They're smart, and they have got cool beards. But do the Ents ever develop any forms of technology? Everyone has cool stuff, and the trees are smarter than the Hobbits and they never developed a cityscape?

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Everyone has cool stuff, and the trees are smarter than the Hobbits and they never developed a cityscape?

They don’t have cities but they do have homes. Treebeard’s home is described:

Treebeard strode up the slope, hardly slackening his pace. Suddenly before them the hobbits saw a wide opening. Two great trees stood there, one on either side, like living gate-posts; but there was no gate save their crossing and interwoven boughs. As the old Ent approached, the trees lifted up their branches, and all their leaves quivered and rustled. For they were evergreen trees, and their leaves were dark and polished, and and gleamed in the twilight. Beyond them was a wide level space, as though the floor of a great hall had been cut in the side of the hill. On either hand the walls sloped upwards, until they were fifty feet high or more, and along each wall stood an aisle of trees that also increased in height as they marched inwards.

At the far end the rock-wall was sheer, but at the bottom it had been hollowed back into a shallow bay with an arched roof: the only roof of the hall, save the branches of the trees, which at the inner end overshadowed all the ground leaving only a broad open path in the middle. A little stream escaped from the springs above, and leaving the main water, fell tinkling down the sheer face of the wall, pouring in silver drops, like a fine curtain in front of the arched bay. The water was gathered again into a stone basin in the floor between the trees, and thence it spilled and flowed away beside the open path, out to rejoin the Entwash in its journey through the forest.

The Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers. Book 3. Chapter 4. Treebeard.

There’s nothing there that suggests the dwelling was fashioned with tools. The “hollowed back” part of the shallow bay could be naturally occurring, but Ents are capable of breaking rock with their hands.

‘When Treebeard had got a few arrows in him, he began to warm up, to get positively “hasty”, as he would say. He let out a great hoom-hom, and a dozen more Ents came striding up. An angry Ent is terrifying. Their fingers, and their toes, just freeze on to rock; and they tear it up like bread-crust. It was like watching the work of great tree-roots in a hundred years, all packed into a few moments.


‘“Tired?” he said, “tired? Well no, not tired, but stiff. I need a good draught of Entwash. We have worked hard; we have done more stone-cracking and earth-gnawing today than we have done in many a long year before. But it is nearly finished. When night falls do not linger near this gate or in the old tunnel! Water may come through — and it will be foul water for a while, until all the filth of Saruman is washed away. Then Isen can run clean again.” He began to pull down a bit more of the walls, in a leisurely sort of way, just to amuse himself.

The Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers. Book 3. Chapter 9. Flotsam and Jetsam

Ents don’t eat but just seem to drink water that they seem to imbue with something innate to themselves.

Treebeard lifted two great vessels and stood them on the table. They seemed to be filled with water; but he held his hands over them, and immediately they began to glow, one with a golden and the other with a rich green light; and the blending of the two lights lit the bay, as if the sun of summer was shinning through a roof of young leaves.

The Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers. Book 3. Chapter 4. Treebeard.

There’s no detailed description of the vessels. They could just be rock that Treebeard has hollowed out. He certainly won’t have made anything that required chopping down trees. Treebeard doesn’t like axes:

Gimli bowed low, and the axe slipped from his belt and clattered on the ground.

‘Hoom, hm! Ah now,’ said Treebeard, looking dark-eyed at him. ‘A dwarf and an axe-bearer! Hoom! I have good will to Elves; but you ask much. This is a strange friendship!’

The Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers. Book 3. Chapter 10. The Voice of Saruman

There's a general theme throughout Lord of the Rings that technology is bad and being close to nature good.

‘I think that I now understand what he [Saruman] is up to. He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.

The Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers. Book 3. Chapter 4. Treebeard.


Hrm, hoom, well if they did that, it would be the opposite of the reason they were there. Because developing technology and creating a cityscape means cutting down trees.

Back before the First Age, in the Valaquenta, Aulë got tired of waiting around for the Elves to show up and made his best approximation of Elves, the Dwarves. Eru decided "that's so adorable, let's put it on the fridge" and so they had to sleep until after the Elves actually woke up.

"But still, they will have need of wood." - Aulë

Anyway, all this started a tiff between Aulë and his spouse Yavanna, who was in charge of plants (olvar) and animals (kelvar) and nature in general. Yavanna realized the Dwarves would be cutting down trees to keep from freezing to death. (It's a bit odd that she didn't realize that Elves and Men would be chopping things down as well.)

So, she was allowed to send guardians for the kelvar and olvar to Middle-earth. The Ents were mostly interested in guarding trees, and didn't even get involved in the War of the Ring until a group of Saruman's orcs cut down one too many of their friends in Fangorn Forest.

This mirrors Tolkien's own attitudes: In his letters he laments the disappearance of large swaths of the English countryside as development accelerated during the 20th century. The Shire was held up as a kind of ideal, and Tom Bombadil a personification of it.

Anyway, Ents would no more develop technology than a Druid would tear down Stonehenge and put in a car park.

  • 1
    I think the concern was that Dwarves would use far more wood than Men and Elves, who seemed concerned only with making things they needed. The Dwarves would make things for the sake of making them.
    – chepner
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 20:13
  • @chepner The whole reason for Eriador's deforestation was the Numernoreans' insatiable need for ship timbers.
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:44
  • That's a good point. There's probably an entire essay here about the nature of Men in Tolkien's cosmology. Culturally and temperamentally speaking, Dwarves and Elves change little, if at all, over time, but you can't really pin Men down.
    – chepner
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:55

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