a theme for Nature,
is music that spans events in the movies.
Quiet as a moth, determined as angry Ents, it
"represents Nature's resistance of encroaching
evil" (Doug Adams, CR--FOTR liner notes, page
The official title in the
liner notes is 'Nature's Reclamation' but I will
continue to use just 'Nature Theme'. Doug Adams
maintains that, in Tolkien's world, Nature is a culture
alongside of the Elves, Dwarves or Men. He also notes
that the simple, pure melody of the Moth music is a
'antidote to the industrial beating of Isengard'. This echoes a comment I made
below when I discussed how,
even though I might think differently about this music than
Howard Shore intended, we aren't that far apart in our basic
Below are some
old thoughts of
McLennan's and mine about the name
'Nature' for this music.
Places this theme is heard in FOTR:
moth comes to Gandalf as he is held prisoner on top of
Isengard. A boy soprano backed by a choir sing
Moth in Isengard
When Gandalf recounts his escape
from Isengard, the brassy music shows a momentary hint of
At Galadriel's Mirror, when Galadriel tells
Frodo (after he has looked in the mirror) that he (Boromir) will
try to take the Ring and it will destroy the rest, also. Frodo offers the Ring to Galadriel.
This scene doesn't quite seem
to fit with the others as an uprising of 'nature' or "Free
Peoples" that the rest do. The dialog is:
- Galadriel (V.O):
It is what
will come to pass if you should fail. The Fellowship is
breaking . It has already begun. He will try to take the
Ring. You know of whom I speak. One by one it will
destroy them all.
If you ask it of me, I will give
you the One Ring.
[He holds out the Ring.]
You offer it to me freely. I do
not deny that my heart has greatly desired this.
And Doug Adams does not mention
the theme being used here in the Annotated Score. But I have listened to the
clip carefully, and although it is a variant, I do believe
it to be derived from that melody.
When Merry and Pippin, hiding under
a tree root near Amon Hen, realize that Frodo wants to leave the
Fellowship. They run out from the tree root and yell at the Orcs
to act as a diversion so Frodo can escape. To me, it sounded
like the Nature Theme with some notes 'dropped out'.
theharmonyguy (on moviemusic.com's old forum) described it:
"The music that plays as the
hobbits converse is mainly just a chord progression with
nothing that melodic. But then it hit me - the harmonic
progression is the same as that of the Nature theme. You can
hum/sing/play the theme right over the chords used there -
they're the same as when the theme's actually used in the
score. Right at the end of the theme the harmony branches
off, which corresponds with the Uruk-hai seeing, then
charging, Merry and Pippin."
Apparently Howard didn't consider this an instance of the Nature
theme, however. DA COMMENT below. I
think the scene does work well with the concept of how I looked
at the music. So, I'm leaving it in this list just to provide
fodder for thought.
Places this theme is heard in TTT:
A spare version is played on
clarinet when Merry and Pippin, resting with their
Uruk captors, hear odd noises coming from the Old Forest.
When Treebeard, who is carrying Merry and
Pippin to the southern edge of Fangorn, realizes that Saruman
has devastated the edge of Fangorn Forest. Treebeard roars out
Ents come out of the Forest
to join him in their March to Isengard. A soft chorus begins joined later by a boy
When things look grim at Helm's Deep and
Aragorn urges Théoden to ride out to meet the Uruks who are
overtaking the Helm. It is dawn of the 5th day and Gandalf has
lived up to his promise to return on this morning. (This music
was tracked in from the March of the Ents so the choral/solo
voices are the same as the previous entry.)
The brassy, bold music used while the Ents
destroy Isengard is based on the Nature Theme.
Places this theme is heard in ROTK:
A solemn version plays as the Rohirrim prepare to answer the summons
of the lit beacons. Éowyn tells Aragorn that he has given them
hope and we see Riders preparing to ride under the banner of
Rohan. Théoden feels that their doom awaits them at the walls of
Minas Tirith. Éomer gives a rallying speech and they ride.
A brassy, brave version plays while Théoden is clanking his sword on the
Riders' spears as they prepare for battle. The melody is backed
by a militaristic beat.
When the moth appears at the Black
Gates followed by the Eagles who then take on the Winged
Nazgûl. A boy soprano sings lyrics from
Doug Adams comment
regarding the scene with Merry and Pippin near Amon Hen:
From his blog (Oct. 25, 2010)
This was actually one of the
discussions I had with Howard while I was researching FOTR. The
chord progressions are similar, though not identical. The Nature
theme (Shore's title) is:
A min - F Maj - A min - F Maj - F# dim - F# min - F# Maj - B min
- E min - C Maj
... while the Parth Galen sequence is:
A min - F Maj - A min - F# dim - F# min - F# Maj - B min - G Maj
- A min
Close, but not precisely the same, as you can see. I asked if
the similarity was purposeful, but HS insisted it was simply
meant to be part of a consistent harmonic language, and was
*not* a quote of the Nature theme. Since it remained a question
mark in my own mind, I decided that the final word should go to
So while this moment *could* be read as a truncated/varied
setting of the Nature harmonies, it is not listed as such in the
book, in order to reflect HS' intentions.
regarding the title of 'Nature':
wasn't entirely comfortable with declaring Nature a culture,
especially in the sense that it plays a part in events.
