The Tree
-- a story from an alternative universe

Once upon a time, in an alternative universe, Frodo never made it to Mount Doom.  Sauron captured the Great Ring and became master of Middle Earth.  Very quickly his forces surrounded the elven stronghold in the woods of Lorien.  The elves were defeated in a bloody fight and there was now no opposition to Sauron's dominion.

However once Sauron assumed the reins of power he wanted to prove that he wasn't the evil mastermind that everyone had painted him.  He wanted to show that he was wise, benevolent and paternal in his love and concern for all his subjects.  The elves, therefore, were not massacred but their trees cut down, it was, after all, hardly in line with health and safety regulations to live in a tree and all the elves were relocated to a giant tower block in the far reaches of Mordor.

The elves hated the tower block.  They pined for their beautiful trees.  For the birdsong.  For the rustle of leaves.  For their previous life intertwined with growing things.  The tower block was a living hell.  The lifts never worked.  Orcs let their dogs urinate in the stairwells.  Nothing ever grew. All remained inert and unchangeable.

The elves tried growing things in the tower block.  It felt better to have a beautiful display of flowers in the window boxes but the dead concrete still oppressed them.  It was forbidden to plant trees and they longed for the power and grace of their lost woods.  Then an old elven gardner had an inspiration.  He planted a vine in the ground next to the tower block, enriching the poor soil with earth smuggled from Lorien at the time of their deportation...

Slowly it began to grow.  The tendrils began to spread out over the grey concrete.  All the inhabitants of the tower block helped it by fixing lattices to wall of the tower block and nurturing its ever spreading roots.  Soon it covered most of the tower block, weaving intricate patterns of green over the dead concrete, in the spring it was lit up with a display of bright flowers of many colours and in the autumn beautiful fruits nourished and fed the elves so long starved of beauty and life.  Very soon the vine grew to a great size.  The young elves stopped using the useless lifts and cracked stairs and began to climb up and down the vine with a quickly remembered agility.  It was as if the tower block itself had become a mighty tree... 

After some years the vine had so smothered the tower block that the grey concrete could no longer be seen and its rigid rectangle had been replaced by soft curves and loose strands fluttering in the breeze.  The spirits of the elves were restored and they remembered the old songs and their long forgotten crafts.  The tower block became a community of all that was good and beautiful and true.  Then one night an extraordinary thing happened.  The elves no longer slept in the tower block.  The vine had grown so massive and vast that they had built platforms on it and slept there, enjoying once more a communion with living things.  In fact they had let the vine penetrate into every part of the tower block, wreathing itself around its inert mass.  And that night a great sound was heard.  At first it seemed like a great groaning.  And then the earth began to shake -- or so it seemed.  The vine itself seemed to breathe and stretch and swell its mighty arms.  It began to squeeze the great tower block.  Its roots penetrated deep into its huge foundations and with a great crack the mighty tower block was crushed into dust -- dispersing across the plains of Mordor in an empty and vapid cloud.

The mighty vine had become a tree.  It no longer needed the support of the tower block but could sustain itself by its own strength.  That night its many fruits exploded and sent seeds spraying out into the surrounding earth.  In a few short years these too sprouted and became trees in their own right -- and not ordinary trees, no, living trees.  A great army of living trees, it was the beginning, so some thought, of a revolution.  A revolution against their benevolent master Sauron... but that is another story.