Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
Ents by TurnerMohan Ents by TurnerMohan
Giants are cool. The idea of beings like ourselves but huge and powerful, ancient and mysterious to us, is inherently appealing, and has found expression in legends all over the world. Not surprising then that so common a feature of our storytelling heritage should find representation in Middle-Earth and, as Tolkien did with his elves and dwarves and dragons and goblins, his treatment of giants - his explanation of their origin and purpose, their temperament and pace, their great age and great strength - seems a synthesis of many of the core characteristics of those creatures, known to us through our long line of received stories from ancient sagas to victorian nursery rhymes, as if, in the giants that walked under the eaves of Dorthonion and Ossiriand of old, we are being told the truth behind those stories. I'm referring of course of the Ents.

Despite an unfamiliar name (though, in one of the many linguistic easter eggs scattered throughout Tolkien's writing, the word 'ent' is actually a curtailed version of 'etten,' the anglo-saxon word for 'giant') the tree shepherds of Fangorn Forest seem familiar to us quickly; we can place without much difficulty what 'type' of legendary creature they are, and it must be said that in Middle-Earth, as in the world of germanic myths and legends which were its primary influence, the giants are connected with trolls. Treebeard's face is remarked to be "almost troll-like" and, as the old Ent informs us, the trolls of Middle-Earth are in fact connected to his kind, though as a perversion or imitation. I think Tolkien saw an opportunity to present us the good side of the troll/giant archetype. They are not, in european folklore, purely villainous creatures, often functioning, like elves, as place spirits, protectors of woods or rivers, bringers of dreams, representatives of the unknown, the world of faerie. In ents - ancient guardians of the forest, companions of the elves long before the emergence of man - we see the true, original and "good" giants, whose character is remembered to us in figures like Roald Dalh's BFG, while the trolls of Angband and Mordor have done more to inform the likes of Grendel, or Jack's man-eating antagonist.

Are ents human-shaped trees? Are they made of wood? Do they grow branches? It's one of those much-argued debates over Tolkien's aesthetic intentions, up there with Balrog wings. The answer, as I imagine it, is a bit complicated. The image of ents as simply animate trees popularized by the Jackson movies, while appealing, doesn't quite read right for me. In their own traditions they count themselves as among the four 'people' along with dwarves, elves and humanity, and that I think is the best way to look at them. Like the dwarves they are a deity's children, designed - in form and function - in rough imitation of the children of God, altered according to their creator's nature, powers and limitations. Among the free people (as the ent-lists do not seem to include orcs, trolls or other sapient but 'unnatural' creatures) ents certainly seem the odd men out; over twice the height of elves or men, stiff and tremendously strong, not immortal but exceedingly longeval, appearing vastly more distinct from one another than members of the other races, with a wide variety of height and size, skin texture and even number of fingers and toes, with water seeming to be their only nutritional requirement. They are, in effect, very much the way the Earth-Mother, desiring intelligent protectors and tenders for her realm - and the plant kingdom in particular - might design a humanoid. They are certainly tree-like and, as Treebeard observes, they become more so over the course of their long lives until in old age they might even be mistaken for trees, eventually losing the ability to move or speak, in perhaps a kind of petrifying slow death not dissimilar to what trees themselves undergo, but I tend to imagine, in their youth (and in Yavanna's original conception of them) they are in fact quite like the other three speaking people, their physical bodies falling far over on the 'animal end' of her creative experiments. It is possible I think - both in the kind of mythic thinking that does not require scientific consistency, and in a more realistic, sci-fi-oriented mindset - to conceive of them as being at once animal and plant-like. Like us they are creatures of muscle and skin and bones and organs, not sap and cellulose, but these systems in them might be surprisingly like their counterparts in the plant kingdom, all biological life being composed of the same base chemical ingredients (Also, with all biological life - including, likely enough, the physical forms designed for and inhabited by the children of Illuvatar - being Yavanna's area, we may assume in crafting sentient beings she can stray between phylums and away from God's original blueprint with greater confidence and originality than Aule trying his hand at intelligent life)

Apparently Tolkien came up with the ents, much as he did with hobbits, on the spur of the moment; inventing Treebeard and his whole race and retro-fitting them into his already vast and intricately detailed fictional world-history as he wrote the fourth chapter of TTT. It's difficult now to imagine Middle-earth without it's wonderful 'hoom-toom'ing forest giants. It would be a poorer world for the loss.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconwisdom-thumbs:
Wisdom-Thumbs Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Watching the movies before reading the books definitely imprinted my imagination. I never caught the mention of ents becoming tree-like, or Treebeard's face resembling that of a troll.

