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[edit] Of the Ents and the Entwives

[edit] Foreword

In this article ‘Ents’ refers only to males of the Onodrim, not to females, which are termed ‘Entwives’. The race of Ents I will for the sake of clarity call Onodrim, and a member of the race, whether male or female, Onod.

This article tries to gather as much clues about the fate of the Entwives as possible, and while doing so also present some interesting observations about the Ents and the Onodrim in general.

[edit] Prologue

Tolkien made this ‘assumption’ about the Entwives in Letter #144:

I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance (Second Age 3429-3441) when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin …

There is more in the same letter, but let us look at another, much later letter next, Letter #338:

[Answering the question: did the Ents ever find the Entwives?]
As for the Entwives: I do not know. I have written nothing beyond the first few years of the Fourth Age. … But I think in Vol. II pp. 80-81 it is plain that there would be for Ents no re-union in 'history' — but Ents and their wives being rational creatures would find some 'earthly paradise' until the end of this world: beyond which the wisdom neither of Elves nor Ents could see. Though maybe they shared the hope of Aragorn that they were 'not bound for ever to the circles of the world and beyond them is more than memory.'....

Here Tolkien does not even mention the possibility that the Entwives had been destroyed – did he change his mind, or was he actually more or less lying in Letter #144? I will now try to find traces of the Entwives and see how much truth there is in Tolkien’s assumptions.

At the end of SA, people had seen the Entwives going west, east, and south from the Brown Lands after Sauron burned their land, as Treebeard told Merry and Pippin:

TT, ‘Treebeard’:

… we [Ents] asked all folk that we met which way the Entwives had gone. Some said they had never seen them; and some said that they had seen them walking away west, and some said east, and others south.

Which of these alternatives could be true? I believe that all are - this I think is often the case when Tolkien gives a number of alternatives in this way. Cf. this passage in LR, Appendix D:

... in the Westfarthing, especially in the country round Hobbiton Hill, there grew a custom of making holiday and dancing in the Party Field, when weather permitted, on April 6. Some said that it was old Sam Gardner's birthday, some that it was the day on which the Golden Tree first flowered in 1420, and some that it was the Elves' New Year.

I suspect that all three of these alternatives are true, though I cannot prove it at this point. Another example, which I will analyze closer later in this essay, as it concerns the nature of the Ents, is this:

Note to Letter #247:

... some (Galadriel) were [of the] opinion that when Yavanna discovered the mercy of Eru to Aulë in the matter of the Dwarves, she besought Eru (through Manwë) asking him to give life to things made of living things not stone, and that the Ents were either souls sent to inhabit trees, or else that slowly took the likeness of trees owing to their inborn love of trees.

I will investigate whether there are any traces of Entwives in all the three mentioned points of the compass in relation to the Brown Lands; I will start with the west.

[edit] Entwives in the West

The Sighting

Tolkien makes it quite plain in Letters that there was no connexion between Tom Bombadil and the Entwives:

He [Tom Bombadil] has no connexion in my mind with the Entwives. What had happened to them is not resolved in this book. He is in a way the answer to them in the sense that he is almost the opposite, being say, Botany and Zoology (as sciences) and Poetry as opposed to Cattle-breeding and Agriculture and practicality. [L 144: 23]

Tom was ‘connected’ with the Old Forest and its trees though; he knew them well, and he recognized the Forest and the Barrow-downs (at least) as his country.

LR, ‘In the House of Tom Bombadil’:

He [Tom] told them [Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin] tales of bees and flowers, the ways of trees, and the strange creatures of the Forest, about the evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.

LR, ‘Fog on the Barrow-Downs’:

Tom's country ends here [at the Eastern boundary of the Barrow-downs]: he will not pass the borders.
Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting!

This probably implies that no Entwives lived in the Old Forest.

It is common knowledge though, that Sam’s cousin Hal saw something on the North Moors that could have been an Onod:

LR, ‘The Shadow of the Past’:

‘But what about these Tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.’
‘But this one was as big as an elm tree, and walking - walking seven yards to a stride, if it was an inch.’
‘Then I bet it wasn’t an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as not.’
‘But this one was walking, I tell you; and there ain’t no elm tree on the North Moors.’

RC, note for p. 44:

North Moors – ‘The lower slopes of the Hills of Evendim, and north-boundary of the Shire’ (Index).

It may also be that more than one Tree-man had been sighted; Sam mentioned ‘Tree-men’ and ‘giants’, and

LR, ‘Three is Company’:

Giants and other portents on the borders of the Shire were forgotten for more important matters: Mr. Frodo was selling Bag End …

RS, ‘Ancient History’:

Trolls of a new and most malevolent kind were abroad; giants were spoken of, a Big Folk only far bigger and stronger than Men the [?ordinary] Big Folk, and no stupider, indeed often full of cunning and wizardry. And there were vague hints of things or creatures more terrible than goblins, trolls, or giants.

RS, ‘The Journey to Bree’:

… the passage concerning giants becomes: 'Trolls and giants were abroad, of a new and more malevolent kind, no longer dull-witted but full of cunning and wizardry.'

But the first question is: was this an Onod, Huorn, giant or something else?

Tolkien states that he had not invented nor written about the Onodrim before he wrote the ‘Treebeard’ chapter in TT:

A note to Letter #163:

I did not consciously invent them [the Ents] at all. The chapter called 'Treebeard', from Treebeard's first remark on p. 66, was written off more or less as it stands, with an effect on my self (except for labour pains) almost like reading some one else's work. And I like Ents now because they do not seem to have anything to do with me. I daresay something had been going on in the 'unconscious' for some time, and that accounts for my feeling throughout, especially when stuck, that I was not inventing but reporting (imperfectly) and had at times to wait till 'what really happened' came through.

Letter #180:

I have long ceased to invent … I wait till I seem to know what really happened. Or till it writes itself. Thus, though I knew for years that Frodo would run into a tree-adventure somewhere far down the Great River, I have no recollection of inventing Ents. I came at last to the point, and wrote the 'Treebeard' chapter without any recollection of any previous thought: just as it now is. And then I saw that, of course, it had not happened to Frodo at all.

Letter #247:

There are or were no Ents in the older stories – because the Ents in fact only presented themselves to my sight, without premeditation or any previous conscious knowledge, when I came to Chapter IV of Book Three [the ‘Treebeard’ chapter].

But he certainly did have some conception about ‘Tree-men’ already when he wrote the first draft to Sam’s and Ted Sandyman’s conversation at The Green Dragon:

RS, ‘Ancient History’:

As my father first wrote Sam's words, he said: 'But what about these what do you call 'em - giants? They do say as one nigh as big as a tower or leastways a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.' This was changed at the time of writing to: 'But what about these Tree-Men, these here - giants?

Actually, already when he wrote the Tale of Eärendel around 1916-20 [1] he mentioned Tree-men:


The outline continues:
Voronwë and Eärendel set sail in Wingilot. Driven south. Dark regions. Fire mountains. Tree-men

It is very likely that Tolkien was thinking of the elm-looking giants in BOLT when he came up with the Tree-man on the North Moors:

BOLT2, ‘The Tale of Tinúviel’:

The names of all the tallest and longest things upon Earth were set in that song: ... or the neck of Gilim the giant that is taller than many elm trees ...
… a jotting, very difficult to read, in the little notebook used for memoranda in connection with the Lost Tales … seems to say that Nan was a 'giant of summer of the South', and that he was like an elm.

