[image description: tweet by Netchimen’s Reverie that reads “Tolkien describing places that are evil: no trees grow there” /end description]
This is doubtless because of his experience of the trenches in the Great War.
Like, this is what things looked like to soldiers who fought in that war (image in black and white of a solitary soldier walking across a muddy wasteland pocked with puddles):
Here’s Delville Wood, the site of a battle in 1916 (sepia image of a wasteland dotted with broken and dead trees):
Here’s an image from the Battle of the Somme, in which Tolkien participated (image of soldiers standing above and inside a trench or earthwork in a grey wasteland; smoke from artillery is on the horizon)
So yeah: no trees = evil was Tolkien’s own direct lived experience. It’s precisely why Mordor and the wastelands around it look like they do in his books.
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