ENTS (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Ents, also known as Onodrim (Tree-host) by the Elves, are a very old race that appeared in Middle Earth at the same time that the elves did. They were apparently created at the behest of Yavanna after she learned of Aulë’s children, the dwarves, knowing that they would want to fell trees.
Ents were envisioned as Shepherds of the Huorns, to protect the forests from orcs and other perils. The elves had tales of teaching the trees and the Ents to talk: although the Ents were sentient beings at the time, they did not know how to speak until the elves taught them. Treebeard spoke of the elves “curing the Ents of their dumbness”, that it was a great gift that could not be forgotten (“always wanted to talk to everything, the old Elves did”).
Ents are tree-like creatures, having become more and more like the trees that they herded. They vary in traits, from everything to height and size, colouring, and the number of fingers and toes. An individual Ent more or less resembles the specific species of tree that they typically guard. For example, Quickbeam guarded huorns that resembled rowans, and thus looked very much like those huorns (tall and slender, etc.). Ents are very strong, as recounted by Merry and Pippin: “their punches can crumple iron like tinfoil, and they can tear apart solid rock like breadcrusts.” In the Third Age of Middle-earth, the forest of Fangorn was apparently the only place ents still inhabited, although the huorns may still have survived elsewhere, as in the Old Forest.
Almost nothing is known of the early history of the Ents — they apparently lived in and protected the large forests of Middle-earth in previous ages, and they briefly appear near the end of the First Age, attacking a band of Dwarves, apparently summoned by Beren and Lúthien. Treebeard told of a time when apparently all of Eriadorwas one huge forest and part of his domain, but these immense forests were cut by the Númenóreans of the Second Age, or destroyed in the calamitous War of the Elves and Sauron of the 17th century of the Second Age. Treebeard’s statement is also supported by remarks Elrond the half-elf made at the Council of Elrond. Elrond said that “Time was once when a squirrel could carry a nut from tree to tree from Rivendell to the Great Sea…”, further indicating that all of Eriador was once a single vast primeval forest, of which Fangorn Forest was just “the eastern end of it” according to Treebeard.
Treebeard boasted to Merry and Pippin about the strength of the Ents. He said that they were much more powerful than trolls, which Morgoth (in the Elder Days or First Age) supposedly made as imitations of the Ents, but did not come near to their power. He compares this with how orcs were Morgoth’s imitation of elves. There used to be entwives (literally “ent-women”), but they started to move farther away from the Ents because they liked to plant and control things, so they moved away to the region that would later become the Brown Lands across the Great River Anduin. This area was destroyed by Sauron, and the entwives disappeared. The ents looked for them, but have never found them. It is sung by the Ents that one day they will find each other, when they lose all else. In the Fellowship of the Ring, Sam Gamgee says his cousin Hal saw a walking tree in the north of the Shire. When Pippin and Merry tell Treebeard about the Shire, Treebeard says the entwives would like that land, suggesting Hal saw either an Entwife or a Huorn. It is safe to say that with no entwives and their slow decline with time, numbers of the Ents had dwindled to around fifty only by the end of The Third age. 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”. What exactly happened to the Entwives was something Tolkien wanted to keep a mystery, even to himself, but in one of his letters he said, “I think that in fact the Entwives have disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance.”
Evidence of the origin of the Ents can be found in the Valaquenta, in an exchange between Yavanna (a queen of the Valar, “…lover of all things that grow in the earth.”) and Manwë (“…the first of all Kings: lord of the realm of Arda.”), after Yavanna’s spouse Aulë secretly endeavors to create the Dwarves. Aulë reminds her that the children of Ilúvatar (elves, men and now Dwarves) will exploit her creations for their own benefit, “though not without respect and gratitude.” The defenselessness of her realm moves Yavanna to plead with Manwë: “My heart is anxious, thinking of the days to come. All my works are dear to me… Shall nothing that I have devised be free from the dominion of others?” Manwë responds by asking, of all she holds dear, what she would have preserved against exploitation, and she answers: “…the Kelvar can flee or defend themselves, whereas the olvar that grow cannot. And among these I hold trees dear… Would that the trees might speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them!” Manwë, while deliberating, is overcome by a vision of the music of the Ainur, and grants her request: “Behold! When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar and the olvar, and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared.” Yavanna returns to her spouse Aulë and reports: “Eru is bountiful. Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forests whose wrath they will arouse at their peril.” He responds ominously: “Nonetheless they will have need of wood.”
In The Two Towers, the second volume of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the ents — usually very patient, deliberate beings — do become angry at Saruman, whose armies are cutting down (in their eyes, killing) large numbers of their trees. They convene an Entmoot, a meeting of the Ents of Fangorn Forest at Derndingle to discuss the argument of going to war.
After lengthy deliberation (though from the perspective of the Ents, this is very quick action), they come to the conclusion (in the book) to destroy Isengard, and head toward it. They are led by Treebeard, the oldest ent, and accompanied by the hobbits Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took. They destroy Isengard in an all-out assault and trap Saruman in the tower of Orthanc.
During the ents’ assault on Isengard, they destroyed the dams built by Saruman’s minions and therefore flooded the place.
After that, they moved many of their trees there and the place became known as the Watchwood.