I think that these creatures were ‘proto-Onodrim’ — they were not fully ‘developed’ Onodrim like those in LR, ‘Treebeard’, but they were a ‘prototype’ of them.

Tolkien’s conception of ‘giants’ was (from early on) tree-like creatures. He took the name for the Ents from the A-S word for ‘giant’, and gave this name to creatures for which Shakespeare’s Great Birnam wood was the inspiration:

Letter #157:

As usually with me they [the Ents] grew rather out of their name, than the other way about. I always felt that something ought to be done about the peculiar A. Saxon word ent for a 'giant' or mighty person of long ago …

Letter #163, note:

Their [the Ents’] part in the story is due, I think, to my bitter disappointment and disgust from schooldays with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill': I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war.

Thus, because it was labelled both ‘giant’ and ‘Tree-man’, I am quite sure that the creature Hal saw was an Onod, or rather: a proto-Onod when first mentioned that later became a true Onod or a Huorn. Unless Hal was exaggerating to the extreme, it is more logical that it was an Onod, since he stated that it took long strides, something I do not think a Huorn was able to do. Also, according to Merry, it was difficult to see Huorns moving, so Hal’s observation was perhaps even more remarkable if the Tree-man was a Huorn.

LR, ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’:

… they [the Huorns] seem able to wrap themselves in shadow: it is difficult to see them moving. But they do. They can move very quickly, if they are angry. You stand still looking at the weather, maybe, or listening to the rustling of the wind, and then suddenly you find that you are in the middle of a wood with great groping trees all around you.

So if we assume that this Tree-man really was an Onod, was it an Ent or an Entwife? Treebeard said that the Entwives would like the Shire, and also perhaps indicated that the Ents would not:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

He [Treebeard] made them [Merry and Pippin] describe the Shire and its country over and over again. He said an odd thing at this point. 'You never see any, hm, any Ents round there do you?' he asked. 'Well, not Ents, Entwives I should really say.'
'Entwives?' said Pippin. 'Are they like you at all?'
'Yes, hm, well no: I do not really know now,' said Treebeard thoughtfully. 'But they would like your country, so I just wondered.'

He reminded Merry and Pippin twice that they should send word to him if they see or hear about Entwives, so he seemed to have fairly high hopes that they were in the Shire.

But if you hear news up in your pleasant land, in the Shire, send me word! You know what I mean: word or sight of the Entwives. [LR,3,X:84]
And don’t forget that if you hear any news of the Entwives in your land, you will send word to me.’ [LR,6,VI:71]

In the manuscript A of the LR Epilogue, Sam and his daughter Rose were discussing Entwives:

‘And have they [Merry and Pippin] never found the Entwives?’
Well, we’ve seen none here, have we? ’ said Sam.
‘No,’ said Rosie-lass; ‘but I look for them when I go in a wood. I would like the Entwives to be found.’

Thus it would not be surprising and even a bit ironic if Tolkien indeed was thinking that the Tree-man was an Entwife. However, I will first enquire into two other important properties of the Tree-man before I draw my final conclusion.

The Tree-man’s Stride-length

Let us now, on the basis of the Tree-man’s stride-length, try to find out whether he was an Ent or an Entwife. According to Hal, the Tree-man was walking 7 yards a stride. Treebeard made about 70,000 ‘ent-strides’ as he carried Merry and Pippin from the rock wall where he met Merry and Pippin to Wellinghall, which was supposed to be near the roots of Methedras, the last peak of the Misty Mountains:

TT, ‘Treebeard’:

I [Treebeard] have brought you [Merry and Pippin] about seventy thousand ent-strides, but what that comes to in the measurement of your land I do not know. Anyhow we are near the roots of the Last Mountain [Methedras].

RC, note for p. 470:

In Marquette MSS 4/2/19 Tolkien made various calculations of the length and speed of an ent-stride, adjusting both to what he felt the distance and length of the journey required. His final conclusion was probably that ‘an Ent would take nearly nine hours to do 70,000 strides and presumably in that time about 70,000 yards at least, probably 4 ft a stride’. This meant about 2.2 strides of 4 feet per second, covering a distance of 53.3 miles, at a speed of about 6 miles per hour.

So if Treebeard’s stride-length really was only 4 feet (~1.333 yards), and Hal’s observation is accurate and not for example an exaggeration, the Tree-man’s stride-length was ~5.25 times (!) as long as that of Treebeard.

How to Measure Your Stride - Step Length:

These are rough estimates, but useful to check your results by the other methods:
Females: Your height x .413 equals your stride length
Males: Your height x .415 equals your stride length

It seems that Treebeard’s height was at least 14 ft:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

It belonged to a large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high

The estimates above are for humans – Ents were not very bendable, so their stride-length compared to their height might have been longer than that of humans:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

… I [Treebeard] do not sit down. I am not very, hm, bendable.

But if we still use the formula, that should make Treebeard’s stride-length at least around

14 ft x 0.415 = 5.81 ft = ~1.94 yards

So at 4 ft, Treebeard would make quite short strides compared to his height.

Also, Tolkien’s calculations imply that the distance that Treebeard covered was only 53.3 miles. This might be too little to be consistent with the official LR maps. Merry and Pippin entered Fangorn close to where the Entwash flows out of the wood:

TT, ‘The Uruk-Hai’:

We [Merry and Pippin] are walking west along the Entwash. The butt-end of the Misty Mountains is in front, and Fangorn Forest.'
Even as he [Merry] spoke the dark edge of the forest loomed up straight before them.

When they met Treebeard, Merry and Pippin had only come three or four miles into Fangorn:

TT, ‘Treebeard’:

They [Merry and Pippin] came at length to the edge of the shelf almost at the feet of the old stump; then they sprang up and turned round with their backs to the hill, breathing deep, and looking out eastward. They saw that they had only come some three or four miles into the forest: the heads of the trees marched down the slopes towards the plain.

I will try to illustrate this problem by this map (part of the General Map of Middle-earth, along with my additions):

Distance covered by Treebeard

Even though Treebeard had walked along the eaves of the forest he would not quite have reached the roots of Methedras, it seems (Methedras is located north of Isengard). But then again, Tolkien did not feel the map to be completely accurate:

UT, Introduction:

... as things turned out it [CT's Middle-earth map] became, for all its defects and oddities, 'The Map', and my father himself always used it as a basis afterwards (while frequently noticing its inadequacies).

But did Tolkien make the wrong calculations? Before he came up with the 70,000 ent-strides, he had Treebeard walk a much longer distance:

VII, ‘Treebeard’:

When in the draft Treebeard reaches the Ent-house (TT p. 73) he makes no remark about the distance they have come, and in the fair copy he says: 'I have brought you three times twelve leagues or thereabouts, if measurements of that kind hold good in the country of Fangorn', where 'three' was changed to 'seven' before the words were rejected and replaced by his computation in 'Ent-strides'.

