40

Perhaps this is only in the movie The Two Towers, but when Treebeard picks up Merry and Pippin and begins transporting them around, at first Treebeard is suspcious of the Hobbits and calls them 'little Orcs.' When Merry says, "We're not Orcs -- we're hobbits! Shirefolk!" Treebeard grumbles and says, "Never heard of a hobbit before."

How could this be? The Ents are ancient creatures. Treebeard refers to Gandalf as 'Young Master Gandalf', so if Gandalf is young compared to Treebeard, Treebeard must be quite old.

Why didn't Treebead know what a Hobbit was?

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    Classic Ent-ish racism right there – NominSim Apr 19 '12 at 17:06
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    Hmm, are you speaking about that same Treebeard who can't remember what the Entwives look like? – SteeveDroz Apr 20 '12 at 8:56
  • @Oltarus -- Heh! Point taken. :D – Slytherincess Apr 25 '12 at 21:39
  • Gandalf also isn't young compared to Treebeard. Gandalf, as a Maia, is older than the world. No one except Eru is older than him. – suchiuomizu Nov 16 '17 at 0:03
62

The book goes into quite a lot of detail about the source of Treebeard's knowledge of the world around him. Ents remember all the (good) speaking races by means of a rhyming list - and hobbits aren't on it:

Learn now the lore of Living Creatures!
First name the four, the free peoples:
Eldest of all, the elf-children;
Dwarf the delver, dark are his houses;
Ent the earthborn, old as mountains;
Man the mortal, master of horses:

In fact, it's perfectly natural for them not to be on it, because they have been keeping themselves to themselves for as long as anyone knows. The events of the Lord of the Rings are the first time they have involved themselves at all in the world around them[1].

In fact, once Treebeard and the Ents get to know Merry and Pippin, they agree to add a line to the list to record their existence:

Ents the earthborn, old as mountains,
the wide-walkers, water drinking;
and hungry as hunters, the Hobbit children,
the laughing-folk, the little people

[1] with the exception of their (claimed) participation in the last battle against the Witch-King of Angmar: "they sent some bowmen to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record it."

Note on origins, as requested in comment

We don't know the details of the origins of either Hobbits or Orcs. The prologue to LotR just says about Hobbits:

It is plain indeed that in spite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves. [...] But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered. The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. [...] Yet it is clear that Hobbits had, in fact, lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk even became aware of them.

We do know more about Orcs, from the Silmarillion. They were created by Melkor, Sauron's original boss, back in the very beginnings of the First Age - either (it's unclear) in mockery of Elves, or by corrupting existing Elves.

5

I don't have any reference material around, but the Ents had secluded themselves to Fangorn for much longer than Hobbits even existed...

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    Yes, it's not "he should know, since he's so old" but "he didn't know, because he's so old". – Daniel Roseman Apr 19 '12 at 18:05
  • So Orcs are older than Hobbits? When you get a moment, see if you can find a citation, would you? That would be great! :) – Slytherincess Apr 19 '12 at 18:13
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    @Slytherincess Orcs aren't necessarily older than Hobbits. It may just be that some orcs had wandered into the Fangorn at some point since the Ents became secluded there, and Hobbits have not. – Beofett Apr 19 '12 at 18:20
  • @Slytherincess see my answer for what details we have on origins. – Daniel Roseman Apr 19 '12 at 18:22
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    @Slytherincess Orcs are indeed a lot older than hobbits. The Wikipedia articles have a good summary of each species's origin. Ents are as old as elves, and Orcs were created after elves (and indeed, in the dominant canon, from elves) but before Men. Hobbits are descended from Men and never mentioned before the Third Age. – user56 Apr 19 '12 at 19:41
1

Ents are ancient; hobbits are relatively new. Smeágol, born a mere 500 years or so before the events of The Hobbit, is described as belonging to a group of fisher folk who were "akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors", implying that Hobbits were not yet a fully distinct race at that time. The Ents had long since kept themselves to Fangorn, so it's not surprising they had never encountered hobbits, at least not in a form terribly distinct from Men.

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