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Treebeard is said to be;

'The oldest Ent alive'

This suggests that Treebeard might not have been the first Ent. If he was the first Ent, then he would be at least Three Ages old! This sounds rather unlikely unless Ents are immortal like Elves (see my other question).

So, is Treebeard the first Ent? If not, who is the first Ent?

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    Ents are immortal. Treebeard was (most likely) originally one of the spirits from afar summoned by Yavanna.
    – Mithoron
    Jul 21, 2023 at 20:54

2 Answers 2

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Yes, most likely, according to Gandalf

Gandalf does an excellent job of describing Treebeard in the chapter “The White Rider”

Treebeard is Fangorn, the guardian of the forest; he is the oldest of the Ents, the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun upon this Middle-earth.
The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 5: The White Rider

We know that ents were created before the first age by the pleading of Yavanna

then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar and the olvar, and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared.
The Silmarillion, Chapter 2: Of Aulë and Yavanna

While it is unknown when, Treebeard also speaks about the Elves waking the trees and teaching the Ents to talk.

Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk...
The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 4: Treebeard

Finally, Legolas and Aragorn describe Fangorn (the forest, although based on Gandalf’s quote also the Ent) as older than Men, while the Elves walked under the light of the Trees alone.

... for Fangorn is old, old even as the Elves would reckon it.'

'Yes, it is old,' said Aragorn, 'as old as the forest by the Barrow-downs, and it is far greater. Elrond says that the two are akin, the last strongholds of the mighty woods of the Elder Days, in which the Firstborn roamed while Men still slept...'
The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter 2: The Riders of Rohan

Based on the first quote, and all the supplementary information, the Ents are likely very old and Treebeard being the oldest has lived to a great age.

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    While it is clear to me that Gandalf’s quote can be read as “oldest of the current Ents” I believe that his memory and knowledge of the elder days, naming of Fangorn and being Shepherd of those woods suggests he’s at least as old as Legolas and Aragorn suggest and that would be a pretty reasonable guess at him being oldest.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 4, 2020 at 6:08
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Treebeard is at least three ages old, as he relates in the chapter named for him:

"The trouble is that there are so few of us left... Only three remain of the first Ents that walked the woods before the Darkness: only myself Fangorn, and Finglas and Fladrif- to give them their Elvish names: you may call them Leaflock and Skinbark if you like that better."

According to Gandalf, Treebeard is older than Leaflock and Skinbark, so neither is the first Ent despite their extreme age

For Treebeard is Fangorn, and the eldest and chief of the Ents, and when you speak with him you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things.

The Darkness Treebeard referred to was Morgoth, not Sauron, as clarified a little later. So when Treebeard calls himself one of the first Ents, he claims to go very far back indeed:

Then when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Great River... After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed rickly and their fields were full of corn. Many men learned the craft of the Entwives and honoured them greatly; but we were a legend to them, a secret in the heart of the forest. Yet here we still are, while all the gardens of the Entwives are wasted: Men call them the Brown Lands now.

I remember it was long ago-in the time of the war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea-desire came over me to see Fimbrethil again...We crossed the Anduin and came to their land, but found it a desert...

The Brown Lands were ruined in the War of the Last Alliance as said in Letter 144:

I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance (Second Age 3429 – 3441) when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin...

Information on specific Ents is pretty rare outside these passages, and no other Ents that might be older than Treebeard are ever mentioned. I'm not sure any passages precludes there being an Ent that was older than Treebeard killed before the events of the Two Towers (Fimbrethil could technically be one if Gandalf believes she was dead), but there's no particular reason to assume that either. In any case, Treebeard is one of the first Ents, so none could be that much older if they did exist.

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    The Darkness is in the North (Morgoth), not the East (Sauron). There's also a long gap between the Entwives crossing the river and Treebeard desiring to see them that my cut quotes may not convey the best.
    – Nolimon
    Aug 4, 2020 at 4:52
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    Your quote explicitly says that 'in the time of the war between Sauron and Men of the Sea'. Men of Sea refers to Numenoreans, and they lived in the second age after the fall of Morgoth. And of course the Numenoreans and Sauorn fought Aug 4, 2020 at 5:27
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    The Darkness in the North might refer to the Witch King of Angmar Aug 4, 2020 at 5:28
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    @Edlothiad I've expanded the quote to show that the Darkness is most certainly not Angmar: The Entwives were not living in the Brown Lands teaching men to farm shortly after Angmar's fall.The estrangement was during the dominion of Morgoth, the Ents' search was much later, after Sauron was overthrown at the End of the Second Age
    – Nolimon
    Aug 4, 2020 at 12:50
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    @Edlothiad - I've always thought he was using "the North", "the South", "the East" to refer to regions rather than directions. The names refer to the general relationship between those regions and the whole lands where the stories occur, not to specific areas in those lands. Perhaps this is just an American trait. I live in part of the "North", but some "Southern" states are farther north than mine. The divide was more political than geographical and is still used even where both "North" and "South" are actually mostly to the east. But it matches Tolkien's usage. Aug 4, 2020 at 20:21

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