3 x 12 leagues = 3 x ~36 miles = ~108 miles 7 x 12 leagues = 7 x ~36 miles = ~252 miles

108 miles would be more logical in this case, because Treebeard probably did not walk in a completely straight line. That would make Treebeard walking at

~108 miles / 70,000 strides = ~190080 yards / 70,000 strides = ~2.7 yards / stride, ~2.6 times as short as the Tree-man’s 7 yards / stride.

If we go for ~252 miles,

~252 miles / 70,000 strides = ~443520 yards / 70,000 strides = ~6.3 yards / stride, close to the Tree-man’s 7 yards / stride.

The Atlas of Middle-earth states:

The old Ent had carried them [Merry and Pippin] to Wellinghall by dusk — "seventy thousand ent-strides" (100 miles at seven and one-half feet per stride [= 2.5 yards, 2.8 times as short as that of the Tree-man].

However, Tolkien also wrote a note on the speed of the Ents:

RC, note for p. 470:

In another note, Tolkien writes: ‘Ents are (as long as they can drink running water) almost tireless. They can go at c. 12 m.p.h – averaging say 10 hours (even 24) at a stretch. Max[imum] speed of Treebeard was 20 m.p.h. when charging’ (Marquette MSS 4/2/19)

In the other note from RC I quoted above, Hammond and Scull state that

Tolkien made various calculations of the length and speed of an ent-stride, adjusting both to what he felt the distance and length of the journey required.

This sounds like Tolkien wanted Treebeard to take 70,000 strides, and then made his calculations of the length and speed of Treebeard’s strides based on that fact. Therefore it is strange that Treebeard was walking at only 6 mph if he was capable of walking at 12 mph for many hours; it would have taken only half the time if the distance was 53.3 miles. He was carrying Merry and Pippin, and they were having a conversation part of the time – perhaps this had an influence on his walking speed. Also, walking across an open field or plain is much faster than sidestepping roots, rocks and trees in a dense forest. But in order to be consistent with the timeline Treebeard had to walk for about 9 hours – if his speed had been the double, 12 mph, then the distance would have been the double as well: 106.6 miles, which would perhaps be more consistent with the map, and if we assume that he was walking at the same stride frequency, it would also make his stride-length more reasonable for an Ent, 8 ft (~2.667 yards).

But this would still make the Tree-man’s stride-length very great in comparison; according to Hal he was, like Treebeard, walking, so if Hal’s observations were accurate, and if the Tree-man used the same stride frequency as Treebeard, he had a speed of

7 yards / ~2.667 yards x 12 mph = ~31.5 mph

And this he did easily (‘if it was an inch’), so he could have taken longer strides.

But perhaps the Tree-man’s stride-length of 7 yards is Hobbit yards, not our yards? Tolkien wrote a note on ‘Hobbit Long Measures’ [RC, note for p. 5]. But when studying it, it becomes apparent that the Hobbits had no yards. Yards are mentioned there, but they are our yards; Tolkien uses them to show us how long some Hobbit measures were.

So that means that the 7 yards are 7 of our yards. If they had been shorter, that would have made the Tree-man shorter and thus closer to Treebeard’s height.

At any rate, if the Tree-man was an Onod, and Hal’s observations were accurate, we can conclude that at least what its stride-length is concerned it was very large compared to Treebeard, and thus probably an Ent, not an Entwife.

Big as an Elm Tree

What Hal saw seemed to look like an elm. If we assume that this Tree-man was an Onod, can this fact give us any clues as to whether he (she) was an Ent or an Entwife?

All three British elms, which were probably the ones that were known to Tolkien, were considered large trees. [2]

Treebeard told Merry and Pippin about the different kinds of love of fauna the Ents and the Entwives had:

But our [the Ent and the Entwives’] hearts did not go on growing in the same way: the Ents gave their love to things that they met in the worldfor the Ents loved the great trees; and the wild woods, and the slopes of the high hills; and they drank of the mountain-streams, and ate only such fruit as the trees let fall in their path; and they learned of the Elves and spoke with the Trees. But the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees, and to the meads in the sunshine beyond the feet of the forests; and they saw the sloe in the thicket, and the wild apple and the cherry blossoming in spring, and the green herbs in the waterlands in summer, and the seeding grasses in the autumn fields … So the Entwives made gardens to live in. But we Ents went on wandering, and we only came to the gardens now and again. [LR,3,IV:113]

This is also shown by the fact that the Ents were devoted to Oromë while the Entwives were devoted to Yavanna. Oromë was associated with trees and forests, while Yavanna was more associated with growth in general.

The males [Ents] were devoted to Oromë, but the Wives [Entwives] to Yavanna. [L,247:7]
all trees he [Oromë] loves, for which reason he is called Aldaron, and by the Sindar Tauron, the Lord of Forests. [S,Val.:15]
The spouse of Aulë is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits. She is the lover of all things that grow in the earth, and all their countless forms she holds in her mind, from the trees like towers in forests long ago to the moss upon stones or the small and secret things in the mould. … Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn …[S,Val.:9]

Tolkien also elaborates on this in a note to Letter #163:

I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war. And into this has crept a mere piece of experience, the difference of the 'male' and 'female' attitude to wild things, the difference between unpossessive love and gardening.

It actually seems that the Ents and the Entwives and their failed relationship was inspired by the troubles in the Inklings’ (Tolkien himself included) relationships with their wifes.


Even then, family life never entirely regained the equilibrium it had achieved in Leeds. Edith began to feel that she was being ignored by Ronald. In terms of actual hours he was certainly in the house a great deal: much of his teaching was done there, and he was not often out for more than one or two evenings a week. But it was really a matter of his affections. He was very loving and considerate to her, greatly concerned about her health (as she was about his) and solicitous about domestic matters. But she could see that one side of him only came alive when he was in the company of men of his own kind. More specifically she noticed and resented his devotion to Jack Lewis.
On the occasions when Lewis came to Northmoor Road, the children [Tolkien’s] liked him because he did not talk condescendingly to them; and he gave them books by E. Nesbit, which they enjoyed. But with Edith he was shy and ungainly. Consequently she could not understand the delight that Ronald took in his company, and she became a little jealous. There were other difficulties. She had only known a home life of the most limited sort in her own childhood, and she therefore had no example on which to base the running of her household. Not surprisingly she cloaked this uncertainty in authoritarian-ism, demanding that meals be precisely on time, that the children eat up every scrap, and that servants should perform their work impeccably. Underneath all this she was often very lonely, frequently being without company other than the servants and the children during that part of the day when Ronald was out or in his study. During these years Oxford society was gradually becoming less rigid; but she did not trust it, and she made few friends among other dons’ families, with the exception of Charles Wrenn’s wife, Agnes. She also suffered from severe headaches which could prostrate her for a day or more.
It quickly became clear to Ronald that Edith was unhappy with Oxford, and especially that she was resentful of his men friends. Indeed he perceived that his need of male friendship was not entirely compatible with married life. But he believed that this was one of the sad facts of a fallen world; and on the whole he thought that a man had a right to male pleasures, and should if necessary insist on them. To a son contemplating marriage he wrote: ‘There are many things that a man feels are legitimate even though they cause a fuss. Let him not lie about them to his wife or lover! Cut them out―or if worth a fight: just insist. Such matters may arise frequently―the glass of beer, the pipe, the non writing of letters, the other friend, etc., etc. If the other side’s claims really are unreasonable (as they are at times between the dearest lovers and most loving married folk) they are much better met by above board refusal and “fuss” than subterfuge.’

