treebeard is ancient, but they can’t quite pinpoint how ancient he is. They only know that his memory far surpasses that of Gandalf, and Gandalf seems relatively old during his days in Middle-earth.
Treebeard’s age, of course, brings a wisdom with it. It’s why he’s become known for the saying, “Don’t be hasty.” He’s right in making the statement; many mistakes often are made when a decision is fueled by wrath or impetuosity. He tells Merry and Pippin, “Hm, but you are hasty folk, I see…I am honoured by your confidence; but you should not be too free all at once. There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain’t, as you might say.”
Treebeard’s resolve not to be hasty is proved time and time again, particularly when he meets with the other Ents. He does not rouse them to a fury; it is unnecessary. They examine what is happening and what their responsibility is in light of those facts. It is that consideration that leads to their decision to storm Isengard. It is not a decision based in wrath. It is, as Treebeard states:
…if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. It was not a hasty resolve. Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song…songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.
Treebeard’s lack of haste doesn’t preclude acting with haste once a decision is made; the Ents move quickly once making their decision to overthrow Saruman. His lack of haste simply suggests that a person should stop and think before acting, especially when considering a decision that could have long-term effects. That lack of haste then turns into resolve, not a hasty one or one that withers quickly, but a quiet resolve. It is a resolve borne from a steadiness and thoughtfulness of spirit. It is a resolve that is echoed in the hardiness of hobbits.
Photo: Pablo Angeletti (CC BY-SA 2.0)