Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

Changing the old songs

Here’s a matter that I’ve long wondered at: in The Lord of the Rings, Treebeard recites part of the “old lists” that he learned when he was young, a catalogue of creatures. Part of it is as follows:

Ent the earthborn, old as mountains;
Man the mortal, master of horses:
  

Later Treebeard says that he has put Hobbits into the “Long List”:

Ents the earthborn, old as mountains,
the wide-walkers, water drinking;
and hungry as hunters, the Hobbit children,
the laughing-folk, the little people,
  

What’s up with the change to the ‘entry’ for Ents? Is this an issue of translation (the list cannot have been in the Westron tongue if Treebeard learned it when he was young), or are these songs more malleable than I expect?

Posted by jamie on July 30, 2005 14:57+12:00

Comments

Well obviously the first version of the song was just an executive summary, for busy creatures who can't be bothered to hear the full version.

The second quote is from the full version of the song; the version for Ents, and other people with lots of time on their hands.

HTH

Posted by: Con on August 1, 2005 17:31+12:00

Is there a particular reason why you wouldn't expect them to be maleable? Or do you mean that you surprised yourself by holding an assumption you didn't know you held?

As a separate issue, have you considered human error on the part of the author?

Posted by: Andrew on August 3, 2005 18:52+12:00

I’m surprised at such a degree of change given that the usual factors for those changes within a tradition are not present. We are dealing here with a single person himself changing a song learned long ago, within a short period of time (a matter of months), where that change is a substantial addition of material.

I haven’t yet looked at the drafts of the two sections, which might give some indication one way or the other about the author’s intentions.

I’m inclined for now to take Conal’s position, in that the first version is Treebeard going over the song, singing pieces that come to mind, while after the opportunity to think on the new lines, he gives the full version in a proper recital.

Posted by: Jamie on August 7, 2005 17:38+12:00