The Lord of the Rings features a diverse Middle-earth filled with humans, dwarves, elves, hobbits, orcs, and many others. Yet one of the strangest creatures in the story is often forgotten. The Ents may not seem like much, but they are instrumental to the plot. Even to the characters, the Ents are a mysterious group, often considered only a legend. Isolated from most of the world, Ents have their own customs, society, and language. Though they’re only briefly featured in PeterJackson‘s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, viewers do get some insight into the tree creatures, and the ever-detailed JRR Tolkien certainly didn’t forget to expand on them in the original books. As the protectors of the forests, Ents are described as shepherds to the trees. Though they look like trees with a face, there are variations between Ents as they tend to resemble the specific kind of tree they protect. With trees once covering much of the land, the Ents had more power, but they greatly diminished due to deforestation. Yet they loyally stick to their task of protecting the forests.
As a people, Ents are slow and patient, taking a great deal of time to do anything. Perhaps this is due to their long life spans, though Ents can indeed die. How long they lived is unknown, but in his appearance in the Third Age, Treebeard claims to remember a time before Ents learned to speak. Ents are also analytical, taking the time to discuss things thoroughly before they act. But, when they decide to help defeat the evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), they are a force to reconcile with. Interestingly, the most recognizable Ent, Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies), is based on Tolkien’s friend CS Lewiswho wrote the Chronicles of Narnia series, indicating that much of the Ents’ lack of speed would be Tolkien’s way of teasing his friend. Although Ents are sometimes seen as legends among other inhabitants of Middle-earth, they have a rich, if vague, history explained in Tolkien’s works, with stories of Ents throughout the ages.
The Ents have two languages: Old Entish and New Entish. Speaking in Old Entish is a lengthy process, with one sentence taking hours, so they only use it when what they have to say is worth taking the time. New Entish was developed after the Ents’ contact with elves, as it was adopted from the Elvish language Quenya, though the Ents used Old Entish’s unique sentence structure. As it is Elvish vocabulary, other creatures can speak New Entish, unlike Old Entish. Yet most often, Ents use Common Speech when communicating with others, though they sometimes fall back into their native sentence structure.
The Creation of the Ents
In the Valaquenta, the second part of The Silmarillion, Tolkien detailed the creation of Middle-earth’s creatures. Ents, like the rest, are created by the Valar. But their specific origins are unique. Yavanna, who was responsible for creating fruit and growing things, was the wife of Aulë. Aulë secretly created Dwarves, and Yavanna, fearing they and other beings would destroy her defenseless forests and nature, requested another creature be created for their protection. And so Ents were made as the guardians of Yavanna’s creations.
Other Stories of Ents
Ents appear throughout Middle-earth’s history, but only on occasion. One legend, referenced by Treebeard himself, is about the Elves teaching Ents to speak. Treebeard refers to it as “Elves curing the Ents of their dumbness.” Clearly, Ents have since maintained their interest in language and can communicate with Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boy d) when they meet. Another brief story mentioned by Treebeard claims that Trolls were Morgoth’s creation in an attempt to copy the Ents’ strength, though he did not succeed. While there’s not much else to address this, it seems to confirm that Ents have fought the powers of evil before. Ents get another mention in the Battle of Sarn Athrad at the end of the First Age. The Dwarves of Nogrod were returning from an attack on an Elven city, but their foes followed them. In the confrontation, the Ents assisted the Elves in preventing the Dwarves’ escape.
Where are the Entwives?
Perhaps the most notable story of the Ents is the mysterious fate of the Entwives. Once, Entwives lived with the Ents in the forests, but because of their love of planting, they moved further away to better control their growths. This led them across the Great River and into the lands Sauron later destroyed. The Entwives have not been seen since, though the Ents looked for them. Treebeard and his companions still hope to reunite with the Entwives someday. As the Ents and the Entwives have been separated for some time by the Third Age, there are no Entlings or young Ents. In fact, their numbers are dwindling without new Ents being born. And that doesn’t seem to be changing. Merry and Pippin share a story with Treebeard of a hobbit who claims to have seen a walking tree near the Shire. After hearing a description of the location, Treebeard comments that the Entwives would like the area, but it is unconfirmed if it was an Ent or Entwife that the hobbit saw. The fate of the Entwives is officially a mystery, though, in one of his letters, Tolkien admitted that he believed they were “destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance.”
Attack on Isengard and Beyond
The next known story of the Ents is their appearance in The Two Towers. When Merry and Pippin escape the Orcs, running into the forest. There they meet Treebeard, who is unfamiliar with hobbits. After a lengthy discussion at their Entmoot, the Ents of Faghorn Forest decide Merry and Pippin are not Orcs and accept them as friends but refuse to help in the battle against Isengard. They believe it isn’t their war, but they agree to take the hobbits to the edge of the forest. There Treebeard sees the destruction of Saruman and caused his Orcs and calls the Ents to battle. They prove to be dangerous enemies, tearing down the dam and flooding Isengard. Once they enter the war, the Ents stick with it. The books tell of the Ents intercepting Orcs on their way to Rohan and beating them again. Finally, after the war, the newly crowned King Aragorn gifts a valley in the Misty Mountains to the Ents for their help in battle. This area became known as the Watchwood and the Treegarth of Orthanc as the Ents moved their trees there and turned it into a flourishing forest.