|“||But the forest is queer... And the trees do not like strangers. They watch you. They are usually content merely to watch you, as long as daylight lasts, and don't do much... But at night things can be most alarming, or so I am told. I have only once or twice been in here after dark, and then only near the hedge. I thought all the trees were whispering to each other, passing news and plots along in an unintelligible language; and the branches swayed and groped without any wind.||”|
–Merry, Fellowship of the Ring
The Hobbits believed the trees of the Old Forest were in some manner 'awake'. They sway when there is no wind, whisper at night, and mislead and waylay travelers. In a notable incident, trees from the Old Forest moved right next to the protective hedge; the Hobbits in turn cut down and burned them in an enormous bonfire. Ever since then, the trees were more hostile --the Huorns. In any event, despite being an ancient and "awake" forest, no Ents tend to this woodland, and it seems to be avoided by Elves as well.
Old Man Willow held sway over most of the trees here, causing all the paths to either lead to him or the Barrow-downs, which is where the 4 hobbits end up in the Fellowship of the Ring after Old Man Willow tried to consume them.The forest was also the home of Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry. The merry Tom had absolute mastery of the forest, and was the only person capable of truly navigating through the perils of the trees and tempering Old Man Willow's wrath, for many living things respected him.
Description and FeaturesEdit
Aside from the trees, a valley lay at its center and the Withywindle river flowed through it. The Withywindle, as told in Hobbit folklore, was the center of queerness in the vast queerness of the forest. At the south-eastern edge of the forest, on the bank of the river Withywindle, stood the house of Tom Bombadil--the only constructed dwelling in the forest. The home of Bombadil rested in a glade near the Withywindle--a sunny spot with green grass and bright trees.The pathway through the Old Forest known by the Hobbits was near the bonfire grove, although when the company arrived there, it appeared to have shifted. The southern edge of the forest was primarily oak and ash, being much more dense than the pine and fir-filled north.
Before the Third AgeEdit
The Old Forest, along with Fangorn Forest, was all that remained of a vast and ancient primordial forest that once spanned nearly all of Eriador before the Second Age, and is one of the few forests that the Elves decided to wake and teach to speak. Beginning in the middle of the Second Age, the forest came under threat by the felling of trees by the Men of Middle-earth and of Númenor. Later, when Sauron declared war on the elves, the havoc and destruction he and his troops created resulted in the near destruction of Eriador and the burning of much of the forest.
By the Third Age, the forest had become wild and dangerous and those that lived near it had to take precautions, particularly the Bucklanders, who built the High Hay to keep out wild creatures. Just before the War of the Ring, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin passed through the Old Forest on their way to Bree and were rescued by Tom Bombadil, after being trapped by Old Man Willow in The Fellowship of the Ring (novel).
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
Old Forest is depicted in the video games The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game) and The Lord of the Rings Online.