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  1. Galin's Avatar
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    Entwives crossing Anduin

    In their amazing guide to The Lord of the Rings, Hammond and Scull note:

    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.

    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

    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:

    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. (...)'

    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.

    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?
    Last edited by Galin; 17/Dec/2012 at 06:55 PM.

  2. Galin's Avatar
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    Well so far it's been tough to keep up with the interest in this thread

    But a person named Aiwendil posted the following (elsewhere) which made me rethink things a bit, so I'll include my response to Aiwendil's response, which goes, in part anyway...

    Suppose, then, that the 'Great Darkness', when, according to Treebeard, the Elves passed over the sea or hid themselves, refers to Melkor's domination of Middle-earth, before the Great March of the Elves into the West. Then the 'Darkness', when the Entwives crossed the Great River, was after Morgoth's return. This would make some sense, actually, for after Morgoth's return, his attention seems to have been directed primarily toward Beleriand, so it seems reasonable for the Entwives to go eastward toward lands where his power was less. And since the first rising of the Sun was not all that long after Morgoth's return, the Entwives can very well give their minds to 'meads in the sunshine'.

    Of course, this has the drawback that it relies on a rather forced distinction between the 'Great Darkness' and the 'Darkness'. But I think that an allowance for this can be found in Treebeard's nature. To one as old as he, and one whose pace of life is so slow, the time that passed between the Battle of the Powers and Morgoth's return may not have seemed so very long, especially across the distance of the Second and Third Ages; perhaps he thought of the 'Great Darkness' as encompassing both, with the ages of Melkor's captivity a mere temporary respite.

    I like that. Treebeard is arguably simplifying things in the sense of greatly contracting history, and he does seem to quickly jump to the defeat of Morgoth. So something like:

    Great Darkness arrives [a time before the Awakening of the Elves].

    Treebeard generally notices several things about the Elves: a notable amount pass over Sea, some fled, some hid themselves. But Treebeard would possibly not be aware that Morgoth was taken captive, and so maybe it seems to him that many Elves leave Middle-earth because of the Great Darkness. But not all Elves cross the Sea of course, and later some probably do flee, or hide themselves (underground kingdoms or hidden kingdoms) at points soon before, or soon after, Morgoth's return.

    This would allow for the orcs appearing in the Great Darkness, which can still be upon Morgoth's return but before the rising of the Sun, and perhaps with Morgoth's return the Entwives can leave at some point after they enjoy the meads in the Sunshine, as you say.

    This generalizes the Great Darkness as far as Morgoth's domination or influence in Middle-earth is concerned, and it seems a bit problematic with respect to the period of Morgoth's captivity. Treebeard, although not noted as one of the Wise and arguably less informed than some, is still said to have had a great memory. Jumping to dates in the Annals of Aman and the Grey Annals:

    Year 1 (a new reckoning in the light of the Trees)

    'But Melkor dwelt in Utumno, and he slept not, but watched, and laboured; and the evil things that he had perverted walked abroad, and the dark and slumbering woods were haunted by monsters and shapes of dread. (...) Yet ever his dominion spread southward over Middle-earth, for even as Orome passed the servants of melkor would gather again; and the Earth was full of shadows and deceit.'

    So 'Great Darkness' part one -- part one generally lasting to the Fall of Utumno in year 1099, keeping in mind that these dates are not in regular years, so this is a substantial stretch.

    However from 1099 to Morgoth's return is a great stretch too, and Melian councils Thingol that the 'peace of Arda' will not last. But it's interesting that evil stirs again before Morgoth returns, and in 1300-50 the Dwarves tell Thingol that east of the mountains dark elves were fleeing from the plains to the hills, due to fell beasts, as the Valar had not utterly rooted out the evils of the North.

    This maybe gives some reason why Eriador wasn't deemed safe enough for the Entwives later, as they pass beyond even the Great River.

    1330 And ere long (in the year 1330 according to the annals that were made in Doriath) the evil creatures came even to Beleriand, over passes in the mountains, or up from the south through the dark forests. Wolves there were, or creatures that walked in wolf shapes, and other fell beings of shadow.'

    It's noted that the orcs were but few and wary at this point, and did but smell out the ways of the land, awaiting Morgoth's return, as in the 1977 Silmarillion. Here the Sindar become well armed, and driving off all creatures of evil, had peace again. Morgoth retuns in year 1495, and in 1497 assaults Beleriand, now with an increased army of orcs. Year 1500 is the last of this reckoning, and when the Sun arises (SY 1) Morgoth was dismayed and descended into Angband, withdrawing his servants.

