How did the Ents learn their unique, beautiful language? Surely not from the Elves? Because if the Elves did teach them, then Legolas must have known about it… Fangorn hid many secrets, indeed, but not all of them were only about the old, old forest of his realm. Legolas and Gimli were lucky; they got the privilege of knowing about one of the most important secrets to be ever shared by the Ent kind.
This story is set before the rebellion of the Ñoldor, when Oromë's hunting party still went to Middle Earth often. Treebeard (Fangorn, in this story) was yet young at that time. And, because of the timeline, the Elves who were in Middle Earth were the Sindar and Nandar. The Elvish spoken about here is Sindarin, but it could also refer to Nandarin.
The references to the history of the Ents point much towards Elves, but I saw some gaps there to be filled. I read somewhere that one of the hobbits – either Merry or Pippin – asked Treebeard… or perhaps it was Quickbeam… if they were not afraid that their intentions would be discovered through their language, but the Ent said that no one could possibly imitate nor understand the Entish. If you remember the exact passage, please tell me.
The question that sparked this piece was: If the Elves woke the trees up and cured the Ents from their dumbness, then who taught the Ents their unique language? How did they develop it?
(Taken from the E-book version of the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 4: Treebeard.)
"I've lived a very long, long time; somy name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to." (p. 57)
"Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk. They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did." (p. 60)
"Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others: it was the Elves that cured us of dumbness long ago, and that was a great gift that cannot be forgotten, though our ways have parted since." (p. 64)
"I wish I never agreed to this madness," Gimli grunted into his beard. Legolas was high over his head, perched in the highest branch that could support the Elf's weight. The Dwarf had been standing among the tree's big, bulky roots for some time now. If not for his fondness towards the Silvan lad, he thought, he would have protested loudly and demanded the Elf to go down at least one hour ago.
But Legolas was not his only reason, actually. Gimli was afraid to talk too loud lest he would attract strange things with his voice. The forest made him nervous. Not even Mirkwood, with its encroaching orcs and spiders, could daunt him like what this forest did! Now twice had the nerves of Gimli son of Gloin been defeated. He had thought that his experience journeying through the Path of the Dead together with Legolas, Aragorn and the Dûnedain Rangers had been his worst…
In this strange, heavy-aired forest, the Dwarf felt that he and Legolas were being constantly watched. Sometimes he thought he could see a pair of eyes or two among the leaves and branches, or even some whole trees blocking their way that had not been there just minutes before. Legolas also said that at times the Elf's keen hearing caught sounds of humming and trumpeting, as though someone playing some musical instruments at once, from afar. It must be one of the Ents, he would always say after such occurrence. He would have strayed from the way north to Mirkwood had Gimli failed to convince him otherwise each time.
Ents were strange beings, in the Dwarf's opinion. He never shared this view of his with Legolas, however, in order not to hurt the Woodland Prince's feelings. He just hoped they would reach Erebor soon so that he would be able to rest his body and mind from the nerve-racking adventure he had undergone, first with the Fellowship of the Ring and now with Legolas, among his own kin. He would rather confront Thranduil than staying in this dreaded forest longer than necessary. If only Legolas would forsake his perch up there…
The Dwarf tensed when the trees around him rustled. There was no wind blowing; not even a sliver of breeze. Legolas said that the trees were speaking when they did that…
Now the question was: to whom?
"Legolas! Come down, lad! You have been long up there!" he shouted, hoping that Legolas would hear him and the trees would not otherwise be disturbed by his voice.
…Or someone else heard him…
"Wait a moment, Gimli. I am climbing down. There is an Ent nearby! The trees told me. I want to meet him." Legolas' voice came faintly to his ears, but it grew stronger by each words. The Elf might be climbing down even as he was saying so, thought the Dwarf.
Gimli thought of ordering Legolas to be quicker, but he had no chance of hollering the order up the tree.
"Hoom hom. Whom do we have here?"