The fact that the Ents were modelled on the Inklings can also be seen from the fact that C.S. Lewis’ voice was the inspiration for Treebeard’s voice:


When eventually he [Tolkien] came to write this chapter [LR, ‘Treebeard’] (so he told Nevill Coghill) he modelled Treebeard’s way of speaking, ‘Hrum, Hroom’, on the booming voice of C. S. Lewis.

Also, in the draft of the ‘Treebeard’ chapter, Treebeard said ‘Crack my timbers!’ instead of ‘Root and twig!’. Tolkien’s fellow Inkling Charles Williams used the ‘Crack my timbers!’ expression.

TM, ‘Treebeard’:

There are some small particular points worthy of mention in this first part of the chapter. In the fair copy corresponding to TT pp. 66 – 7 … his [Treebeard’s] ejaculation 'Root and twig! ' replaced 'Crack my timbers!'

A note on this:

A pencilled note on the fair copy says that 'Crack my timbers' had been 'queried by Charles Williams'. The same change was made at a later point in the chapter (TT p. 75).

Of course, Edith did not leave Ronald, like the Entwives left the Ents. Perhaps Tolkien took his relationship problems one step further in the Ents-Entwives relationship.

In Treebeard’s Song, Treebeard sang of forests that he had visited (and thus liked the trees):

In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring.
I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.
To the beeches of Neldoreth I came in the Autumn.
To the pine-trees upon the highland of Dorthonion I climbed in the Winter.

Elm, beech and pine are all large trees. There are small species of the willow, but the White Willow is fairly large [3].

The song ‘The Ent and the Entwife’ tells us more about the Entwives’ gardening, and agriculture:

When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade;
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid;
When shower and Sun upon the Earth with fragrance fill the air,
I'll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair.
When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I'll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!

Thus the Ents loved woods of large trees like pine and beech, but when they had found woods they liked, they never stayed permanently. Entwives, on the other hand, liked lesser trees, agriculture and gardening, and when they had found fair lands to tend, they stayed. This difference in love of flora led to their separation.

The Ents looked like the trees that they herded (and thus liked):

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

We are tree-herds, we old Ents. … Sheep get like shepherd, and shepherds like sheep, it is said; but slowly, and neither have long in the world. It is quicker and closer with trees and Ents …

Letter #247:

But some (Galadriel) were [of the] opinion that when Yavanna discovered the mercy of Eru to Aulë in the matter of the Dwarves, she besought Eru (through Manwë) asking him to give life to things made of living things not stone, and that the Ents were either souls sent to inhabit trees, or else that slowly took the likeness of trees owing to their inborn love of trees.

The Ents would logically then look like trees that count as large trees, and this is confirmed in LR, ‘Treebeard’ (with the exception of those who looked liked rowan-trees):

A few [of the Ents at the Entmoot] seemed more or less related to Treebeard, and reminded them [Merry and Pippin] of beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, the rowan, and the linden.

The rowan is a smaller tree [4], and according to Quickbeam (Bregalad), the young Ent, the Ents tried to please the Entwives with rowan-trees:

LOTR, ‘Treebeard’:

'There were rowan-trees in my home,' said Bregalad, softly and sadly, 'rowan-trees that took root when I was an Enting, many many years ago in the quiet of the world. The oldest were planted by the Ents to try and please the Entwives; but they looked at them and smiled and said that they knew where whiter blossom and richer fruit were growing.

Quickbeam himself liked rowan-trees:

LOTR, ‘Treebeard’:

Whenever he [Quickbeam] saw a rowan-tree he halted a while with his arms stretched out, and sang, and swayed as he sang.
O rowan fair, upon your hair how white the blossom lay!
O rowan mine, I saw you shine upon a summer's day

And he probably looked like a rowan-tree himself, because Quickbeam is an actual English name for the rowan, as Tolkien himself points out in RC, Nomenclature:

Quickbeam and Quicken are actual E. names of the rowan/mountain ash; also given to the related 'Service-tree' … The rowan is here evidently intended, since rowan is actually used in Quickbeam's song …

Treebeard liked beeches:

‘In the Willow-meads of Tasarinan’:

To the beeches of Neldoreth I came in the Autumn.

He looked himself like a beech or oak:

LOTR, ‘Treebeard’:

A few [of the Ents at the Entmoot] seemed more or less related to Treebeard, and reminded them [Merry and Pippin] of beech-trees or oaks.

Skinbark was an Ent that liked birches:

TT, ‘Treebeard’:

Skinbark lived on the mountain-slopes west of Isengard. That is where the worst trouble has been. He was wounded by the Orcs, and many of his folk and his tree-herds have been murdered and destroyed. He has gone up into the high places, among the birches that he loves best, and he will not come down.

His name suggests that he looked like a birch as well – the bark of the birch gives an impression of skin [5].

The S. name of Treebeard’s lost love, Fimbrethil, means according to LR, App. F ‘slender-beech’:

LR, App. F:

Some [of the strange words and names that the Hobbits record as used by Treebeard and other Ents] are Sindarin: as Fangorn 'beard-(of)-tree', or Fimbrethil 'slender-beech'.

However, in the 1966 Index Tolkien translates it as ‘slim-birch’:

RC, note for p. 475:

In Appendix F Fimbrethil is said to mean ‘slender-beech’, but in the 1966 Index Tolkien glosses it as ‘slim-birch’: compare Nimbrethil ‘white-birches’ in Index (probably 1953-4 … ), thus Sindarin brethil ‘birch’. It may be that when writing Appendix F Tolkien recalled the Etymologies (written in the mid- to late 1930s), where he relates the stem BERETH- to ‘beech-tree’, ‘beech-mast’, including Exilic Noldorin (i.e. Sindarin) brethil ‘beech-tree’.

Thus we get the following table:

Ent/Entwife — looked like — liked (at least)

Treebeard — beech or oak — willow, elm, beech, pine

Quickbeam — rowan — rowan

Skinbark — birch — birch

Fimbrethil — birch — ?

So did Fimbrethil like birch, since she looked like one? Most likely. The Downy Birch is quite small [6], while the Silver Birch can be a little larger [7]; thus, since Entwives liked lesser trees, she could have liked small birches, while Skinbark, being an Ent, liked larger birches. The fact that Quickbeam (and probably the other Ents who looked like rowan) liked a small tree like the rowan does not exactly fit though. But from this we can deduce that since the Tree-man looked like an elm, he/she probably liked elms as well. Elms are large trees, and Treebeard also liked them.

