(redirection from Shepherds of the Trees)

Brief Description   
Some Details and Interpretations   
Further Comments and Annotations   

Brief Description    

The Ents were the most ancient people in Middle-earth, surviving in the ThirdAge. Their Sindarin name was Onodrim? or Enyd?, the name Ent is the form of their name in Rohirric.

According to The Silmarillion - but as a later conception - they were trees inhabited by spirits.

As the "Shepherds of the Trees", they were the guardians and representants of the Olvar. At the time of the WotR Treebeard was their leader, but they seem to have been a democratic community (c.f. EntMoot).

Some Details and Interpretations    

In The Silmarillion the origin of Ents is explained:

Then Manwė awoke, and he went down to Yavanna upon Ezellohar, and he sat beside her beneath the Two Trees. And Manwė said: 'O Kementįri, Eru hath spoken, saying: "Do then any of the Valar suppose that I did not hear all the Song, even the least sound of the least voice? 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. For a time: while the Firstborn are in their power, and while the Secondborn are young." But dost thou not now remember, Kementįri, that thy thought sang not always alone? Did not thy thought and mine meet also, so that we took wing together like great birds that soar above the clouds? That also shall come to be by the heed of Ilśvatar, and before the Children awake there shall go forth with wings like the wind the Eagles of the Lords of the West.'

Then Yavanna was glad, and she stood up, reaching her arms towards the heavens, and she said: 'High shall climb the trees of Kementįri, that the Eagles of the King may house therein!'

But Manwė rose also, and it seemed that he stood to such a height that his voice came down to Yavanna as from the paths of the winds.

'Nay,' he said, 'only the trees of Aulė will be tall enough. In the mountains the Eagles shall house, and hear the voices of those who call upon us. But in the forests shall walk the Shepherds of the Trees.'

The Silmarillion - Of Aulė and Yavanna

The Ents and Treebeard are a LotR-creation of Tolkien. This passage above from the published Silmarillion is taken from a text - originally not included in the "Quenta Silmarillion" - which was written about 1958-9 and titled "Anaxartamel" (in the draft) and "Anaxartaron Onyaliė" and "Of the Ents and the Eagles" (in 2 typescripts).

Furthermore, there is another brief mention of the "Shepherds of the Trees" in the published Silmarillion:

And as they climbed the long slopes beneath MountDolmed there came forth the Shepherds of the Trees, and they drove the Dwarves into the shadowy woods of EredLindon?: whence, it is said, came never one to climb the high passes that led to their homes.
The Silmarillion - The Ruin of Doriath

But this passage is somewhat problematic, because it appears that it was written by Christopher Tolkien (with the aid of Guy G. Kay). Christopher explains, however, that this was encouraged by a statement regarding the Ents Tolkien made in a letter 1963:

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 – and that would not make for love between Ents and Dwarves.
Letters #247

In a letter to W.H. Auden Tolkien explains how he first "conceived" the basic idea for the Ents:

Take the Ents for instance. I did not consciously invent them 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. But looking back analytically I should say that Ents are composed of philology, literature and life. They owe their name to the eald enta geweorc of Anglo-Saxon, and their connexion with stone. Their 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. 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.
Letters #163

Eald enta geweorc, the old work of giants a phrase found in Beowulf (2774) or The Wanderer (87), surely something that had inspired Tolkien's phantasy during his study of these Anglo-Saxon poems.

In this letter he also mentions the connexion between the Ents' march to Isengard and the the coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill' in Shakespeare's Macbeth, the play of an author Tolkien said to have "disliked cordially" (c.f. Letters #163) but also one ''to which - according to Tom Shippey's analysis in J.R.R. Tolkien - Author of the Century - the Lord of the Rings is indebted again and again..."

Further Comments and Annotations    

 "I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues
 and I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs
 what's that THING?
 that THING you've made out of my Truffula Tree?" --The Lorax

Tolkien's era saw much deforestation in England's ancient gardens; some for urban sprawl, and some for no reason at all. To support our irrational steak houses, we damage the environment; this theme occurs in Saruman's abuse of the large forest nearest his tower, and again when the Hobbits return to the Shire and discover Saruman's agents have been waging ecological warfare to subjugate the sources of Saruman's fodder.

There's a scene among the character introductions at the beginning of "A Long Expected Party" from FotR, where a local yokel reports seeing a tall walking creature on the northern borders of the Shire. Hobbits were familiar with Dwarves, familiar by second-hand accounts with Humans and Elves, and familiar thru legends with Goblins and Trolls. This creature didn't match.

Then one of Treebeard's long sonorous stories to Merry and Pippin was his legend of the Entwives. He asked if they had seen any from their country.



Song of Ents

  • Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
  • When young was mountain under moon;
  • Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
  • It walked the forests long ago.

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