In their amazing guide to The Lord of the Rings, Hammond and Scull note:
I agree with both entries, but I find something a bit odd in Tolkien's larger description with respect to the Entwives. Tolkien has Treebeard also explain: 'They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did. But then the Great Darkness came, and they passed away over the Sea, of fled into far valleys, and hid themselves, and made songs about days that would never come again.' The Two Towers, Treebeard
468 (II. 71). Great Darkness -- the time of Morgoth's domination of Middle-earth.
476 (II. 79). When the Darkness came in the North -- Again, the darkness that came from Morgoth. The Ents and Entwives therefore separated millennia before the present story.
This much would seem to indicate that the period in question is before the Elves pass over Sea, thus well before the Sun arose. Seemingly Morgoth's domination before the fall of Utumno then, I would guess.
The chronology here seems to be: when the world was young the Ents and Entwives were together -- but next the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees 'and the meads in the sunshine' beyond the feet of the forest. And then comes the line noted by Hammond and Scull: 'Then when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Great River, and made new gardens, and tilled new fields, and we saw them more seldom. After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed richly, and their fields were full of corn.'
Hmm. Doesn't this seem to say that the Entwives not only left Beleriand very early [before the Sun appeared despite the comment about meads in the sunshine] but migrated notably far, beyond Eriador and the Great River even?
Certainly nothing to prohibit this I guess, but what do others think? Treebeard says the Ents saw them more seldom after this move, but again I would think they were notably far from Beleriand now. And I know Morgoth was a pretty powerful bad guy, but were the gardens of the Entwives really affected across Anduin [in some measure anyway] up until the time Morgoth was defeated in Beleriand?
Or is 'Darkness' here meant to be distinguished from Great Darkness? And if so, maybe the split between the Ents and Entwives occurs later? But if so, what does Darkness refer to?
When Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings the internal chronology according to the Later Annals of Valinor appears to be:
I think this period fits well enough for the Great Darkness noted by Treebeard, and Quenta Silmarillion delves a bit deeper with respect to the influence of Morgoth on Middle-earth as well.
V. Y. 1000 (...) 'All this while Morgoth dwelt in Middle-earth, and he made his fortress at Utumna in the North; but he held sway with violence and the lands were yet more broken in that time.'
V. Y. 1000 - 2000 'A thousand Valian Years of Bliss and splendour followed the kindling of the Trees in Valinor, but Middle-earth was in Darkness. (...)'
Another possibility might be the time when Morgoth returns to Middle-earth after his captivity, but for that I would think we would have to ignore the description of the Elves passing Over Sea -- but if we do, I note another of Treebeard's comments: 'It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's orcs can endure it, even if they hate it.'
Here Treebeard seems to be saying that Orcs first appeared in the period of the Great Darkness, and the Annals [again at this point in the external timeline] note that before the uprising of the Sun, Morgoth rebuilt his fortress of Angband, 'and brought forth orcs and Balrogs.' So that much seems to line up, but this arguable period of 'domination' seems to end with the rising of the Sun however, as the Later Annals of Beleriand note: 'At the coming of Day Morgoth withdrew, dismayed, into his deepest dungeon; and there he smithied in secret, and sent forth black smoke.'
Maybe the earlier period fits better after all, as again, the Elves can hardly easily be said to have fled over Sea upon Morgoth's return. In a sense the 'opposite' happened: the Noldor followed Morgoth back to Middle-earth, over Ice and Sea. Either way the timing seems quite early, and the Entwives to have migrated notably far from the Ents. What do you think Tolkien fans? Have I missed something obvious here?
Or too much ado about nothing maybe?