But wait – where were the elm-woods that Treebeard visited? In Ossiriand, and Lindon in TA is part of former Ossiriand. Could that be a coincidence? It does fit suspiciously well. On the General Map of Middle-earth one can see forests in Lindon (one in Forlindon and one in Harlindon). These were probably still elm-forests. Also, none of the Ents at the Entmoot looked like elms (see my quote above) – that might mean that there were no Ents in Fangorn at all that looked like elms, which implies that the Tree-man could not have been from Fangorn.

Tolkien’s latest view of the episode of the destruction of Doriath included Beren receiving help from Ents in Ossiriand:

Letter #247 (sent 20 September 1963):

There are or were no Ents in the older stories [for example The Silmarillion] – because the Ents in fact only presented themselves to my sight, without premeditation or any previous conscious knowledge, when I came to Chapter IV of Book Three. But since Treebeard shows knowledge of the drowned land of Beleriand (west of the Mountains of Lune) in which the main action of the war against Morgoth took place, they will have to come in. … I can foresee one action that they took, not without a bearing on The L.R. … There was a battle about a ford across one of the Seven Rivers of Ossir, and the Silmaril was recovered, and so came down to Dior Beren's son, and to Elwing Dior's daughter and Earendel her husband (father of Elros and Elrond). It seems clear that Beren, who had no army, received the aid of the Ents

Treebeard, probably along with a company of other Ents (like in the Third Age), lived in Beleriand during the First Age, moving from forest to forest (as he sang about in his song quoted above)). I believe that the Ents that helped Beren was Treebeard’s company, because

1) Tolkien concludes in Letter #247 quoted above that

… since Treebeard shows knowledge of the drowned land of Beleriand … they [the Ents] will have to come in[to ‘the older stories’].

Thus it would be illogical if Tolkien was thinking that some other Ents were the ones that helped Beren.

2) It would be a bit of a stretch, and too complicated ‘world-building’ by Tolkien, if there were two or more separate Ent-colonies in Beleriand – all moving from forest to forest.

Treebeard’s company stayed in Ossiriand in summer:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.

So if there were any indication that it was summer when Beren received the aid of Ents in Ossiriand, then it would be an even stronger point for the case of Treebeard’s company helping Beren. But seemingly there is no such in Tolkien’s own writings – there is no way to know for sure if it was summer at the time.

I believe that most of the Ents of Beleriand led by Treebeard (and certainly Treebeard himself), just like some of the Elves of Beleriand, emigrated east over Ered Luin in the beginning of SA. But some stayed in the elm-woods of Lindon and developed an ‘elm-likeness’. Already when Tolkien first wrote about the Tree-man, he most likely knew that it was an Onod (or rather, a ‘proto-Onod’ – see 'The Sighting'), but perhaps not where it came from. This he later solved nicely in the ‘Treebeard’ chapter by making the woods of Ossiriand (and thus Lindon) elm-woods (there is no reference to elms in Ossiriand in earlier texts). Thus I am keen on drawing this conclusion:

The Tree-man was an Ent out of Lindon.

An Ent in the Shire

So, despite the fact that Treebeard said that the Entwives would like the Shire (and also perhaps that the Ents would not), it seems that the Tree-man was an Ent. But what was he then doing at the north-boundary of the Shire? Looking for Entwives that had supposedly gone west from Berennyn*, and because he thought that they would like the Shire? But according to Treebeard, the Ents seemed to have stopped looking for the Entwives at the end of TA:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

For many years we [the Ents] used to go out every now and again and look for the Entwives, walking far and wide and calling them by their beautiful names. But as time passed we went more seldom and wandered less far. And now the Entwives are only a memory for us, and our beards are long and grey.

It does seem that the Ent-sighting(s) were part of the all the strange things that were happening outside the Shire at this time:

LR, Prologue:

At the time when this story begins the Bounders, as they were called, had been greatly increased. There were many reports and complaints of strange persons and creatures prowling about the borders, or over them: the first sign that all was not quite as it should be, and always had been except in tales and legends of long ago.

LR, ‘The Shadow of the Past’:

There were rumours of strange things happening in the world outside [the Shire]; … Elves, who seldom walked in the Shire, could now be seen passing westward through the woods in the evening, passing and not returning; but they were leaving Middle-earth and were no longer concerned with its troubles. There were, however, dwarves on the road in unusual numbers. … But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.
That name the hobbits only knew in legends of the dark past, like a shadow in the background of their memories; but it was ominous and disquieting. It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor. The Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said. From there the power was spreading far and wide, and away far east and south there were wars and growing fear. Orcs were multiplying again in the mountains. Trolls were abroad, no longer dull-witted, but cunning and armed with dreadful weapons. And there were murmured hints of creatures more terrible than all these, but they had no name.
Little of all this, of course, reached the ears of ordinary hobbits. But even the deafest and most stay-at-home began to hear queer tales; and those whose business took them to the borders saw strange things. The conversation in The Green Dragon at Bywater, one evening in the spring of Frodo’s fiftieth year, showed that even in the comfortable heart of the Shire rumours had been heard, though most hobbits still laughed at them.
‘Queer things you do hear these days, to be sure,’ said Sam.
‘All the same,’ said Sam, ‘you [Ted Sandyman] can’t deny that others besides our Halfast have seen queer folk crossing the Shire - crossing it, mind you: there are more that are turned back at the borders. The Bounders have never been so busy before.

Apparently Ents had not been seen in the Shire or at its borders before, so their appearance must have been linked to this ‘uncertainty’ in ME. It seems that it all had to do with Sauron’s reoccupation of Mordor (TA 2942 [LR,App.B,TA 2942]) and the rebuilding of Barad-dûr (begun TA 2951 [LR,App.B,TA 2951]). But still, what could that have to do with the fact that an Ent out of Lindon was striding at the northern borders of the Shire? Was he on his way to the east? Frodo met dwarves who were seeking refuge in the West, which mostly likely means that they had come out of the East, probably from Erebor or beyond. Was the Tree-man going to or had he visited the Old Forest? I have already shown that the Ents did not search for the Entwives anymore at the end of TA, and that Tom Bombadil (and thus the Old Forest) had no connexion with the Entwives. But Treebeard knew about the Old Forest, and was very interested in it and Tom Bombadil:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

There used to be some very dangerous parts in this country. There are still some very black patches.'
'Like the Old Forest away to the north, do you [Treebeard] mean?' asked Merry.
'Aye, aye, something like, but much worse.
He [Treebeard] was immensely interested in everything: in the Black Riders, in Elrond, and Rivendell, in the Old Forest, and Tom Bombadil, in the Mines of Moria, and in Lothlórien and Galadriel. [LR,3,IV:86]

As said before, the Ents were tree-herds, keeping the trees and the Huorns in check:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am. Still, we do what we can. We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed.
'We are tree-herds, we old Ents.

So if indeed several Tree-men had been sighted at the borders of the Shire, had they or were they perhaps going to ‘tame’ the hostile Huorns of the Old Forest?

Or if they were sighted at the borders: were they perhaps guarding the Shire, just like the Rangers did? It may be that some of the strangers sighted at the borders were Rangers. But if Ents guarded the Shire, surely the Rangers would know about them.

