Ents Onodrim, Shepherds of the Trees
"Treebeard and Hobbits" by Tom Loback
Founded First Age Founder Yavanna Current leader Treebeard Home world Middle-earth Base of operations Fangorn Forest Official language Entish Races of
Ents are a race of beings in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy world Middle-earth who closely resemble trees. They are similar to the talking trees in folklore around the world. Their name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for giant.
The Ents appear in The Lord of the Rings as ancient shepherds of the forest and allies of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth during the War of the Ring. The Ent who figures most prominently in the book is Treebeard, one of the oldest creatures in Tolkien's world. At the time The Lord of the Rings takes place, there are no young Ents (Entings) because the Entwives (female Ents) were lost. The Ents are akin to Huorns, whom Treebeard describes as trees that have become animated or, conversely, as Ents who have grown more "treeish" over time.
Inspired by Tolkien and similar traditions, animated or anthropomorphic tree creatures appear in a variety of media and works of fantasy.
The word "Ent" was taken from the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) word ent, meaning "giant". Tolkien borrowed the word from the Anglo-Saxon phrases orþanc enta geweorc = "work of cunning giants" and eald enta geweorc = "old work of giants" (describing Roman ruins). In this sense, Ents are probably the most ubiquitous of all creatures in fantasy and folklore, perhaps second only to dragons; for the word can refer to a variety of large, roughly humanoid creatures, such as giants, trolls, orcs, or even the monster Grendel from the poem Beowulf.
Description[A] large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating.
Ents are an old race that appeared in Middle-earth when the Elves did. They were apparently created by Eru Ilúvatar at the behest of Yavanna: when she learned of Aulë's children, the Dwarves, she foresaw that they would fell trees, and desired creatures to serve as Shepherds of the Trees to protect the forests from Dwarves and other perils. Although the Ents were sentient beings from the time of their awakening, they did not know how to speak until the Elves taught them. Treebeard said that the Elves "cured us of dumbness", that it was a great gift that could not be forgotten. ("They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did.") In the Third Age of Middle-earth, the forest of Fangorn was the only place known still to be inhabited by Ents, although the Ent-like Huorns may have survived elsewhere, as in the Old Forest.
Ents exhibit wide variation in personal traits (height, heft, colouring, even the number of digits), as they came to resemble somewhat the specific types of trees that they shepherded. Quickbeam, for example, guarded Rowan trees and bore some resemblance to rowans: tall and slender, smooth-skinned, with ruddy lips and grey-green hair. Ents share some of the strengths and weaknesses of trees as well. Their skin is extraordinarily tough, and very much like wood; they can erode stone extremely rapidly, in the manner of tree roots - but they are vulnerable to fire and chopping blows from axes. Ents are also an extremely patient and cautious race, with a sense of time more suited to trees than short-lived mortals. For example, in the Entmoot regarding the attack on Isengard, their three-day deliberation was considered by some to be "hasty".
Ents are tall and very strong, capable of tearing apart rock and stone (though they only use their full strength when they are "roused"). Tolkien describes them as tossing great slabs of stone about, and ripping down the walls of Isengard "like bread-crust". Treebeard boasted of their strength to Merry and Pippin; he said that Ents were much more powerful than Trolls, which Morgoth made in the First Age in mockery of Ents.
The book further lays out the power of Ents; their bark-like skin and flesh make them difficult to harm even with axes, and a single punch from an Ent (they do not seem to use weapons, though they do hurl stones) can kill an Uruk-hai. The only reliable means to kill an Ent is fire, for they burn easily.
Almost nothing is known of the early history of the Ents. After the Dwarves were put to sleep by Eru to await the coming of the Elves, Aulë told his wife Yavanna, "the lover of all things that grow in the earth," of the Dwarves. She replied, "They will delve in the earth, and the things that grow and live upon the earth they will not heed. Many a tree shall feel the bite of their iron without pity." She went to Manwë and appealed to him to protect the trees, and they realized that Ents, too, were part of the Song of Creation. Yavanna then warned Aulë, "Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forests whose wrath they will arouse at their peril." The Ents are called "the Shepherds of the Trees". Treebeard tells of a time when much of Eriador was forested and part of his domain, but these immense forests dwindled over time. Treebeard's statement is corroborated by Elrond: "Time was when a squirrel could go from tree to tree from what is now the Shire to Dunland west of Isengard." Of this vast forest, according to Treebeard, Fangorn forest was "just the East End".