    In SY 60 Morgoth tries the strength of the Elves, and the Noldor and Sindar have a great victory, and set the Seige of Angband, which lasted wellnigh 400 years, but still Morgoth sent his orcs to war in year 155 for example, and Glaurung issues in SY 260 for another, and bitter fighting in the north-marches is noted for SY 402. And in SY 455 'here came an end of peace and mirth'

    So even though Morgoth was generally held in check, his influence was still being felt in Middle-earth after his return -- in reference to Treebeard's contraction of a Great Darkness I mean.

    Athough I do find the time from Morgoth's captivity in 1099 to 1300 a notable stretch to include within the Great Darkness, again keeping in mind that each of these years is almost 10 years of the Sun. Sauron was still in Middle-earth, but in Myths Transformed it is noted that when Melkor was made captive Sauron escaped and lay hid in Middle-earth, and 'secretly repaired Angband' for Morgoth's return, breeding orcs to man Morgoth's host.

    On the other hand, such a distinction -- that the Great Darkness had even a notable gap of relative peace -- arguably doesn't need to be accounted for here: Treebeard is speaking to two Hobbits (and in a sense, the reader), and generally speaking it was the same Morgothian influence that impacted the Elves as impacted the Entwives, and so the tale gets its general message across in any case.
    Last edited by Galin; 21/Dec/2012 at 05:44 PM.

  3. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    Hi [B]Galin! The reason I at least have not been responding is not because I'm not interested, think it isn't worthy of attention or anything similar - just that I didn't know either, and had no bright ideas. Anyway, I think you may have come up with one!
    I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses.

  4. Galin's Avatar
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    Thanks Dorwiniondil.

    Yes I was only joking about the non interest.... a bit... I mean it's probably true for some but that's alright of course

    But again, thanks for your comment. I'll keep thinking. Especially about the Elves wishing to talk to everything and waking up trees... before the Great Darkness?

  5. Rómeran's Avatar
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    Very interesting thread. Here's one quotation that would seem to imply that Great Darkness = Darkness:

    "I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am." (Treebeard, TTT)

    Since both are used within the same paragraph we would assume they refer to the same darkness. So then when Treebeard only a few pages later says:

    "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." (Treebeard, TTT)

    Since again this is a few pages later I think we would then be expected to assume we are still discussing the same Darkness.

    Finally a few lines later (same paragraph as the second quotation) Treebeard mentions that Men learned much craft from the Entwives.

    "Many men learned the crafts of the Entwives and honoured them greatly". (Treebeard, TTT)

    Since this happened sequentially in the paragraph we would expect it also happened sequentially in time so by the time men come around the Entwives are certainly already in the (now called) Brown Lands. Granted there is no reason to assume that they couldn't cross after the rising of the sun and then later came across men.
    "The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone's backyard." - John Turkey

  6. Galin's Avatar
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    Great work Indo.

    It seemed a bit odd to me that the Entwives moved so far at this point, but I am beginning to accept it more easily.

    Now what about the seeming implication of the Elves waking up trees and so on, before the Great Darkness, when they were seemingly born in the period of Morgoth's influence in Middle-earth... if born well away from Utumno anyway.

  7. I have been meaning to respond, but have so far failed to find the time to do so with the care the thread deserves — and I am afraid that I will also now have to cut things down a bit (I shall not have time to hunt down the quotations I would otherwise have preferred to use, and my post will probably be rather rambling).

    First thing is, I think, to observe that the whole story of the Ents appeared only while Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings. This means that it was created under the influence of the last pre-LotR version of the Quenta Silmarillion (the QS and the associated Later Annals of Valinor (AV2) and Later Annals of Beleriand (AB2)), but also that it was never incorporated into that history. We see a clear reference to this text (the QS) in Treebeard's comment about the Orcs being made by Morgoth in mockery of the Elves — that is indeed the story that appears in the QS.

    When Tolkien, after finishing The Lord of the Rings, wrote a story to explain the Ents (this is essentially the latter half of the chapter ‘Of Aulë and Yavanna’ in the published Silmarillion, which, according to Christopher Tolkien “belongs to the late, or last, period of my father's work, and must be dated at the earliest to 1958-9, but may well be later than that”) he used the text of The Lord of the Rings to guide him, and he follows the idea that the Ents awoke after the Elves (and presumably about the same time as the fathers of the Dwarves). The implications are, I think, that the Ents awoke at some point prior to, or early in, the Great March.

    Another issue is one of overall consistency. I am not sure that we should actually expect Treebeard's explanations to be fully consistent with other available evidence, and so we may have to resolve ourselves to having unresolvable contradictions in the chronology (this is actually more common than is usually accepted in many Tolkien fora). Also, Tolkien may well have known what he meant at the time he wrote it, but it is not certain that the idea of the First Age chronology that he was working to is anywhere documented, so we may be trying to fit things that cannot be fitted together.