The Ancient Hawthorn

In TT, ‘The Palantír’, the company made their camp close to an old hawthorn on their way from Isengard:

It [a dale] opened southward, leaning back into the slope of round Dol Baran, the last hill of the northern ranges, greenfooted, crowned with heather. The sides of the glen were shaggy with last year's bracken, among which the tight-curled fronds of spring were just thrusting through the sweet-scented earth. Thornbushes grew thick upon the low banks, and under them they made their camp, two hours or so before the middle of the night. They lit a fire in a hollow, down among the roots of a spreading hawthorn, tall as a tree, writhen with age; but hale in every limb. Buds were swelling at each twig's tip.

The ‘Curdie’ books by George Macdonald were both an enjoyment and an inspiration for Tolkien as a child [Tolkien and the Great War]. In The Princess and Curdie an ancient hawthorn is mentioned:

… in the middle of a great desolate heath he [Curdie] began to feel tired, and sat down under an ancient hawthorn, through which every now and then a lone wind that seemed to come from nowhere and to go nowhither sighed and hissed. It was very old and distorted. There was not another tree for miles all around. It seemed to have lived so long, and to have been so torn and tossed by the tempests on that moor, that it had at last gathered a wind of its own, which got up now and then, tumbled itself about, and lay down again.
And that old hawthorn might have been enough for a warning − it looked so like a human being dried up and distorted with age and suffering, with cares instead of loves, and things instead of thoughts. Both it and the heath around it, which stretched on all sides as far as he could see, were so withered that it was impossible to say whether they were alive or not.

This hawthorn seems to have been a possible inspiration for the Onodrim for Tolkien, and perhaps also for the hawthorn in TT, ‘The Palantír’. The hawthorn is a shrub or small tree [8], and thus would be an ‘Entwife-tree’, though the hawthorn in TT, ‘The Palantír’ was ‘tall as a tree’. Perhaps an Entwife who had become treeish, or a Huorn? Who knows what Tolkien had in mind here?

[edit] Entwives in the East

Some people said that the Entwives went east from the Berennyn. Tolkien states in Letter #144:

Some [Entwives], of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved: tyrants even in such tales must have an economic and agricultural background to their soldiers and metal-workers. If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult – unless experience of industrialized and militarized agriculture had made them a little more anarchic. I hope so. I don't know.

After the War Aragorn was also hoping that the Ents could find the Entwives in the East:

LR, ‘Many Partings’:

‘Yet maybe there is now more hope in your search,’ said Aragorn. ‘Lands will lie open to you eastward that have long been closed.’
But Treebeard shook his head and said: ‘It is far to go. And there are too many Men there in these days.

So I have a fairly strong belief that some Entwives went east. There were many hostile people there, but Tolkien seems to be quite sure (‘of course’) that they may have went there (and thus were able to despite enemies).

Tolkien also mentions in Letter #144 that some Entwives may have been enslaved to work in the agriculture of Mordor. If so, it is very likely that they were working on the fields beside Lake Núrnen:

LR, ‘The Land of Shadow’:

Neither he [Sam] nor Frodo knew anything of the great slave-worked fields away south in this wide realm, beyond the fumes of the Mountain by the dark sad waters of Lake Núrnen; nor of the great roads that ran away east and south to tributary lands, from which the soldiers of the Tower brought long wagon-trains of goods and booty and fresh slaves.

He further states that if enslaved, the Entwives ‘would indeed be far estranged from the Ents’. The reason I think is that Sauron was also the god of his slaves:

Letter #131:

… as the Second Age draws on, we have a great Kingdom and evil theocracy (for Sauron is also the god of his slaves) growing up in Middle-earth.

Letter #212:

The corrupted [Valar], as was Melkor/Morgoth and his followers (of whom Sauron was one of the chief) saw in them the ideal material for subjects and slaves, to whom they could become masters and 'gods', envying the Children, and secretly hating them, in proportion as they became rebels against the One (and Manwë his Lieutenant in Eä).

So as enslaved, the Entwives would be corrupted and even perhaps turn to Sauron’s side, and then rapprochement with the Ents would understandably be difficult.

But when the War was over, Elessar gave to the slaves of Mordor the lands about Lake Núrnen:

And the King pardoned the Easterlings that had given themselves up, and sent them away free, and he made peace with the peoples of Harad; and the slaves of Mordor he released and gave to them all the lands about Lake Núrnen to be their own.

So he, or other Men of Gondor, would logically perhaps have seen the Entwives and told Treebeard then, and there is no record of that.

It seems that many (if not most) of Sauron’s slaves were Orcs.

LR, ‘The Tower of Cirith Ungol’:

Since his return to Mordor, Sauron had found it [the Tower of Cirith Ungol]; for he had few servants but many slaves of fear, and still its chief purpose as of old was to prevent escape from Mordor.
He [Sam] was no longer holding the Ring, but it was there, a hidden power, a cowing menace to the slaves of Mordor

LR, ‘Shelob’s Lair’:

It pleased him [Sauron] that she should dwell there hungry but unabated in malice, a more sure watch upon that ancient path into his land than any other that his skill could have devised. And Orcs, they were useful slaves, but he had them in plenty. If now and again Shelob caught them to stay her appetite, she was welcome: he could spare them.

LR, App.F:

The lesser kinds [of Orc] were called, especially by the Uruk-hai, snaga 'slave'.

LR, ‘The Land of Shadow’:

They [the leading Orcs] were a gang of the smaller breeds being driven unwilling to their Dark Lord’s wars; all they cared for was to get the march over and escape the whip. Beside them, running up and down the line, went two of the large fierce uruks, cracking lashes and shouting. File after file passed, and the tell-tale torchlight was already some way ahead. Sam held his breath. Now more than half the line had gone by. Then suddenly one of the slave-drivers spied the two figures [Frodo and Sam] by the road-side.

In one sense, all Orcs of Mordor were Sauron’s slaves:

Morgoth's Ring, 'Myths Transformed':

It is true, of course, that Morgoth held the Orcs in dire thraldom; for in their corruption they had lost almost all possibility of resisting the domination of his will. So great indeed did its pressure upon them become ere Angband fell that, if he turned his thought towards them, they were conscious of his 'eye' wherever they might be; and when Morgoth was at last removed from Arda the Orcs that survived in the West were scattered, leaderless and almost witless, and were for a long time without control or purpose.
This servitude to a central will that reduced the Orcs almost to an ant-like life was seen even more plainly in the Second and Third Ages under the tyranny of Sauron, Morgoth's chief lieutenant. Sauron indeed achieved even greater control over his Orcs than Morgoth had done.

But the fact that the slaves were given the lands about the Lake, with their fields, may be significant; if the slaves were Orcs, they surely would not have surrendered that easily, and would probably have been killed. Also, Elessar would hardly let an Orc colony prosper and multiply at the Lake.

So, most of the slaves were probably Men of Gondor and Rohan who had been captured. But still, perhaps there were some Entwives at Lake Núrnen as well; they would be attached to the fields. I quote again from Letter #163, LR, ‘Treebeard’ and the song of ‘The Ent and the Entwife’:

Letter #163:

I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war. And into this has crept a mere piece of experience, the difference of the 'male' and 'female' attitude to wild things, the difference between unpossessive love and gardening.

… So the Entwives made gardens to live in. But we Ents went on wandering …[LR,3,IV:113]

I'll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!