I've never seen Nature in these books as a sort of Gaia
My original name for this theme
was "Hope (and then 'Help') Unlooked For." (passages from the book using this sort of phrase
can be found immediately following this comment) The
scenes using this melody involve timely uprisings or
arrivals of members of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth
against overwhelming instances or forces of the Shadow. Low
hope was a factor in these cases. (How can Gandalf possibly
get off Orthanc - who knows he's there? What can Merry and
Pippin do against a horde of Uruk-hai? Fangorn, himself,
says the Ents are probably marching to their doom. And the
hold out of Helm's Deep can not endure against the onslaught
of Saruman's army.) To my eyes, the major concept in the
scenes using Nature's
a sense of help arriving from unlikely places at unlooked for
times with, perhaps, a nudge from a guiding hand.
But I've never
envisioned Nature as being that guiding hand. To me, this story
is one of good vs. evil... free people vs the shadow. There is
certainly a sense that free people are closely attuned to and
highly revere nature. I think, if anything, the free people
are defenders of nature. I don't think nature itself is an
active agent or player in the story. To me, a tree is nature.
The trees are defended by the members of the free people, The
Ents and the partially sentient Huorns.
I set out to
reconcile my early attempts to categorize and describe this
music with more current, official comments, I wrote this:
...if I take what I see
as a battle of the Free Peoples against the Shadow (or more
simply Good vs. Evil) and 'reclassify' it as a battle of
Nature vs. Industry (terms I've heard used by various
members of the cast and crew of the films)... then HS and I
are saying the same thing, just using different terms.
points like this are useful in helping us examine our own
understanding and interpretation of the books. But they don't
have to serve as points of contention. I ended my statement
above with, "So I happily
acquiesce to Howard."
Quotes from the book using the phrase, 'Hope Unlooked For':
Éomer's remark to Gandalf after Gandalf arrives at Helm's Deep
bringing reinforcements. (In the book it's Erkenbrand, not Éomer,
that comes with Gandalf to HD.)
night has passed, and day has come again. But the day has brought
strange tidings.' [Éomer] turned and gazed in wonder, first at the
wood and then at Gandalf. 'Once more you come in the hour of need,
unlooked-for,' he said.
said Gandalf. 'I said that I would return and meet you here.'
TTT, Book 3, Chapter VII,
Frodo asks Faramir how things fare in Minas Tirith...
have you for that city in your long war?' 'What hope have we?' said
Faramir. 'It is long since we had any hope. The sword of Elendil,
if it returns indeed, may rekindle it, but I do not think that it
will do more than put off the evil day, unless other help
unlooked-for comes, from Elves or Men.'
TTT, Book 4, Chapter V, The Window on the West
black ships from the south do not hold Corsairs, they carry Aragorn
and an army of Free People. When Éomer meets Aragorn on the
Pelennor Fields he says,
blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting
of friends more joyful.'
ROTK, Book 5, Chapter VI,
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
on the Nature Theme (from his
TTT analysis part 6):
(written before the releases of the Complete Recordings)
The Nature, or Reclamation of Nature, Theme
Firstly in terms of linking the film’s (ROTK) multiple climax scenes, it
was very effective. It suggested that Théoden's ride was a parallel
resistance to the ‘Last March of the Ents’. The Nature theme would
again appear in ‘Stone Breaks, Ground Shakes’, and using the same
theme gave the scenes a continuity they would not otherwise have
The reader may well ask though – even if it serves a valuable
role in ensuring some continuity for the audience, what other
function does it serve here to underscore the decision of Théoden to
‘ride out’? Recently Paul Tonks reported that Shore considered this
music a motif for ‘Nature’, or, interestingly enough, the
‘Reclamation of Nature’. I think this theme has more to do with the
latter than the former. In all scenes where it appears, there is
something of a choice for one of the main characters. That choice is
to either allow the will of evil to continue, or to stand in the way
of evil. To allow the skewed morality of a world dictated by
‘selection’ – where the strongest wills dominate the weakest – or to
support a more natural order where the Free Peoples live in balance.
