On Ents and Entwives

I didn’t promise especially erudite or mystical posts. Today you just get geekery.

I’ve been listening to the Tolkien Professor’s old podcast/mini seminars on the Lord of the Rings, and have found them quite interesting. They have been quite useful, even though I frequently (and vigorously) disagree with his analysis. I tend to get overly lost in the story part, and it takes some pretty egregious writing to snap me out of reading and into analysis. But the podcasts offer questions for me to actually think about, and yesterday I listened to him ask what was it that made the tale of the Ents and Entwives so moving.

Well, I thought this was a bit of an obvious thing. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflicts of priorities between the sexes are part of the universal human experience. Wrap some of this conflict up into the specifics of the natural lives of tree-people, then remove one entire sex without revealing their fate, leaving a slim, improbable, but persistant hope that they still are somewhere, and you get a universally understandable grief so profound that if it figured into the LotR more than in brief passing, no one could bear to finish the book for the heartbreak.

What I think is more interesting is the fact that the Ents experience such significant conflict between the sexes at all. It’s the defining characteristic of Tolkien’s tree-people.

Marital disunion occurs among Men and among Elves, but doesn’t take on the same intransigent significance. I think that the root of the estrangement between Ents and Entwives lies in the history of their creation.

Aulë made the dwarves in secret, and separate from his wife Yavanna. This separation meant that the dwarves had “little love for the things of her love”, the plants and animals of the world. And she was distressed by Aulë’s assertion that her works would become subject to both the Children of Illúvatar and the Children of Aulë. She went to Manwë, and the result was that “in the forests will walk the shepherds of the trees.” When she returns to Aulë, she tells him that his children will need to beware the wrath of her children.

Neither values or even seems to notice the work of the other until they come into conflict. When they do, instead of trying to resolve anything, Aulë and Yavanna only seem interested in asserting the primacy of their own work’s importance.

The Ents are literally born from the estrangement of Aulë and Yavanna. I think it shows in story of the Ents and Entwives, root and bough.

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3 Responses to On Ents and Entwives

  1. Megan says:

    0.0 Brilliant.

    • GeekLady says:

      oof. It doesn’t feel brilliant though.

      Actually, something similar could be said about the relationship between male and female dwarves. In the case of the dwarves, they increase slowly because there aren’t a lot of dwarf women, and not all of the women marry, either because they want someone they can’t have, or because they aren’t interested in marrying at all, only their own crafting. The same goes for the men. And *this* tendency is very much like Aul. The Ents and Entwives are combative like Yavanna is combative, the dwarves are so concerned with their craft that they are detached from intimate concerns, like Aul created the dwarves in secret and separate from his wife instead of working in concert with her.

      On Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 1:16 PM, On the Care and Feeding of Geeks wrote:


  2. melaniebett says:

    This is really interesting. I confess I’ve only read The Silmarillion once and not very carefully so I’ve never really tried to make these kinds of connections. But yes this makes perfect sense. My kind of geekery.

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