Beyond Middle-Earth: Fangorn and Fimbrethil

"Going to Isengard" | Art by 1oshuart. Used with permission.

“Behold! When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also… and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared…. In the forests shall walk the Shepherds of the Trees.” — “Of Aulë and Yavanna,” The Silmarillion

It’s difficult to imagine Ents being vulnerable. These tree-giants (the word “ent” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for “giant”) are strong creatures and, though they avoid doing anything in haste, their anger is swift and terrible.

It’s interesting to me, then, that Ents were born out of a perceived vulnerability. Before any peoples walked Middle-earth, the Valar sang the world into being and Ilúvatar created Elves and Men. Aulë, the great smith, wanted his own creations and so gave life to the Dwarves. However, his wife Yavanna, the grower of all plant life, recognized that the Dwarves would learn from her husband and would, therefore, have no love for her works: “My heart is anxious, thinking of the days to come… Shall nothing that I have devised be free from the dominion of others?” (S, 40).

What does a world without Ents look like? Very much like ours, I think.

Thus, the Ents were created from Yavanna’s desire to defend her creation. They awoke in Middle-earth at the same time as the Elves.

But, while Ents feature prominently in The Two Towers, we don’t see any Entwives. Anything we know about them is what Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin when they seek refuge in Fangorn forest:

“When the world was young and the woods were wide and wild, the Ents and Entwives… they walked together and they housed together. But our hearts did not go on growing in the same way: the Ents gave their love to things that they met in the world, and the Entwives gave their thought to other things, for the Ents loved the great trees… But the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees, and to the meads in the sunshine beyond the feet of the forests… So the Entwives made gardens live in…” (TT, 87).

Treebeard also described them as “bent and browned by their labour; their hair parched by the sun to the hue of ripe corn and their cheeks like red apples,” (TT, 88). And, he mentions one Entwife: Fimbrethil (Wandlimb when translated from Sindarin), who he called lovely and fair.

So where are they? The simple answers are “gone” and “we don’t know.” The lands in which they gardened, located just south of Mirkwood, were scorched by Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance and are now called the Brown Lands.

Tolkien himself said in his Letters that he did not know if the Ents ever found the Entwives (419) and that, if they ever did, they would be so far estranged that a reunion would have been difficult (179).

Treebeard’s regret is apparent and his tales of the Entwives are laced with declarations of sorrow. Without Entwives, Ents are vulnerable because there can be no more Entings; they are dying out.

A world without Entwives means, eventually, a world without Ents.

A world without Entwives means, eventually, a world without Ents. Though they have long lives, Ents are not immortal. Treebeard has lived through every age of the world and he recognizes that one day his kind will be gone. And so, when the Ents finally decide to march on Isengard, Treebeard says, “Of course, it is likely enough, my friends… likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later… Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song,” (TT, 102).

They do not go to war because of some deeper sense of duty to do their part in the battle against evil; rather, they are angered by Saruman cutting down trees and fight to protect the forest (TT, 101). The last march of the Ents is their last chance to be remembered for something, the only way they can live after they pass away.

What does a world without Ents look like? Very much like ours, I think, though the fires of industry are a bit different. Instead of forging swords and spears, we’re drilling holes, pounding the earth with water, blasting tunnels through mountains to meet the demand for oil, and clear-cutting forests to make room for farmland and housing developments. Without Ents to stop us, humans will continue to exploit and destroy the Earth’s resources until there’s nothing left.

And therein lies another vulnerability. Without trees, the air becomes less breathable, water less drinkable, ecosystems are destroyed and animal species lost. We lose history and beauty. We destroy ourselves because we did not take care of the earth as we should, as Ents and Entwives do.

That seems very Orcish to me.

Kyla Neufeld

Kyla Neufeld

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Kyla is a poet, writer, and editor. She writes about various sci-fi and fantasy series, and is interested in the intersections between geek culture, feminism, and social justice. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband, the Sith Lord, and her daughter, the Nazgûl child.
Kyla Neufeld