I think the latter choice is what is meant by “reclamation of
nature”. It is not a mere physical conflict about what is Nature and
what is Industry. It is a spiritual conflict about what is natural
and worth fighting for, and what is not. What is part of the theme
of Illuvatar, and what is part of Melkor’s distortion of that theme?
Merry and Pippin face this choice at Amon Hen when they can
choose to distract the Uruks from pursuing Frodo. What they are
really doing in that scene is deciding whether they really are too
small to be of much use to the Free Peoples against Sauron. The
words of Galadriel – ‘even the smallest person can change the course
of the future’ – are what the two young hobbits choose to believe.
The idea that the small must bow to the large is not natural in
Tolkien’s world, but a common assumption among those who judge the
measure of a man by ‘the reach of his arm’ (quoting Éomer). The
hobbits are also standing up for principles that are right and part
of Tolkien’s natural – they place the value of their own lives below
that of their friend. And for this they are rewarded. Indeed, the
avalanche begun by the ‘two small stones’ choosing to help Frodo at
Amon Hen not only snowballs into Treebeard’s decision, it leads them
to an exulted position where Kings bow before them, a thing few
people of greater stature have accomplished in far longer lives.
Treebeard’s decision to aid Nature is far more obvious because he
seems to be Nature Incarnate, the Burnham Wood come to life. So he
leads a bunch of trees against Isengard and washes away the
industrial waste by unleashing a dammed river. This is Tolkien the
environmentalist, or so we are meant to believe. But there is
something else going on here. Treebeard has to come to a serious
decision about whether he is ‘part of this world’. He agrees
intellectually that ‘war affects us all’, yet he is not prepared to
make hasty decisions about righting the wrongs of the world. When he
leads the March of the Ents, he is signalling that righting the
wrongs caused by Saruman is worth more to him than his own life. He
is also reclaiming his majestic nature, realising again, as Gandalf
predicted, that he is strong indeed, and the servant of no wizard.
Thirdly, there is Théoden. In this
scene he is prepared to admit defeat to Saruman’s machine of war.
This defeat will mean the destruction of the Rohirrim, of their way
of life, of the aid they could provide to Gondor in time of need, of
their admirable treatment of horses, etc. In the place of the
Rohirrim, who coexisted with the world around them, would rise an
order based on the domination of beings and an endless atavism for
more conquest. In Tolkien’s universe then, it is not a natural thing
for Théoden to choose surrender here. Though it may cost his life,
he has a duty to fight on – not for ‘death and glory’, but ‘for
(his) people’. Théoden has already faced this choice once in the
trilogy by throwing off the debilitating ministrations of Grima and
Saruman. His character arc, which began there, has built to the
choice he must make in this scene. For his ‘exorcism’ at Gandalf’s
hands was equivalent to a Christian salvation – the spirit and body
were redeemed, but the mind was not. Almost from the moment of his
release, he began to shrink from the appropriate response – which
was to resist Saruman. Even though it is in the nature of men to
resist oppression, Théoden's instinct in the film to this point has
been to shrink from the hand that strikes. Like Treebeard, he would
rather weather the storm from a safe vantage point. Slowly does he
realise, like Treebeard, that there is no weathering of this storm.
What then “can men do against such reckless hate”? The natural
thing. Resist it. “Ride out and meet it head on.” Théoden finally
makes the choice to reclaim what is natural that Merry and Pippin
and Treebeard have already made, and Shore’s choice of the Nature
theme for this scene is far from anachronistic, but positively
Finally, on the music…
The duality of wills in Tolkien’s universe as captured in Shore’s
music could not be more apparent. The theme for the Reclamation of
Nature is for when the Free Peoples reclaim their true nature, and
the Nature of the world as it ought to be. Could there be any
greater contrast to the skewed 5/4 rhythms of the Isengard theme?
The Nature theme can be both beautiful (‘Last March of the Ents’)
and terrible (‘Stone Breaks, Ground Shakes’), respectively like the
thing that the theme represents, and the battle for that thing. Note
that the above rationale has focused on three particular instances
of the theme’s usage. I believe the above argument can be easily
applied to the appearance of the Moth in both FOTR and ROTK,
similarly to its uses in association with the Rohirrim in ROTK
(surely it is a natural thing in Tolkien that men should not ‘break
all bonds of fellowship’, but come to each other’s aid), and to its
appearance in the cue ‘Dinner Debate’ in TTT:EE.
And if you skipped all that mumbo jumbo, I don’t blame you. My
point was that the music fit the scene very well. Nature, and the
reclamation of nature, could as easily describe natural instincts
and precepts as the flora and fauna we normally associate with the
term. If it is ‘a natural thing’ that a humble people should not cow
before their enemies but bear themselves with dignity in the fight
for what right, then it is no less appropriate that the Nature theme
appear in this scene than in the ‘Last March of the Ents’.