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Discussing: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

For the record, I think the ability of elves to run through tree branches is a delightful detail, and I love stories that include it.  That said, I can't remember any specific instances of elves doing this in the books.

I am considering a story in which this ability would be a theme, and rather than read all 20+ books by The Professor, I'll do the lazy thing and ask in here.  Was this ever described, and where?

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Jael, like you, I love to read about Elves running through the trees, but I really can't think of any passages that would support that oh-so-elvish-sounding ability with actual textural references. I could have missed something, so I would be glad to be proven wrong on this. The closest thing I could find is Legolas' statement below:

 FotR
Lothlórien

 `I will climb up,' said Legolas. `I am at home among trees, by root or bough, though these trees are of a kind strange to me, save as a name in song. Mellyrn they are called, and are those that bear the yellow blossom, but I have never climbed in one. I will see now what is their shape and way of growth.'

 
So clearly, Wood-elves, at least, were quite used to climbing in and moving around in trees. In the same chapter, as Frodo lay on the talan, or flet as he called it,

 
He could dimly see the grey forms of two elves sitting motionless with their arms about their knees, speaking in whispers.
The other had gone down to take up his watch on one of the lower branches.

 
Immediately afterwards Haldir came climbing swiftly up through the branches.
`There was something in this tree that I have never seen before,' he said.

 So, though they used ladders, Legolas and the other Elves could obviously move quickly and easily in the tree without them. It stands to reason that if the trees were close enough and the branches sturdy enough and with enough clearance they could move from tree to tree without difficulty. But I don't know of any mention of them actually doing so anywhere in Tolkien's writings.

 The Galadhrim and some of the Wood-elves in Mirkwood lived in the trees, and it seems probable that there would be movement between those arboreal dwellings, especially in Caras Galadhon due to the density of the population there. Still, no actual mention of it though. I get the impression that a mallorn was at least as large as a Redwood or Sequoia in our world today, and its branches would have been huge and easy to walk on – but also far apart. The Elves could possibly have had walkways and swinging bridges in the trees or even single ropes, such as Haldir used, to cross between branches.  (See excerpt from UT below on dwellings in Lothlórien)

 In The Hobbit the somewhat silly Elves of Rivendell are in the trees as Bilbo and Co. arrive; but there's no mention of them moving between trees.


The Hobbit
Flies and Spiders

In fact the subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favourite trees.

 
The beeches were said to be their favourite trees. European beeches often have branches that start low on the trunk, even arcing out and touching the ground. They would likely be easy to climb. I always thought that was why they liked them so well.

 I have never climbed a beech, but I have spent a good many happy hours in a huge Southern Magnolia and I can say that it is easy to climb up in such a tree, and maneuver between branches, but standing up to walk on branches and crossing to another tree would probably be impossible in normal sized trees. Of course, in ME old-growth forests like Mirkwood, the trees could be enormous and large branches could easily lie parallel enough to make passage easy for agile and sure-footed Elves.

 In the passage below, Legolas hypothesizes that the Hobbits have flown away into the trees but he does not suggest that he climb up and dash along the branches to find them.

 The White Rider

'Well, here is the strangest riddle that we have yet found!' exclaimed Legolas. 'A bound prisoner escapes both from the Orcs and from the surrounding horsemen. He then stops, while still in the open, and cuts his bonds with an orc-knife. But how and why? For if his legs were tied, how did he walk? And if his arms were tied, how did he use the knife? And if neither were tied, why did he cut the cords at all? Being pleased with his skill, he then sat down and quietly ate some waybread! That at least is enough to show that he was a hobbit, without the mallorn-leaf. After that, I suppose, he turned his arms into wings and flew away singing into the trees. It should be easy to find him: we only need wings ourselves!'

  So, my guess is that while some tree-running possibly could have been done in limited areas of Mirkwood and Lórien, it was not possible (or at least not practical) in all forests or all parts of their own forests.

 
Hope that helps,
Ithildin  *(

 

Passage from UT

History of Galadriel and Celeborn
Amroth and Nimrodel

It is said here that the custom of dwelling in trees was not a habit of the Silvan Elves in general, but was developed in Lórien by the nature and situation of the land: a flat land with no good stone, except what might be quarried in the mountains westward and brought with difficulty down the Silverlode. Its chief wealth was in its trees, a remnant of the great forests of the Elder Days. But the dwelling in trees was not universal even in Lórien and the telain or flets were in origin either refuges to be used in the event of attack, or most often (especially those high up in great trees) outlook posts from which the land and its borders could be surveyed by Elvish eyes: for Lórien after the end of the first millennium of Third Age became a land of uneasy vigilance, and Amroth must have dwelt in growing disquiet ever since Dol Guldur was established in Mirkwood.

 

Such an outlook post, used by wardens of the north-marches, was the flet in which Frodo spent the night. The abode of Celeborn in Caras Galadhon was also of the same origin: its highest flet, which the Fellowship of the Ring did not see, was the highest point in the land. Earlier the flet of Amroth at the top of the great mound or hill of Cerin Amroth, piled by the labour of many hands, had been the highest, and was principally designed to watch Dol Guldur across the Anduin. The conversion of these telain into permanent dwellings was a later development, and only in Caras Galadhon were such dwellings numerous. But Caras Galadhon was itself a fortress, and only a small part of the Galadhrim dwelt within its walls. Living in such lofty houses was no doubt at first thought remarkable, and Amroth was probably the first to do so. It was thus from his living in a high talan that his name – the only one that was later remembered in legend – was most probably derived.

 

A note to the words "Amroth was probably the first to do so" states:

 Unless it was Nimrodel. Her motives were different. She loved the waters and the falls of Nimrodel from which she would not long be parted; but as times darkened the stream was too near the north borders, and in a part where few of the Galadhrim now dwelt. Maybe it was from her that Amroth took the idea of living in a high flet17

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Thank you.  That helps.  Elves are obviously good tree-climbers, but the ability to travel swiftly above ground would be limited by circumstance.

In fact the subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favourite trees.

The name of Mirkwood/Greenwood's first king, Oropher, translates into 'Tall Beech' at least by my limited Sindarin skills.  And wasn't the Hirilorn a beech?  Perhaps this had something to do with it, along with the ease in climbing.  I like to think so, at any rate.

Truly, since my story would involve an elf attempting this feat, failing, falling to the ground and having to be revived, I needed to rule out that this was an attested Elven trait.  Wink

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Please allow me to add a remark to this discussion, although I am late; but finally found the passage I was looking for. It does not directly qualifies as evidence for tree-running of Elves, but IMHO at least for the possibility that the Woodelves (of Lothlorien and probably Mirkwood) could do it: When the Fellowship crosses the Celebrant in Lothlorien, and Haldir throws a rope over the stream to another Elf there to create a path over the stream. Here is the quote, italics added by me:

"'Celebrant is already a strong stream here,as you can see,' said Haldir, 'and it runs both swift and deep, and is very cold. We do not set foot in it so far north, unless we must. But in these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges. This is how we cross! Follow me!' He made his end of the rope fast about another tree, and then ran lightly along it, over the river and back again, as if he were on a road.
'I can walk this path,' said Legolas; 'but the others have not this skill. Must they swim?'
"

I think if Haldir and his people (and apparently Legolas, too) could run swiftly along a rope as if it was a road, that should mean that they would have no problems at all to do the same with branches. It is a circumventive argument, I admit, but I think it is good enoughto support the possibility of tree-running.


Aislynn

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Thank you for the input.  It works for me.  I just wanted to make sure that JRRT had not said that tree-running was a hard and fast Elven skill.  My plot bunny involves an elf who tries it, falls from the tree, and has to be revived.  He will later manage the skill under different circumstances.

It would have looked foolish if JRRT had said they all could do it with ease. My guess is they could do it, although it takes more than just incredible balance like for running across a rope.  It would also take lightning fast reflexes and judgment and the proper situating of the trees.  My speculation is that a non-Wood-elf would fail at his first try.

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

>>It would also take lightning fast reflexes and judgment and the proper situating of the trees. My speculation is that a non-Wood-elf would fail at his first try.

Definitely. He or she would have to be able to judge instantly whether a branch can hold his or her weight if such movement is to be quick, and not just the next branch but a whole path. I can see that a Wood Elf might have a sense for this, and that the trees themselves might help to guide him, while a Noldo would fail utterly, being the sort who would displace the native trees with a weed tree from an insular environment, change the climate at will, and then abandon the whole mess.

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

I can see that a Wood Elf might have a sense for this, and that the trees themselves might help to guide him, while a Noldo would fail utterly, being the sort who would displace the native trees with a weed tree from an insular environment, change the climate at will, and then abandon the whole mess.

Snort! But, honestly, I think even for a Woodelf, it would have to be a trait he or she had to learn, train and hone for a long time before it could be done quickly. I think even with the passage I quoted that had Haldir (and, implied, also Legolas) cabale of running lightly and quickly along a rope as if it was a road, I would assume that neither of them were born with that ability, but that they had to learn and hone it (although having incredible balance might help).

Even if they started early. I strongly believe the experience of hearing: "Ada, Nana, look! NO HANDS!!!" - followed by a *ploff* - is something that Woodelf parents share with other parents everywhere. (Hopefully, though, the Elfling in question won't start with higher branches or high railings.)

Aislynn

 

 

Re: Elven Tree-running: Canon or Fanon?

Even if they started early. I strongly believe the experience of hearing: "Ada, Nana, look! NO HANDS!!!" - followed by a *ploff* - is something that Woodelf parents share with other parents everywhere. (Hopefully, though, the Elfling in question won't start with higher branches or high railings.)
 

ROFL  Anyone who has been a parent knows that they always start with the most hazardous situation possible.  That's why parent of all races, Elven or Mortal, go grey.  Do you think Thingol had that silver hair before Luthien was born?  Uh-uh!

This story is merely in the concept stages, so look for it in these spaces sometime in 2008, given my snail-pace writing.  It will be an adult elf, neither Wood-elf nor Noldo, and he will come down with an authoritative thud.  ROTFLMAO

 

 

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