October 17, 2002
Where Did the Ent-wives Go? The Answer...
When I read The Lord of the Rings, the biggest and most perplexing mystery for me was not the presense of Balrog wings, or why Frodo wasn’t flown to Mordor, or who Tom Bombadil was. It had to do with my personal favorite character – Treebeard. The question on the lips of every Ent: where did the Ent-wives go?
The answer came to me like a bolt of lightening.
In the style of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, let us first review the evidence:
When the first encounter between Hobbits and Ents takes place in The Two Towers, Treebeard asks of Merry and Pippin these questions, in this order: who are you, whence did you come, and where are the Entwives. The Ent-wives, we learn, were taken to people-ish activities: they liked to talk, they enjoyed social activity, gardening, “order, plenty and peace”, and were generally very hasty. Then, one day, the Ent-wives departed. The direction in which they were last seen was the Brown Lands, over the Great River.
I personally never bought the story that Ents had overlooked the existence of the little folk known as Hobbits. Sauron must have known of them, and so must have the Ents, unless I am correct.
Treebeard also tells of the changing of the Ent-wives, how the events of the world changed them, so that Treebeard arrvies at this statement: “…very fair she was, still in my eyes, when I had least seen her, though little like the Ent-maiden of old. For the Ent-wives were bent and brown by their labor, their hair parched by the sun to the hue of ripe corn and their cheeks like red apples.” Here are a few more things he said about the Ents that support my theory:
“For the Ents loved the great trees, and the wild woods, and the slopes of the high hills…”
“Many men learned the crafts of the Ent-wives and honored them greatly.”
The Ent song of the races has this line for the Ents: “Ents the earthborn…”
“Yet here we still are, while all the gardens of the Ent-wives are wasted: Men call them the Brown Lands now.” It was in this place that Smeagol acquired the One Ring, so we can also postulate that Hobbit-folk lived there. At another point, mention is made about the great similarities between the Brown Lands and the Black Forest of the Shire.
Treebeard also said that the Ent-wives never died. It is also presumed that upon leaving Fangorn the Ent-wives lost access to the Entish foods and “draughts”. The draughts, might I remind you, were promised to make Merry and Pippin grow “big and green”.
Another of the great questions that intrigued me was the origin of the Hobbits. Then it occurred to me that the two questions were connected: where did the Ent-wives go and where did the Hobbits come from?
At this point, Holmes starts to puff wildly at his pipe and Monsieur Poirot beams childishly at his audience…
Now we come at last to the most unexpected cohorts of this mystery: the Hobbits. After many hundreds of years of waiting for news of the Ent-wives, Treebeard and his kind have no answers, until it passes clean under their noses, unseen. Tired and hungry, sought by the enemy, two little folk stumble into Fangorn, where Treebeard spares their lives when one of the Hobbits states how very much he likes it there in the forest: “I almost felt I liked the place.” Appropriate, since he had been there before. Treebeard quickly discovers that he likes these hasty little tikes. Again, this is appropriate, for Treebeard had met Hobbits before.
Why didn’t the Hobbits appear in the Old Lists? Why is it that Hobbit and Entish kinds migrated in a similar manner—from the Brown Lands to the Shire? What would have happened to Merry and Pippin if they had continued on the Entish diet? Why all the similarities between Hobbits and Ent-wives—both loved gardens, socializing, the company of humans, playing in the green fields, plenty, peace, reading old poems, and both had rosey cheeks. The first records of the Hobbits and last of the Ent-wives takes up in the Brown Lands, and now Hobbits are found in the Shire, with hints of Entish-ness in the Black Forest.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn from these details – the only details we have to go on. It is an answer saturated with ironies within ironies, and perhaps greater mystery than the question itself. The Entwives, on their diet of humanity and lesser living, gradually transformed… they became bent, fair-haired, rosey-cheeked little beings in love with nature and gardening and poetry and… tea. My friends, the Entwives are no more. They have become bent, fair-haired, rosey-cheeked Hobbits.
Mr. Fiddlestick Bundy, Sr.