Gimli shrunk into a hole created by two roots. To his horror, the roots chose the time to move! It closed in around him as though a pair of arms embracing him. On impulse, he shouted to the newcomer, "Hey there! I am not an orc, you know." If only he knew that, he sounded much like Pippin.
"Room hoom. Not an orc, eh? Your voice was as rough as one. Are you the Dwarf who promised to come here with the Elf in the new king's visiting contingent?"
The roots freed Gimli, but an arm quickly snagged him before he could scramble away. It was an Ent's. He was now perched in one of the Ent's arm like a youngling. `Curse the Elf for bringing me here.`
He was reluctant to answer. Thankfully, Legolas had reached the lower half of the tree by then, and the Ent – possibly Fangorn, whom some folk called Treebeard – also plugged the Elf into his arm. Unlike Gimli, however, Legolas chirped on how honoured he was to be carried by the Ent. He might be the only Elf with such honour, he said, and he thanked the Ent for it.
Fangorn, for the Ent was indeed he, laughed. The sound was rich and melodious, deep and beautiful. It was musical, in a rather literal sense. Gimli shivered with unease hearing it, although a frisson of awe also ran along his body. The Ent's voice did not match his tree-like appearance and behaviour, the Dwarf mused.
"Hoom hom hom. I indeed seldom carry strangers like this, Master Legolas, but this is not the first time I do so to one of your kind." Fangorn smiled. "The two lads I took into my arms for the first time were much younger than you. I met them in the forest of Ossiriand; the Forest of Music, the Ñoldor named the place, for the songs of the Green-Elves were heard far and wide. They had been on their way to the Falas, they said; then the younger of them persuaded the older to seek an entrance to Gondolin instead, since the latter had come from there and the younger wished to see it by himself. The older of the two was with your company the last time you went here. Sadly, I did not get a chance to reminisce with him about the old time. But perhaps I will still be able to speak with him… perhaps… for he yet dwells here east of the Great Sea, unlike his companion who has departed for the Halls of Mandos a long time ago."
Unknowingly, the Ent's two guests held their breaths. Then, after a long quiet in which Fangorn brought them ever deeper to the forest a little farther from the way north, Legolas asked, "Who were they, Master Fangorn? Who in the company of King Elessar had met you before we ever came here in the high of the summer this year?"
The Ent chuckled but did not answer. Legolas was content with it, nevertheless, for then Fangorn hummed a series of melodies – right from his throat, the Elf perceived – and he loved the wordless song that he heard.
It did not work the same for Gimli. The Dwarf was bored after some time and wondered why the song had not ceased. Mahal's beard! It was evening when Fangorn quieted down! By then they had reached a nook formed of trees, an Ent's home, according to the hobbits' descriptions, and Fangorn put them down in the entrance. "Room. Here is one of my homes in this forest. It is different from the one your hobbit friends visited when they were here, but I hope you will like it," the Ent said. He proceeded to pour them each a ball of Ent's Draft, which Legolas tasted delicately as though sipping wine and Gimli gulped like ordinary water, then they gathered around the bed in silent contentment. Secretly, the two friends felt much like Merry and Pippin during the hobbits' sojourn with the Ent.
It was well into the night when the quiet was broken. Fangorn was again humming in his unique language and Gimli was smoking his pipe. Legolas, feeling like being an inquisitive Elfling once more, inquired, "Were you calling for someone on our way here, Master Fangorn?"
"Eh? Oh no. I was telling you the name of my old friend who accompanied the King of Gondor here." There was an amuse glint in Fangorn's green-flecked brown eyes. Legolas shook his head with incredulity. Gimli guffawed, choking and coughing afterwards from the smoke of his own pipe.
"Your language is a wonder to us," Legolas confessed for the both of them. Fangorn smiled.
"It is a wonder to all, or so I often hear. It was a wonder even to our teachers," he said. The two friends were deeply intrigued.
"Who taught you, Master Fangorn? No race in Arda is able to sing like you do," Legolas, greatly curious, pressed on.
Fangorn's smile grew. "Ah. That would be telling, would it not?" His eyes were practically twinkling now. Legolas blushed.