There is only a single reference in The Silmarillion to the Onodrim in Beleriand. When Beren Erchamion and a force of Green Elves waylay the force of Dwarves returning from the sack of Doriath, the Dwarves are routed and scatter into the wood – where the Shepherds of the Trees ensure that none escape. Perhaps this contributes to Treebeard's apprehension at Gimli's entrance to Fangorn in The Two Towers.
Treebeard says that the Entwives began to move farther away from the Ents because they liked to plant and control things, while the Ents liked to let things take their natural course, so they moved away to the region that would later become the Brown Lands across the Great River Anduin, although the male Ents still visited them. The Entwives, unlike the Ents, interacted with the race of Men and taught them much about the art of agriculture.
Apparently the male Ents and female Entwives exhibited a marked degree of sexual dimorphism; the male Ents all resemble wild forest trees that they guard (oaks, rowans, etc.), but the Entwives guarded agricultural plants, and it would thus seem to be implied that they resembled the various agricultural plants and trees they guarded: Treebeard remarks that their hair was the hue of ripe corn (grain).
The Entwives lived in peace until their gardens were destroyed by Sauron (most likely during the War of the Last Alliance), and they themselves disappeared. The Ents looked for them but never found them. It was sung by the Elves (Ents were content to simply "chant their beautiful names") that one day the Ents and Entwives would find each other. Indeed, in The Return of the King, Treebeard implored the Hobbits not to forget to send word to him if they "hear any news" of the Entwives "in your land".
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Samwise Gamgee mentions his cousin Hal claims to have seen a treelike giant, which resembled an elm not only in size but also in actual appearance, in the north of the Shire. During the Fangorn episode, Merry and Pippin told Treebeard about the Shire. Treebeard said that the Entwives would have liked that land. This, combined with the giant-sighting by Sam's cousin Hal mentioned above, has led to some speculation by readers that the Entwives may have lived near the Shire. Tolkien himself spent much time considering what actually happened to the Entwives (at one point simply saying even he didn't know), but eventually he stated in Letters #144: "I think that in fact the Entwives have disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance..."
At the end of the story after Aragorn is crowned king, he promised Treebeard that the Ents could prosper again and spread to new lands with the threat of Mordor gone, and renew their search for the Entwives. However, Treebeard sadly lamented that forests may spread but the Ents would not, and he predicted that the few remaining Ents would remain in Fangorn forest until they slowly dwindled in number or became "treeish", saying: "Sheep get like shepherds, and shepherds get like sheep. [...] But it is quicker and closer, with trees and Ents."
Although never seen and only briefly mentioned, Entings are young Ents. There are almost no descriptions of Entings, but it can be presumed from descriptions of Quickbeam (a young and hasty Ent) and Treebeard's comments about younger Ents as being more "bendy" than older ones, that they are much like saplings and perhaps even seedlings at their youngest. It is not at all made clear if they are born similar to the trees they shepherd, or they become that way, or even how they are born at all.
According to Treebeard there are no Entings upon Middle-earth at the time of the Third Age, and there have not been any for quite some time. And there will never be any more Entings afterwards either "as there are no Entwives".
While Ents are extremely long-lived, they are not immortal in the same sense as the Elves: they age with the passage of time, albeit very slowly (At the Entmoot, the hobbits notice that the Ents vary in age from their appearance. Also, when invited to sit down, Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin that he is not very 'bendable', while a much younger Ent, Quickbeam, could 'bend and sway like a slender tree in the wind'). And while they do not die of old age, older Ents often become 'treeish', settling down in one place and growing roots and leaves. Eventually, they cease to be conscious and become trees permanently. It is implied that this was the eventual fate of the Ents in Middle-earth.
