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When the Ents marched on Isengard in the movie version of The Two Towers, Treebeard said that "it is likely that we go to our doom". In the battle itself, however, the Ents seemed to do better than anyone else. They didn't appear to be anywhere near their doom.

Did I miss something in the movie? Is this a quote from the book where things go differently? Or did Treebeard simply misjudge or misrepresent their chances of surviving?

  • By the way, I strongly recommend you read the book. The movie is great, but lets be honest, it is there to entertain the masses, and you can't really fit the whole Lord of the Rings in that small scope. The part with ents is especially wider in the book, and it's generally a great read. Not to mention that the ending of Lord of the Rings, one of the most popular books ever, has been completely left out. Really, a huge part of the book that is interesting. I'm not gonna spoil it for you though, you'll be surprised when you see who returns where (I'm not just referring to the Hobbits). – jcora Jun 14 '12 at 19:51
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Strangely enough, this is an actual quote from the book:

'Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,' he [Treebeard] said slowly, 'likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. It was not a hasty resolve. Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song.'

In the book, though, the Ents were going into battle against Saruman himself: the Orcs and Men had marched away to Helm's Deep by the time they attacked Isengard. But Treebeard knew well the power of Saruman, amd was anticipating the worst: he hadn't realized how much Saruman now depended on his armies and his machinery, and he had good reason to fear. As it turned out, Saruman had - as Pippin pointed out - totally left the Ents out of his calculations. Still, he was able to inflict some damage - Pippin again:

'Several of the Ents got scorched and blistered. One of them, Beechbone I think he was called, a very tall handsome Ent, got caught in a spray of liquid fire and burned like a torch: a horrible sight.'

25

While @DanielRoseman has it largely right, I think there was a sense that the Ents were dying out, and that this was going to be their last real involvement with other beings. They were going to march on Saruman, and probably not all survive ( and they didn't ) - although I think they anticipated their losses as being higher than they were.

But then they retreated to the woods, and died out soon after - soon in Ent terms at least, which may have been hundreds of years. They lost some of their youngsters, and without the Entwives, there was never going to be any more. I think they realised that this was their last chance to do something before they passed out of memory.

So it probably was their doom, but only when you look at it from an Entish perspective, not a human one. They probably barely survived another millenia after that, hardly worth talking about.

  • in "Many Partings" Celeborn, who was born in the Elder Days, calls Treebeard "eldest", clearly proving Treebeard was older than Celeborn or Galadriel and was born in the Elder Days. The Note on the Shire Records says that Celeborn went to Rivendell after Garladriel left Middle-earth: "...but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him left the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth". Presumably at least Treebeard and the other two oldest Ents died before then, and possibly all the Ents. – M. A. Golding Jul 5 '15 at 4:34
  • calling Treebeard “Eldest" does not mean he was older than Celeborn, it can easily be taken to mean “Eldest [of the ents]”. – lbutlr Jul 5 '15 at 13:27
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Treebeard is trying to convey that going against Saruman is the Ent's destined role, or their purpose, in the War of the Ring.

Tolkien often uses more archaic definitions for words. In this case doom most likely means destiny, fate or some kind of end, but not always a tragic end.

  • This is true generally, but I think not in this case: see the quote in my answer. – Daniel Roseman Jun 10 '12 at 20:08
  • @DanielRoseman +1: I'm pretty sure in the movie he also calls it the "last march of the Ents", implying that he meant doom in the modern sense. – KutuluMike Jun 10 '12 at 21:16
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    @Andomar there are quite a few instances of the archaic sense of "doom". Elrond, at the Council, for example: "That is the doom that we must deem". – Daniel Roseman Jun 13 '12 at 8:22
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    In the chapter "The Steward and the King" Aragorn gives a doom on Beregond that is clearly a legal sentence for his disobedience of orders, not a horrible fate, in fact it is a sort of promotion and reward. – M. A. Golding Jul 5 '15 at 4:20
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    @Andomar Elrond’s words use yet another archaic meaning: he is saying simply “What do we do with the Ring? That is the decision we must make”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 5 '15 at 16:31
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Since Tolkien sometimes uses doom in the old sense of fate or judgement or legal sentence, perhaps Treebeard partially meant that the Ents might be judged for reward or punishment when they died, however soon or late that might be, based on how they reacted to the threat of Saruman and if they helped the other free peoples in their time of need. He might have meant that in addition to meaning he expected that it was probable that the Ents would all be killed.

Why should Tolkien write two sentences with two meanings when he could write one sentence with two meanings?

2

Perhaps worth to note that in the books, the whole fight of the Ents is skipped, we only hear of it after it's all over.

I guess that the Ents had pretty much resigned by the time the Hobbits entered the forest. Saruman had pushed them back for decades and they had obviously very little hope or interest on what was going on outside their forest. They were not aware of their strength, and Saruman being completely off-guard surely helped.

  • +1 Interesting, though Merry does give a detailed description of the fight. In Chapter 9: Flotsam and Jetsam, starting with ‘We came down over the last ridge into Nan Curunír, after night had fallen,’ Merry continued. – Andomar Jun 12 '12 at 17:06
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The Ents going to war uses up a lot of their energy reserves - reserves that they hoarded for a VERY long time. How would these Ents be able to replenish their energy and life stores back to what they used to be?

Compound this with the lack of Entwives and the consequential lack of offspring Ents - a key point for this discussion, I think, the march of the Ents really could be seen as a hastening of their future doom - the impending doom related to their extinction as a race.

On page 958 in my paperback Return of the King, Treebeard says:

'Forests may grow,' he said. 'Woods may spread. But not Ents. There are no Entings.'

At some other earlier point, this urgency is also reflected when he encourages Legolas to return to Fanghorn Forest for a visit before too much time passes.

0

While I would normally agree that Tolkien frequently uses the word "doom" in the archaic sense, meaning something like "destiny, judgement, fate" etc, I don't think that is the case in this particular instance. I think Treebeard genuinely believed that he and the other Ents were going to be killed in the battle.

But another peculiarity of Tolkien comes into play here: We generally hear what the individual characters think about things, and almost never what Tolkien, as the narrator and "voice of god", thinks about things. This is an example of Treebeard saying what he believes, but being wrong.

It was, of course, quite possible that the Ents wouldn't have done so well in the battle, and that many of them- perhaps even all of them - would have died. The Ents are certainly powerful, but a wizard is an extremely formidable adversary, even for the Ents. Treebeard was wrong about going to his doom, but I'm sure he was happy to be proven wrong.

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