Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The White Tree
In the Hamlet, there are lines that indicate that he is about thirty years old. He is also described as fat. Despite this, there is an overwhelming impression from the play that Hamlet is young and athletic. In this case, there is some scholarly debate as to whether Hamlet should be considered fat and thirty, or whether the lines are errors of transmission. Regardless, we bring our own interpretations to literature. In the Lord of the Rings, the White Tree of Gondor has a major symbolic place. When I create a mental image of the White Tree I always come up with something close to a Sycamore. (Or at least I did before I saw the movie.) Tolkien gives a detailed description of the White Tree in the book, and it doesn't match a Sycamore. It doesn't matter. I read the words White Tree, and I see a sycamore. I like it that way. It gives the fantasy a very real grounding in my world. I think that Tolkien would understand. He wrote that Faerie "contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted."