Old Forest

From Tolkien Gateway
Old Forest
Kevin Ward - Old Forest.jpg
"Old Forest" by Kevin Ward
General Information
LocationEast of the Shire
InhabitantsTom Bombadil, Goldberry, Old Man Willow, Trees
GalleryImages of the Old Forest

The Old Forest was a small forested area to the east of the Shire.

Description[edit | edit source]

The Old Forest was bordered in the east by the Barrow-downs, and in the west by Brandywine.[1] At the south-eastern edge of the forest, on the bank of the river Withywindle, stood the house of Tom Bombadil.[2]

The Withywindle, which lay roughly in the centre of the Old Forest, was the root of the queerness, malice, and the general animosity that the trees projected. Old Man Willow lived within the valley and seemed to have some measure of control over the forest, inspiring much of the anger that permeated the limbs of the trees.[2]

The Hobbits believed the trees of the Old Forest were in some manner 'awake', and hostile. They swayed when there was no wind, whispered at night, and misled travellers deeper into the forest. The trees did indeed carry malice and a hatred, but this hatred was not connected to the evil stemming from the East and Mordor. The forest had been angered by the years of tree-felling and destruction that they had witnessed, and the trees would lash out at travellers, whether they meant good or ill.[2]

Hobbits who passed through felt a sense of being watched by the forest itself. The paths in the forest, which seemed at first to be true, would angle downward into the valley of the Withywindle.[2] The hobbits mostly referred to the forest as queer, and dangerous rather than evil.[3] Hobbits also blamed the Old Forest for the queerness of the Brandybucks due to its proximity to Buckland[4]

History[edit | edit source]

The Old Forest was one of the few remains of the vast primordial forests which covered most of Eriador before the Second Age,[5] being its northern edge. What became known as the Old Forest was what survived the deforestation by the Númenóreans and the wars against Sauron.[6] It was part of Arnor (and Cardolan) during the existence of the North-kingdom.[7]

When Angmar attacked Arnor in T.A. 1409, some Dúnedain of Cardolan fled into the Forest.[8]

In the later years, Gorhendad Oldbuck colonized the stripe of land between the Brandywine and the Old Forest; the Hobbits of Buckland cut the forest to make room for their new homes, and also built the Hedge, a large wall separating their country from the Forest. When the trees grew too close to the hedge, hobbits cut down the trees nearest and created a clearing by a bonfire. After that, the trees were more hostile.[2]

Just before the War of the Ring, the Hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took crossed through it trying to escape from the Black Riders. While passing through the forest, Old Man Willow casted a spell on the hobbits causing them to feel sleepy. Merry and Pippin leaned against the trunk and fell asleep, and were subsequently trapped in cracks in the trunk, while Frodo sat on a root to dangle his feet in the water, before also falling asleep and being pushed in by Old Man Willow. Sam managed to fight off the spell and rescued Frodo from the stream. They attempted to save Merry and Pippin by lighting a fire at the tree's base, but this only angered Old Man Willow more. They were saved by the timely arrival of Tom Bombadil who knew "the tune for him".[2]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

The Old Forest in adaptations
Old Forest at night in The Lord of the Rings Online  

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Old Forest consists of two game levels: before and after the encounter with Old Man Willow. The paths in the forest are shifting and getting to the destination is not as easy as it seems.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Old Forest is represented in the game in its entirety: from the eastern borders of Buckland and the Bonfire Glade up until Tom Bombadil's House and the entrance to the Barrow-Downs.
Upon the game's release, there was no map and the paths were shifting, much like in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game). However, later a map was added and the paths fixed due to many players' complaints.