The Ent laughed again for the second time during their meeting. He reached out and patted Legolas' shoulder warmly. "Be at peace, descendent of Oropher. Pure curiosity is not evil," he said. "Now I shall answer your question. But be warned that it is one of our deepest secrets and is not to be disclosed to anyone else. I put faith in the two of you." His eyes, now fully serious, travelled from Legolas to Gimli. The Dwarf nodded solemnly, echoing his Elven companion, and relit his pipe, ready to listen.
And so the Ent began his tale. "I was strolling down among the pines of Dorthonion in the winter as was my custom. I never suspected that this time there would be something different…"
Fangorn hummed idly while striding along the indiscernible path of the forest. He heard nothing for miles around and was contented with the silence.
Elves had taught him and the others of his race their beautiful, lilting language. He and his fellows took great delight in it. Yet still, the Ents and their female counterparts felt that something was missing. The language did not suit them well, although it was lovely to speak in. It was as though their throats were not naturally meant to tune out the quick tongue and rapid dialects, however beautiful all of them were; it was a rather depressing thought, if he wanted to be honest with himself.
Then, faint and from afar, he heard patches of music played in a melodious, somewhat-haunting tone.
Who lived deep here, he wondered. Many of the Great Shadow's minions roamed this part of the forest, so no good folk would willingly live here save for the Ents. They could not be orcs,though, for orcs had never sung save to taunt their prisoners in their crude tongue. They could not be Elves also, since the Firstborn had avoided this part for so long.
He was intrigued. Ceasing his humming of a calm but merry lay of an apple tree and two squirrels, he made a beeline to the source of the music, ever cautious lest it was a trap of Melkor the fallen Power.
He had never expected what he found.
Five beings, for they were neither Elves nor orcs nor his own kind, were gathered in a glade, cleaning and polishing blades and spears or making and fletching arrows. They looked and felt ethereal but were garbed just like the Elves; and indeed, their forms were like the Firstborn. They seemed to have just been in a skirmish with orcs, for the dark creatures' black blood was seen tainting some spots on the blades and the the tips of the speers still.
And there was no single musical instrument about them.
How did they produce the sounds, then?
Much more fascinated now, the Ent stepped out from the cluster of trees and into the glade. He had intended to greet them when their song had ceased, yet they did not appear to end it soon. Thus, he wished to do so now.
He had never been so hasty in his life, young though it was still. His fellow Ents – for he was parentless – would not approve of what he was about to do…
Thankfully, he was saved from the predicament by one of the beings there. Appearing in a male form and wielding a silver bow, the being looked up from his seemingly-intent fletching of arrows and grinned jovially at him. His song, uttered directly from his throat – now that Fangorn could see him properly – died down, and soon the others followed suit.
The Ent dithered, but just for a moment. The being's gaiety was infectious. Soon he found himself slowly arching a smile of his own. "Well met," he remarked to the archer and his companions.
"Well met indeed! I thought you would not speak Sindarin," the archer chirped.
"Tilion!" one of his comrades, who sat farther from him, laughed. Tilion the archer winked cheekily at the Ent, playfully avoiding a knock at his temple courtesy of his closest neighbour.
"I was just joking, Rawendë," the archer commented to the maiden who had chid him, who by now had ceased laughing and was glowering half-heartedly at him. "If you wish to punish me next time, please do so yourself, by the way." He stuck his tongue out at her, which she returned without hesitation.
They behaved like Elflings, in the Ent's opinion. He wondered why.
As though reading his mind, Tilion spoke up again. "Pardon us for behaving like children, Earthborn. We have just encountered a rather nasty band of orcs and wish to dispense of formalities, at least for a while. We did not expect to encounter anybody aside from ourselves here. We were rather taken aback when we sensed you coming." He half-grimaced, abashed with himself.
Fangorn nodded in understanding. After all, had he not thought the same when he had first heard them singing that wordless song?