The Last March of the Ents
In The Two Towers, the second volume of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the Ents—usually a very patient, deliberate people—become angry at Saruman, whose armies are cutting down large numbers of their trees. They convene an Entmoot, a meeting of the Ents of Fangorn forest at Derndingle.
After lengthy deliberation (three days; though from the perspective of the Ents, this is very quick action), they march on Saruman's fortress at Isengard: the Last March of the Ents. They are led by Treebeard, the oldest Ent, and accompanied by the Hobbits Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took. The Ents that marched against Isengard numbered about 50, plus Huorns. They destroy Isengard in an all-out assault, ripping down the wall around it, and eventually becoming so enraged the power of their voices alone causes great destruction — "If the Great Sea had risen in wrath and fallen on the hills with storm, it could have worked no greater ruin." — and trap Saruman in the tower of Orthanc. Tolkien later noted that the Ents were partly founded in his disappointment "with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill'" in Macbeth.
In the narrative of The Lord of the Rings, six Ents are identified by name. The main Ent character, and the first encountered by the readers and the hobbits, is Fangorn (Treebeard). The other ents are Beechbone, Bregalad, Fimbrethil, Finglas, and Fladrif.
- Fangorn: Also known as Treebeard. By the end of the Third Age, he, Skinbark, and Leaflock were the last remaining of the first Ents who appeared in Middle-earth sometime in the First Age, and as such, were among the oldest of creatures. In the long passage of time, the domain of the Ents was gradually reduced to Fangorn forest, named for Treebeard's Sindarin name.
- Finglas: Translated from the Elvish as Leaflock. By the time of the War of the Ring, Leaflock had become sleepy and treeish. He began to stand alone in a meadow and doze during the summer. At first, he would awake in wintertime, but eventually he remained in place year-round. He was covered in leafy hair. (It is not clear whether or not Tolkien derived the name from Finglas in Dublin, Ireland, or whether the name is merely coincidental.)
- Fladrif: Translated from the Elvish as Skinbark. He lived on the mountain slopes west of Isengard. Saruman's orcs ravaged this area, cutting down trees and killing Ents. Skinbark himself was wounded by them. He retreated far up the mountain slopes to live among the birches that he favoured and refused to come down.
- Beechbone: An Ent who was burned by Saruman's devices, though his ultimate fate is only implied. His injury, or possibly death, angered the rest of the Ents.
- Bregalad: Also known as Quickbeam, Bregalad was a relatively young Ent at the time of the War of the Ring, roughly "middle aged" and not nearly as old as Treebeard (though he was a full adult; there had been no Ent children since the disappearance of the Entwives). Bregalad guarded rowan trees, and as such he resembled a rowan himself. The word "quickbeam" is an English dialect word for the mountain ash or rowan tree. His Sindarin name (Bregalad) translates roughly as "Quickbeam" (from bragol "sudden" and galad "tree"). He received this name when he said "yes" before another Ent had finished asking a question; this showed that he was unusually "hasty" for his race. At the Entmoot, Bregalad lived up to his reputation for hastiness; he was the first to decide to attack Isengard, since Saruman's Orcs had destroyed many of his rowan groves. Seeing that Bregalad's mind was already made up, Treebeard sent him to watch over and care for Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, while the debate among the other Ents continued for days. He later played an important role in the attack on Isengard, nearly capturing Saruman himself.
- Fimbrethil: Treebeard's long-lost wife, also known as Wandlimb the lightfooted. The pair were beloved since before even Morgoth first arose in power during the youth of the world. Translated, her name meant according to the 1966 Index 'slim-birch' (according to Appendix F 'slender-beech'). As with all of the other Entwives, Fimbrethil had been missing since Sauron's forces destroyed the gardens of the Entwives during the Second Age. At the time of the War of the Ring, Treebeard had not seen his beloved Fimbrethil for over 3,000 years.
