Ents were a race of forest-giants, described in the works of the author J.R.R. Tolkien. The Ents played a major role in Tolkien's famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
Although described in earlier works as half-Men, half-trees, the Ents were in fact neither. They existed in Middle-earth for nine Ages of Stars and Sun, the strongest and oldest race born into the world of Arda. Their strength surpassed that of Trolls, even the Olog-Hai created by Sauron. The eldest Ent at the time of the War of the Ring was Fangorn, known in the common tongue as Treebeard. Ents greatly resembled trees in their appearance, standing sometimes as tall as twenty men. Their arms were as the widest branches of trees, their legs as the thickest roots. Their eyes glowed from within, glinting with green and yellow light. Their strength was without equal in Middle-earth; they were able to easily crush stone and steel with their hands alone.
Elvish histories tell of the awakening of the Ents. When Varda, Queen of the Heavens kindled the stars, the Ents awoke at the same time as the Elves, in the Great Forests of Arda. They were born directly from the thoughts of the Valar Yavannah, Queen of the Earth, as her Shepherds of Trees. They were charged with the care of the Olvar, the flora of Arda, guarding them from evil. At the time of their awakening, the Ents were unable to speak; it fell to the Elves to teach them the concept of vocal communication. The Ents delighted in learning as many tongues as they could, but preferred the language they themselves devised, Entish. None but the Ents could master this speech, mostly due to the length of time required to actually say anything. Spoken by Ents, the words resembled slow and deep thunder.
Though at times the Ents held great gatherings, known as Entmoots, they were mostly solitary creatures, living apart from one another in isolated Ent houses deep the in Great Forests. Often the Ents made their homes in mountain caverns, both natural and made by their own hand, with plentiful supplies of springwater and surrounded by great and beautiful trees. In these places they rested, usually beneath waterfalls, and took their meals, not solid food but a clear liquid stored in great stone jars; these were Ent-draughts, magical fluids that glowed in green and gold. Although not generally known, Ent-draught was also an excellent source of nutrient for other races, such as Hobbits. This was discovered by Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, whilst in Treebeard's care in Fangorn Forest, during the War of the Ring.
Throughout the Ages of Middle-earth, the Ents lived out their near-immortal lives; the other races of Middle-earth rarely challenged their greatness. Only a few races have ever fallen foul of the wrath of the Ents, and only ever due to damage inflicted by them upon the Forest. In addition to the Orcs of Isengard, the Dwarves had in their time offended the Ents, probably because of their need for huge amounts of wood to fuel their mining operations. During the First Age of the Sun, Dwarf warriors under the banner of Nogrod sacked the Grey-elven citadel of Menegroth; they were subsequently caught by the Ents and slain.
Ents, in the Ages of the Stars, were a race of both male and females; Ents and Entwives. However, during the First Age of the Sun, the two halves of Ent society began to differ and grow apart. Ents loved the trees and the forests, and led a life in harmony with nature, preserving life as they found it. Entwives grew to love the plains and fields, and sought to bend the lesser Olvar to service them, creating great gardens for their own pleasure. However, before the end of the Second Age of the Sun, the gardens were destroyed, and with the gardens went the Entwives. Among them was the spouse of Treebeard, Fimbrethil, also known as Wandlimb the Lightfooted. No texts give an account of their fate, whether they were destroyed or that they simply journeyed elsewhere. Whatever happened, it was beyond the knowledge of the Ents themselves, who wandered the forests in search of them for many long years. So it was that although Ents could not die in the manner of Men, over time their race dwindled in number. Without the Entwives, no new Entings could be born. Never numerous, the Ents slowly became fewer and fewer, as some were slain by fire or steel, and some simply gave up and became more like trees than Ents. This decline was hastened by the felling of the Great Forest of Eriador, leaving only the Old Forest, which bordered the Shire, and Fangorn, bordering the Land of Rohan.
By the time of the War of the Ring, Treebeard was counted amongst the three eldest Ents in Middle-earth. Besides Treebeard there was Finglas, or "Leaflock", and Fladrif, meaning "Skinbark". However, the latter two had withdrawn even from the affairs of the Ents, and were rarely seen or heard of. The Ents were content in their lives, until the harassment by Saruman of Isengard. Saruman's Orcs, Half-Orcs and Uruk-Hai hewed down vast numbers of the greatest trees in Fangorn Forest, in order to fuel their master's war machine. Angered by this betrayal by their former ally, the Ents entered the War of the Ring against the forces of Isengard. Ranks of Ents marched upon the tower of Orthanc, accompanied by the Huorns; tree spirits of a violent and unpredictable nature, whos strength almost rivalled that of the Ents. Loosed into battle, the underdefended Isengard was rapidly overrun. The natural stone curtain wall was almost completely torn down and destroyed, the small custodian force of Haradrim and Dunlendings was eliminated. Finally, Saruman's forges and magical devices, hidden beneath the Isen Plain in great pits were destroyed. The Ents redirected the flow of the River Isen, flooding the entire plain and shattering Saruman's power permanently. The Huorns then turned North, marching to aid the Rohirrim in the Battle of the Hornburg. Surrounding the broken remnant of the Uruk-Hai army, the Huorns tore down the fleeing warriors as they sought refuge in what they took to be trees.
After the War of the Ring, the Ents again lived on peacefully in Fangorn Forest, although they continued to dwindle in power and number. The Fourth Age of the Sun was thought to be their last. It should also be noted that the evil race of Trolls were actually a twisted form of Ents, created by Melkor. Just as Orcs were a ruined form of Elves, Trolls were created in the Dark Pits of Utumno to serve Morgoth in the War of Wrath.
- The works of J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Tolkien Encyclopedia, David Day