    That said, the Darkness in the north definitely refers to Morgoth, and, in my opinion, most likely to the time after his return from his imprisonment in Valinor (the localisation of the Darkness doesn't fit the earlier stage), and the Great Darkness most likely refers to the time before Morgoth's capture. This would mean that we would have to say that Treebeard doesn't always know what he is talking about (well, Tolkien himself set the precedence for dismissing Treebeard, so I'm in good company ), particularly that his statement about the coming of the Great Darkness is nonsensical: the Great Darkness existed before the awakening of the Elves and the Ents, so Treebeard could never have experienced the coming of the Great Darkness. The use of Darkness in the various passages spoken by Treebeard does not seem to be entirely consistent: surely there are places where “Darkness” is used alone as synonymous with “Great Darkness” (see e.g. the paragraph about the Old Forest where both appear and are clearly referring to the same darkness).

    Another issue is that we don't really know which Great River Treebeard is referring to — is that the Anduin or perhaps the Sirion? The latter would certainly make more sense of his comment.

    The chronology, as it appears to me, seems most likely to be that the Ents awoke shortly after the Elves in the Great Darkness. Then Morgoth was captured and the Elves went on their Great March, and the Ents seems to have lived on in some kind of semi-nomadic life (see also Treebeards comments about his roaming). If we assume that the Great River is the Sirion, then his comment would mean that the Entwives went from the great forests east of the Sirion to places west of the river — presumably where the Silmarillion map says “Birchwoods of Nimbrethil”. If you insist that the great river at this point is the Anduin, then we get into an odd contraction, since we would probably have to assume that this event then refers to Morgoth's forces overrunning Beleriand after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears rather than to Morgoth's original reappearance (and the raising of the Moon and the Sun). Reading this as referring to the Sirion of course creates another problem as Treebeard's comment about the lands of the Entwives after the overthrow of the Darkness cannot possibly refer to the lands west of the Sirion, and almost necessarily must refer to their lands east of the Anduin.

    Of course these passages in The Lord of the Rings are possibly written under the influence of the round-world version where the Sun and the Moon are coeval with Arda, and so we do not need to do any tricks to fit the references to “meads in the sunshine” into the last half-millennium of the First Age, but can easily fit it into the early years of the First Age when Morgoth was held captive in Valinor. Such a reading does not necessarily conflict with the idea of the Great Darkness, which would refer simply to the evil influence of Morgoth (Tolkien also uses this metaphor for Sauron's influence along with “the Shadow”).

    At this point I think the most likely story is to simply accept that Tolkien mixed things up — or at the very least allowed Treebeard to mix up his early history a bit. As I've said above, Tolkien did discredit Treebeard in a letter, but that was in reference to hos comment about the Orcs having been made in mockery of the Elves, and as I have pointed out, this was actually precisely what Tolkien had said himself in the last pre-LotR version of his mythology, so Tolkien's comments merely mean that he had himself taken another position and so Treebeard must now be wrong. Well, the same is quite likely with the chronology here: Tolkien changed about so much that Treebeard now has it wrong.
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  8. Galin's Avatar
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    'Of course these passages in The Lord of the Rings are possibly written under the influence of the round-world version where the Sun and the Moon are coeval with Arda, and so we do not need to do any tricks to fit the references to “meads in the sunshine” into the last half-millennium of the First Age, but can easily fit it into the early years of the First Age when Morgoth was held captive in Valinor. Such a reading does not necessarily conflict with the idea of the Great Darkness, which would refer simply to the evil influence of Morgoth (Tolkien also uses this metaphor for Sauron's influence along with “the Shadow”).'

    Thanks for responding! I thought of this too, thus 'meads in the sunshine' is not a necessary conflict even if at a time where another text has described that the Sun hadn't been fashioned yet, although elsewhere in The Lord of the Rings we have references to a seeming period of 'Twilight' -- but I can't recall at the moment if any of these (or Bombadil's description), give the reader certain information of a period without a Sun.

    With respect to Tolkien's own comment about Treebeard not being one of the Wise (in a letter), while I can easily enough accept that he wouldn't necessarily know how orcs are made, in the same comment Tolkien also notes that Treebeard has a great memory nonetheless -- thus, getting the general chronology of these things correct would seem to follow.

    Although yes, he is a character in the story, not Tolkien the author, in any event.
    Last edited by Galin; 24/Dec/2012 at 03:45 PM.


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