[edit] Entwives at the Brown Lands

Before I go and search for Entwives in the South, I will check if there are any traces of surviving Entwives in the vicinity of the Brown Lands.

When Frodo and Sam climbed down the cliff in the Emyn Muil, they encountered some trees and stumps:

LR, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

Some way down [the cliff] they [Frodo and Sam] found a few gnarled and stunted trees, the first they had seen for days: twisted birch for the most part, with here and there a fir-tree. Many were dead and gaunt, bitten to the core by the eastern winds. Once in milder days there must have been a fair thicket in the ravine, but now, after some fifty yards, the trees came to an end, though old broken stumps straggled on almost to the cliff's brink.

Sam fastened his Elvish rope to a stump near the brink:

LR, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

He [Sam] took up the rope and made it fast over the stump nearest to the brink …

When Sam pulled the rope after both Hobbits had climbed down, it came loose:

LR, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

To the complete surprise of both the hobbits it [the rope] came loose.

Even though the rope was Elvish, made of hithlain and probably magical, it is a fairly common theory that it did not came off itself, but was untied by an Entwife. The Entwife had become treeish and was actually the stump or one of the trees, or was hiding in the trees. The fact that most of the trees were birches suits well together with the name of Treebeard’s lost love, Fimbrethil, which Tolkien translated as ‘slim-birch’ in the 1966 Index (see ‘Traces of Entwives in the West’, ‘Big as an Elmtree’). There were also some fir-trees on the cliff; the fir was an ‘Ent-tree’ - could those trees have been Ents who had met Entwives at this place, close to the Entwives’ (former) garden but who had become treeish? However, according to LR, App. F Fimbrethil means ‘slender-beech’. So if Tolkien somehow had in mind that the stump or one of the birches was Fimbrethil, or that she was hiding nearby, should he not have kept her association with birches in mind when he wrote App.F, and translated her name as 'slim-birch' there as well?

It could of course have been a coincidence that Tolkien chose to have birches on the cliff, and did not have Fimbrethil in mind – but still he could have had Entwives in mind here. But Frodo thought that Sam had made a bad knot or that the rope had broken, while Sam believed that it came off itself when he called:

LR, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

`Who tied the rope? ' he [Frodo] said. `A good thing it held as long as it did! To think that I trusted all my weight to your [Sam’s] knot!'
Sam did not laugh. `I may not be much good at climbing, Mr. Frodo,' he said in injured tones, `but I do know something about rope and about knots. It's in the family, as you might say. Why, my grand-dad, and my uncle Andy after him, him that was the Gaffer's eldest brother he had a rope-walk over by Tighfield many a year. And I put as fast a hitch over the stump as any one could have done, in the Shire or out of it.'
`Then the rope must have broken – frayed on the rock-edge, I expect,' said Frodo.
`I bet it didn't! ' said Sam in an even more injured voice. He stooped and examined the ends. `Nor it hasn't neither. Not a strand!'
'Then I'm afraid it must have been the knot,' said Frodo.
Sam shook his head and did not answer. He was passing the rope through his fingers thoughtfully. `Have it your own way, Mr. Frodo,' he said at last, `but I think the rope came off itself – when I called.'

There is also a theory that it was Gollum who untied it, but personally I agree with Sam; I think that the rope came off itself due to its magical Elvish properties (perhaps the Elves of Lórien had inserted part of their power into it, which had made it sentient, but I will not go into that here). If not, the point of it being ‘Elvish’ would be diminished, and I think that Tolkien wanted to emphasize its ‘Elvishness’.


LR, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

`Look!' he [Frodo] said. `We must have come down a long way, or else the cliff has sunk. It's much lower here than it was, and it looks easier too.'

The corresponding passage in The War of the Ring, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’:

'But look, Sam!' said Frodo. 'Either the ridge has sunk or the lands at its feet have swelled up - we are not nearly so high up as we were yesterday: about 30 fathoms, not much more.'

Is there something curious about the Emyn Muil? Cf. this passage from note 14 (an Author’s Note) to ‘Last Writings’ in The Peoples of Middle-earth:

… Orodruin and its eruptions – which were not made by Sauron but were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age.

Were the Emyn Muil also a similar relic?

[edit] Entwives in the South

In Letter #180, Tolkien explains that he had long been planning to have Frodo 'run into a tree-adventure', but it turned out later that it did not happen to him (but instead to Merry and Pippin):

... though I knew for years that Frodo would run into a tree-adventure somewhere far down the Great River, I have no recollection of inventing Ents. I came at last to the point, and wrote the 'Treebeard' chapter without any recollection of any previous thought: just as it now is. And then I saw that, of course, it had not happened to Frodo at all.

It is true that in the published LOTR, Frodo does not experience anything that could be called a 'tree-adventure'. But what if Tolkien still left in some remnants of his old thoughts when he worked on the Frodo-Sam narrative thread?

An oft-ignored fact is that Treebeard states that at the end of the Second Age, some people said that they had seen the Entwives going west, some said east, and others south from the Brown Lands after Sauron burned their gardens:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

… we [Ents] asked all folk that we met which way the Entwives had gone. Some said they had never seen them; and some said that they had seen them walking away west, and some said east, and others south.

This could provide valuable clues as to where the Entwives might be post-Brown Lands. Now, where could 'south' more specifically be?

I will now demonstrate the analogies between aspects of Rohan and Gondor (there are most likely more, but these are hopefully enough for my purposes):

  • Rohan – Gondor
  • Théoden – Denethor
  • Saruman – Sauron (or the Lord of the Nazgûl)
  • The Hornburg – Minas Tirith
  • Merry and Pippin – Frodo and Sam
  • Treebeard – Faramir (though there are similarities between Faramir and Éomer as well)

And thus the one that will be of the highest importance in this thesis:

  • Fangorn Forest – Ithilien

As I have already mentioned in this essay, the Entwives, unlike the Ents, liked small trees, agriculture and gardening:

LR, 'Treebeard':

... the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees, and to the meads in the sunshine beyond the feet of the forests; and they saw the sloe in the thicket, and the wild apple and the cherry blossoming in spring, and the green herbs in the waterlands in summer, and the seeding grasses in the autumn fields … So the Entwives made gardens to live in.

Thus the Entwives would have liked the vegetation of Ithilien, 'the garden of Gondor':

LR, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit':

All about them [Frodo, Sam and Gollum] were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs. The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime. Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing. Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.
South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Dúath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away. Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin.

As is described in the above passage, the 'garden' was planted long ago and had been untended for a long time. But who had tended it? The Men of Gondor, of course. Or?

In Ithilien, Frodo and Sam also finds a small lake within a curious stone basin:

LR, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit':

They [Frodo, Sam and Gollum] followed a stream that went quickly down before them. Presently it brought them to a small clear lake in a shallow dell: it lay in the broken ruins of an ancient stone basin, the carven rim of which was almost wholly covered with mosses and rose-brambles; iris-swords stood in ranks about it. and water-lily leaves floated on its dark gently-rippling surface; but it was deep and fresh, and spilled ever softly out over a stony lip at the far end.