And about the song…
"Who are you?" the Ent ventured. "I mean… you look just like the Firstborn, but I know you are not. You cannot be some of the Powers, but…" He trailed off, failing to give word to his confusion.
Tilion's visage smoothed out into a gentle smile. Now he no longer looked juvenile. In fact, the Ent could easily sense his countless age despite the youthful guise of the archer's Elven form. "We are not the Powers, true. We are their servants; we are from the Maiar folk," he explained. "When dealing with everyone else who are not the Ainur, we always use these forms for convenience sake."
Fangorn hummed and dipped his head in both understanding and respect. Since they were also of the Holy Ones, he thought, then he should pay no less homage to them than the Valar.
He just hoped they would answer his greatest question, which unfortunately would intrude on their privacy, or so he assumed.
Taking a deep breath, he braced himself for the disappointment and let it out alongside the question: "How did you did that? How could you sing without any instruments?"
He was taken aback when all five Maiar laughed, not only Tilion. He supposed he should be offended, but he sensed no ill intention in their laughter. When they apologized, thus, he accepted it without resentment.
"Would you sit with us?" the maiden, Rawendë, who now resumed whetting her long sword, offered with a smile.
It was Fangorn's turn to laugh. "Nay, my lady," he said. "I am afraid my body is not that… bendable." He smiled ruefully in the end. "I will just stand here. Standing is like sitting to you, I think."
"We have seldom met your kind, Earthborn," another Maia confessed, his tone apologetic. "Pardon us. It would be interesting to know you better, though."
"As for your question," Tilion piped in, stifling a laugh with a visible effort when the Ent perked up, "I am afraid it is hard to answer. You see, before we invented our own language, we spoke through music. We had used music as our everyday language long before the Ainuindalë; when you came, we were just talking idly with each other. We cannot teach you how to do so, alas…"
"But I think you are able to do so yourself," yet another Maia who Fangorn had not known whose name was joined in the conversation. She looked to be the most serious of the five. "I heard you hum once. Now try to imitate me and see if my prediction is true." She put her newly-fletched arrow in the quiver sitting by her then sat still, her brow furrowed in concentration… or perhaps just deep thought.
Then she looked back up at him, her solemn eyes twinkling, and hummed a series of melodies; it was like hearing to a chorus of violins.
It was some time before she stopped. When the Ent asked what the melodies stood for, she told him that it was her true name.
Fangorn was disbelieving. "You told me your true name? But—"
"Now tell me, could you possibly teach it to anyone?" she cut him, smiling.
"I even do not know if I am able to imitate it," the Ent confessed, feeling rather sheepish and awkward. "Thank you for sharing your real name with me, though." The Maia nodded at him, her whole visage brightening with evident warmth.
"I saw no ill intention in you, Earthborn, and I trusted that you would keep my name to yourself. This was probably the first time any of the Ainur did what I did, and there might not be a second time."
Tilion then broke in, a little impatiently in his eagerness, "Please try it, Earthborn, please do. We would like to know whether it would be possible for a race outside ours to converse like we do."
The solemn Maia glowered at him, but its effect was dulled by the small indulgent smile playing on her lips. She nodded in permission to the Ent and settled back to the trunk of the tree behind her, ready to listen whatever attempt Fangorn might venture with.
Nervous, the Ent coughed lightly several times; the sound was like grating dry branches. He concentrated hard, recalling all the details of the musical piece – the name – as best as he could.
Then he hummed the notes, in a small voice at first; louder when he grew more confident.
What emitted from his throat was not a chorus of violins, but an orchestra of several instruments. The notes stayed the same, however.
He was surprised to see tears gathering in the Maia-maid's clear-grey eyes and the great wonder which was etched in her countenance as well as her comrades'. He did not know what had been special with his attempt. He had labelled the try as a total failure and did not wish to chance with another; his voice was too rough to be as beautiful and delicate as hers.
He said just as much. His statement, albeit, was met with vehement denials from five lips, and that made him even more taken aback and baffled.
