The following line appears in the second song of the dwarves in The Hobbit:

The pines were roaring on the heights

I've never been near a forest fire or a pine forest that wasn't on fire, so I'm not familiar with the sounds of either.

Is this line already talking about the fire? I could imagine a big forest fire "roaring".
But google tells me that there's a large amount of references to "roaring pines" without mention of fire. Is "roaring" just something pines do?

  • The wood makes a peculiar cracking, "whoosh" kind of sound when it burns which is more pronounced if fire's intensity is high. I believe the roar is a metaphor for that – Aegon May 27 '16 at 11:05
  • If you want to learn why it makes such a sound, see here – Aegon May 27 '16 at 11:07
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    You've "never been near a ... pine forest that wasn't on fire"?? – Valorum May 27 '16 at 11:28
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    It's "The pines were roaring on the heights". Is this question even remotely on-topic? Let's move this to English.se or perhaps Botany.se. A dictionary would tell you that the word "roar" or the verb "roaring" can be used to describe a fire: dictionary.com/browse/roaring Further it can be used to describe a constant booming noise, so even wind through trees could be described as a roar, like the ocean can roar. However, this verse is about burning trees. The poem also describes the trees blazing with light like torches ...also not a normal function of non-burning pine trees – Gorchestopher H May 27 '16 at 11:55
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    @GorchestopherH - Questions about the use of language in a work as heavily on-topic as LOTR are very suitable for SFF:SE. – Valorum May 27 '16 at 12:01

If you look at the following lines, it's pretty clear that the author was describing a forest fire;

The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.

Pine trees are filled with pine oils which emit a bright, vivid flame and a specific noise when burned. The heat was also sucking in air (hence the wind moaning).

An entire row of them aflame would be appallingly loud, hence "roaring".

  • For reference, the only real-world references to "roaring pines" is a place named after a wildfire station, a book about wildfires and a couple of shops and a band named after the place – Valorum May 27 '16 at 11:14
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    Any fire can roar, not just pine fires. However, in the poem the verse is specifically describing a burning pine forest. – Gorchestopher H May 27 '16 at 11:52
  • @Valorum Huh, I don't know how I missed the fact that all those pages I found were actually about the same thing. It looks like that one store is very prolific online. – erzet May 27 '16 at 12:02
  • @erzet - If you watch their corporate videos, it looks like they have three social media staff for every one warehouseman. – Valorum May 27 '16 at 12:02
  • Real world: anything can roar, even without fire. They are not exclusive. Wind can roar through the trees (pines). Oceans can roar without being on fire. Lions can roar without being on fire. So can an old truck. – Gorchestopher H May 27 '16 at 14:50

The specific line you've referenced is the first line of three verses that describe the arrival of Smaug at the Lonely Mountain:

The pines were roaring on the heights,
The wind was moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.

The bells were ringing in the dale,
And men looked up with faces pale.
The dragon's ire, more fierce than fire,
Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon.
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled the hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Pines only roar when on fire. The forest is on fire because of the dragon. The roaring pines are the poem's first reference to this fire.

A large forest fire also creates a wind, due to the oxygen being pulled in to feed the fire, and the hot air from the fire rising into the atmosphere. This is the moaning wind.

Just in case the reader/listener missed the references to fire there, the next two lines make things pretty clear by explicitly mentioning fire and flames, as well as saying that the trees blazed like torches.

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