There are plans to erect a statue of Treebeard by Tim Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien's great-nephew, near his former home in Moseley, Birmingham. It is possible that nearby Moseley Bog may have been one of the first places where the young Tolkien regularly encountered veteran trees of various species.
In the Licensed MMORPG, The Lord of the Rings Online(tm) http://www.lotro.com/, all of Tolkien's characters and creatures exist under their "natural" names -- Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Hobbits, Ents, Huorns, Balrogs, etc. As the release of the game modules has followed the path of the Fellowship across Middle-Earth, in September 2011, a new series of modules will be released, "The Rise of Isengard(tm)". It is assumed that the game will feature Ents as part of this region, as Fangorn and Treebeard figure prominently in the Isengard story.
In other fantasy and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D, see plant creatures), EverQuest, Thief 2: The Metal Age, Magic: The Gathering, Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Square Enix's Final Fantasy series, Warlords series and the Warcraft PC game series, Tolkien-like Ents are known as Treants, Treemen or Treefolk, for trademark reasons, much like Hobbits are only referred to as Halflings in such works. Similar creatures are also depicted in the MMORPGs RuneScape, Rift and Rubies of Eventide, as well as the real-time strategy game Myth: The Fallen Lords, among other games. Wesnoth has units based on the fictional race wose (similar to ents).
In some incarnations, these tree-people are very close in spirit to their Tolkienesque forebears, although others, like D&D, have explored the concept of corrupt trees and tree-like monsters (akin to Old Man Willow and the Huorns of Fangorn). For instance, in the MMORPG Shadowbane, Treants are mid-level monsters.
The Wood comes alive to save the Narnians in the final battle of Prince Caspian, which was written by fellow Inklings member C. S. Lewis. In the film adaptation, these trees resemble Huorns more than Ents.
The Fall of Troy has a song entitled "The Last March of the Ents" on their self-titled debut album released in 2003.
Robot Chicken featured Ents in four separate skits. One featured an Ent being cut down with a chainsaw. Another featured a member of The Surreal Life, in a parody of Lord of the Rings, relieving himself on an Ent, which angered it, prompting it to step on him. Another had a forest ranger showing kids a sap faucet, and tried to get sap out of it, unaware that he was really touching an Ent. A fourth featured several Ents running, and a girl shouting "Run, Forest! Run!!", parodying the famous quote from the film Forrest Gump.
Treebeard's song, In The Willow-Meads of Tasarinan, was sung by William Elvin to the Music of Donald Swann on their 1968 recording: "The Road Goes Ever On" released on Camedon. The lyrics and music were published in an accompanying song book by Allen & Unwin.
- ^ Shippey, Tom (2001). J.R.R.Tolkien - Author of the Century. Houghton Mifflin. p. 88. ISBN 978-0618127641.
- ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #163, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- ^ Fisher, Mark (1999-12-30). "Encyclopedia of Arda: Treebeard". http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/t/treebeard.html. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- ^ a b c d e The Two Towers, book 3, chapter 4: "Treebeard".
- ^ The Two Towers, book 3, chapter 9: "Flotsam and Jetsam".
- ^ Unfinished Tales, Index, entries for Ent, Enyd, and Onodrim.
- ^ Fisher, Mark (2002-12-14). "Encyclopedia of Arda: Onodrim". http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/o/onodrim.html. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- ^ The Silmarillion, Valaquenta
- ^ a b The Silmarillion, chapter 2: "Of Aulë and Yavanna"
- ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, book 2, chapter 2: "The Council of Elrond".
- ^ The Return of the King, book 6, chapter 6: "Many Partings".
- ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, book 1, chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past".
- ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1981). Carpenter, Humphrey with Christopher Tolkien. ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Boston: George Allen & Unwin/Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-0482-6005-3.
- ^ The Two Towers, book 3, chapter 8: "The Road to Isengard".
- ^ Letters, No. 163, footnote, p. 211–12.
- ^ "Moseley Statue". 2007-09-05. http://www.moseleystatue.org/. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
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