Fortunately, the Maia-maid seemed to understand the predicament they had put him into, and she managed to find her voice back to explain, although it was croaky at first. "Your voice reminded us of Melkor, the fallen brother of Lord Manwë, when he had not been touched by evil a long time ago in the Timeless Halls of our Father. Our language might not suit your race well, if your fellows shared similar kind of voice with you, yet you could invent your own language within similar cadence, and perhaps we could even help." She grew quiet for a moment but then continued, "Melkor had never conversed with me back then. It was so lovely to hear my name uttered in such a lovely voice. Yours was more beautiful than Melkor's simply because of your purity."
"Your voice was a wonder to us, Earthborn," Rawendë concurred. "There were so many aspects in it, aspects that we do not have the privilege of possessing. I bet even Lady Yavanna did not know about this." She smiled in the end. "She would be estatic if she knew."
Briefly, the Ent wondered if his creator could be more estatic than himself upon this finding.
He had found a suitable language for his kind at last! Although it was yet still a long road towards perfection…
In the forest of the Ent's own realm three ages later, laughter broke among the three friends of different races: Ent, Elf and Dwarf. Awe was in Legolas' face, though, despite the merriment. "Even the Maiar were in awe of your ability!" he exclaimed when Gimli asked why he looked so solemn in the wake of such a joyous tale. "It must be lovely there in the Timeless Halls if music was their everyday language too…"
"That was my opinion also," Fangorn smiled, his eyes shining. "Oh, and as far as I know, the Maiar never told Lady Yavannah. The last time I met them, some time after Tilion was assigned to steer the moon, they said that they had decided to let it be a surprise in case my creator came upon any of us herself."
The laughter began anew.
"So, Master Fangorn," Legolas said when he managed to rein in his mirth to talk, "would you tell us – in Westron – who were the two fortunate Elves who got a chance of riding in your arms?" There was just the slightest of cheeky note in his voice.
Fangorn grinned at him. "My good Elf," he chuckled. "You look more and more like Master Pippin. I wonder if somehow my draft has such effect on you."
It was long before any of them could master themselves enough to say anything.
"It was such a dark time for all of us," the Ent then said. "The long peace held since the Ñoldor had come to the Hither Lands was nearing to an end. But even then there was yet joy and mirth to be found if one sought delligently; and sometimes when one did not. I met them, one Sinda and one little half-Ñoldo, when they were wandering farther away from one of the settlements of the Green-Elves in the Land of Seven Rivers. The older was Erestor of the House of the Fountain, and the younger was Ereinion of the House of Fingolfin. Erestor was a young lad of one hundred years, while Ereinion was a small child of ten. But the latter was devious despite his age, and he was the one who persuaded his elder – and managed – to go to Gondolin instead of the Falas. It was the latter too who asked to be lifted into my arms."
Gimli whistled. Legolas was once more smitten by awe. The Elf sat rigid on the edge of the bed until Gimli thumped him heartily on the back. "It was the servants of the Powers and now our Erestor, eh?" the Dwarf chuckled teasingly. Legolas just glowered.
Ainuindalë: the Song of the Ainur; the 'show gone awry' which formed Eä.
I did not use the Sindarin forms of the word "Mandos" and "Ñoldor here for the sake of convenience. Besides, it has already been tiring enough researching facts and the map of Middle Earth through all the accounts in the Silmarillion… I am sight-impaired, so I can't use the visual map. (And speaking of which, I apologise if I am mistaken about the map. I tried to do the best with all the descriptions I got from the Silmarillion with my limited English.)
Rawendë means "Lioness" or Lion-Maiden (depends on your preference). I actually merged Sindarin and Quenya here. I didn't know about the Quenya word for "lion" so I used its Sindarin form. I didn't want to use Sindarin for the name of the Maia because "Tilion" is a Quenya word.
The last tale, about Erestor and Ereinion, was originally not intended to be included here; it was just on impulse. It is a kind of spoiler to one of my stories, Brother Mine, which is available in Lord of the Rings FanFiction website and .