It seems to have been unused for a long time. What purpose did it serve?

Now, inside Wellinghall, Treebeard's home, there was also a water-filled stone basin, albeit smaller:

LR, 'Treebeard':

A little stream escaped from the springs above, and leaving the main water, fell tinkling down the sheer face of the wall, pouring in silver drops, like a fine curtain in front of the arched bay. The water was gathered again into a stone basin in the floor between the trees, and thence it spilled and flowed away beside the open path, out to rejoin the Entwash in its journey through the forest.

It is clear that the water gathered in the basin is the special sort that Treebeard seemed to like and that made Merry and Pippin to grow taller:

LR, 'Treebeard':

For a moment Treebeard stood under the rain of the falling spring, and took a deep breath; then he laughed, and passed inside.'You [Merry and Pippin] are thirsty I [Treebeard] expect. Perhaps you are also tired. Drink this!' He went to the back of the bay, and then they saw that several tall stone jars stood there, with heavy lids. As for Treebeard, he first laved his feet in the basin beyond the arch, and then he drained his bowl at one draught, one long, slow draught.

In the drafts for the account of the Three Hunters' chase, the hunters also find a basin, which was removed from the published text:

The Treason of Isengard, 'The Riders of Rohan':

...a rough path descended like a broad steep stair into the plain. At the top of the ravine Aragorn stopped. There was a shallow pool like a great basin, over the worn lip of which the water spilled: lying at the edge of the basin something glistening caught his eye. He lifted it out and held it up in the light. It looked like the new-opened leaf of a beech-tree, fair and untimely in the winter morning.

What purpose could this basin have served, and why did Tolkien remove it? The wording is quite similar to the one describing the basin that Frodo, Sam and Gollum found in Ithilien – I quote again from 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit':

They [Frodo, Sam and Gollum] followed a stream that went quickly down before them. Presently it brought them to a small clear lake in a shallow dell: it lay in the broken ruins of an ancient stone basin, the carven rim of which was almost wholly covered with mosses and rose-brambles; iris-swords stood in ranks about it. and water-lily leaves floated on its dark gently-rippling surface; but it was deep and fresh, and spilled ever softly out over a stony lip at the far end.

It should perhaps also be noted (as is mentioned in the LOTR Companion, note for p. 650) that Tolkien added the account of the flora in Ithilien, probably including the passage concerning the basin, after he wrote in the following pages of Sam cooking rabbits, and (as is mentioned in The War of the Ring, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit') that he pencilled a note

Describe baytrees and spicy herbs as they march.

Therefore it seems that Tolkien moved this basin to the Frodo-Sam narrative thread. What for? Was this initially to be Treebeard's basin (or a 'public' basin for all his Ents, or even the Entwives as well), and was later moved because Treebeard's basin had to appear much later, or was it to have some other purpose?

The research presented above has led me to suspect that the vegetation of Ithilien, described in 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit', was planted, or at least tended, by Entwives – some had survived the destrruction of their gardens south of Mirkwood and then come to Ithilien, a fairly obvious new home and garden - the wood corresponding to Fangorn forest, the Entwood. The basin was used by them for the same purpose that Treebeard used his basin. For some reason they later disappeared, maybe finally eradicated by Sauron, or had fled once again somewhere else.

There is the well known 'dryad loveliness' reference, and 'larches were green-fingered' in the description of the flora of Ithilien – this is suspiciously reminiscent of Entwives. The Ents and the Entwives slowly took the likeness of the trees they tended, and vice versa:

LR, ‘Treebeard’:

We are tree-herds, we old Ents. … Sheep get like shepherd, and shepherds like sheep, it is said; but slowly, and neither have long in the world. It is quicker and closer with trees and Ents …

It should also be noted though, that Frodo, Sam and Gollum both drank and bathed in the pool within the basin they found in Ithilien:

LR, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit':

... it [the lake] was deep and fresh, and spilled ever softly out over a stony lip at the far end.
Here they washed themselves and drank their fill at the in-falling freshet.

A growth in stature in neither Frodo, Sam or Gollum is ever mentioned afterwards. This was apparently 'normal' water, or at least it did not affect the travellers' height – after all, it was probably only water from the Entwash that was special:

LR, 'Flotsam and Jetsam':

Tired?" he [Treebeard] said, "tired? Well no, not tired, but stiff. I need a good draught of Entwash.

It should also be mentioned that Treebeard describes the Ents as drinking of mountain-streams (the source of the Entwash is in the mountains):

LR, 'Treebeard':

...the Ents loved the great trees; and the wild woods, and the slopes of the high hills; and they drank of the mountain-streams ...

But the Entwives are not described as drinking of any streams. Perhaps it was only specific to the Ents to gather water in basins, not the Entwives? But I think it would be logical if the Entwives also had a need of great amounts of water.

We also have this passage in Letter #144:

They [the Entwives] survived only in the 'agriculture' transmitted to Men (and Hobbits).

Most people believe that this passage means that the Entwives' art of agriculture was transmitted to Men, but none of the Entwives survived the descstruction of their gardens. However, the passage also fits rather well if one assumes that there were surviving Entwives in Ithilien practising agriculture, since Ithilien belonged to Gondor, a realm of Men. Or: it could simply mean that the 'agrictulture' was transmitted to Men by the surviving Entwives as they came to Ithilien, but later on they did not survive.

Also, before Frodo, Sam and Gollum find the basin in Ithilien, they also encounter other handiworks:

LR, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit':

The road had been made in a long lost time: and for perhaps thirty miles below the Morannon it had been newly repaired, but as it went south the wild encroached upon it. The handiwork of Men of old could still be seen in its straight sure flight and level course: now and again it cut its way through hillside slopes, or leaped over a stream upon a wide shapely arch of enduring masonry; but at last all signs of stonework faded, save for a broken pillar here and there, peering out of bushes at the side, or old paving-stones still lurking amid weeds and moss. Heather and trees and bracken scrambled down and overhung the banks, or sprawled out over the surface. It dwindled at last to a country cart-road little used; but it did not wind: it held on its own sure course and guided them by the swiftest way.

The road, the bridges, the pillars and the paving-stones – all were most likely the work of the Men of Gondor. Thus the basin could be that as well, especially since it is mentioned just a few paragraphs later, and maybe the flora was also planted and tended by the Men of Gondor. One should remember though, that

Letter #247:

The Ents thus had mastery over stone.

And there is a vague connection between the Ents and ancient, abandoned stoneworks – Tolkien got inspiration for them from giants erecting buildings in the Old English poem The Wanderer:

Letter #163:

They [the Ents] owe their name to the eald enta geweorc of Anglo-Saxon, and their connexion with stone [from the Old English poem The Wanderer, line 87: 'eald enta geweorc idlu stodon' = 'the old creations of giants (i.e. ancient buildings erected by a former race) stood desolate'].

However, I am wondering if the Númenóreans also come in here – they could perhaps also be termed 'giants' as they were the Men of the greatest stature, and they (or at least the Men of Gondor) are associated with stonework – Gondor even has the sense 'Stone-land' sc. 'Stone (-using people's) land' [Letter #324].

  • The Brown Lands, see RC, note for p. 380