Quis enim laesos impune putaret esse deos?: Ents, Sacred Groves, and the Cost of Desecration

Keywords: sacred trees, Ents, Tolkien, Saruman, Julius Caesar


Seneca the Younger, in his Letters, describes a sacred grove as a “thick grove of ancient trees which rise far above the usual height and block the view of the sky with their umbrella of intertwining branches” (Seneca the Younger, Letters 41.3). Fangorn Forest is clearly a sacred site as defined by Seneca, made even more sacred by the presence of the Ents. Thus, to violate it would be a terrible act of desecration, not unlike Lucan’s narrator’s shock at Caesar’s desecration of the sacred grove at Massilia (Lucan BC 3.447 – 8, quoted in the title of this paper). After exploring the relationship between Ents and sacred groves, the paper will compare the fate of Caesar to that of Saruman, who violated Fangorn Forest. Just as Augoustakis (2006) argues that the violation of the grove foreshadows Caesar’s death, so too Saruman’s death at the hands of Wormtongue becomes a fitting punishment for his violation of Fangorn.