I also never realized the ents once walked with elves. That's an interesting mental picture. Makes me wonder how well they liked each other.
Reply
:iconscifilover2:
SciFiLover2 Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2017
Awesome! I love your design of the ents when they're younger here; very humanlike yet troll-like at the same time, I can practically picture the mottled brown colour of that beautiful being's skin in my head! :) I also very much love the amount of thought youput into your design of it, from your detailed explantaion of zoology and herbology when trying to make the ents something between animal and plant; to your added details on the picture for the ent's physicological characteristics. :) Love it! clap remake 1a GIF Adventure Time - Claps Llama Emoji-78 (Clapping) [V4] Cheers and Applause - NaNoEmo Day 8 Timon -  Applause APPLAUSE CLAP 
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2017  Professional General Artist
Well i'm very glad this concept resonates with you. Mottled brown is about what i was picturing so its good to know that translated even through a sketch
Reply
:iconvannjaren:
Vannjaren Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I absolutely LOVE this and your take on the Ents, and I have to say that I really enjoyed reading your comments section - it's rare indeed to find artist's comments that are so in-depth and detailed, and beautifully made as an accompaniment to the art itself.
I remember that whilst I enjoyed the Jackson interpretation of the Ents, I did notice it was quite different indeed to the written description of them, and I think your works are closer by far. I think the vision of good-natured troll-giants with bark-like skin seems more fitting somehow, and I completely approve of drawing attention to the fact that trolls and giants are not exclusively evil in folklore, far from it. ^^ 

Love the expression and detail on the Ent's face, and your anatomy skills are wonderful - I will definitely check out some more of your fabulous Tolkien-related works! :clap: :love:
Reply
:iconnhlaqgor:
Nhlaqgor Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2017  Hobbyist Artist
I really like this work!
Reply
:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017
 One must admit to nursing a soft spot for the good Tree-Shepherds; I must say that this illustration does a most impeccable job of portraying these long and reasonably-benevolent figures just as nobly as they deserve. I particularly admire the face of this particular Ent, who makes me think of young Quickbeam (possibly because he looks so friendly that he seems downright hasty).

 Keep Well Master Mohan! 
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
well I doubt I'll have occasion to draw quickbeam specifically any time soon, and this is quite close to how I'd picture him, so let's just consider this Quickbeam.

I was a little worried after completing that portrait that i'd made him too cute, but in general I'm attracted to this idea of the ents - though huge and strong and very formidable when necessary- having these exaggerated, cartoonish facial features, matching their slow, naturalistic, almost simple-minded good will. There's a bit of John Bauer's trolls in them as I imagine them, along with Dahl's above-mentioned Big Friendly Giant (Bauer's trolls tend to find there way into the trolls of middle-earth in my mind, though those owe more to the likes of fleshlumpeater or bloodbottler)
Reply
:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2017
 You know the comparison between more "Hasty" Ents and the BFG has never occurred to me but it does make a great deal of sense - kudos for thinking it up.Nod  

 Out of curiosity just how Tree-ish do you imagine old Father Fangorn himself would be in comparison to this somewhat more supple youth? (You know it has just occurred to me that the name "Treebeard" might well derive from the fact that particular Ent Elder has acquired a little bonsai-growth on his chin, a sort of arboreal goatee - although this might be a trifle Literal). 

 Keep Well Master Mohan, wheresoever you may be.:) (Smile) 
Reply
:iconbenjaminossoff:
BenjaminOssoff Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I like your interpretations.
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
I'm glad :D
Reply
:iconpippinincarnate:
PippinIncarnate Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2017
the more i re-read the chapters with ents in them the more convinced i am that they are much more human-like than tree like, and the more frustrated i become at the stock interpretation of ents as simply walking trees.  yeah i think you really hit the nail on the head here
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
I'm glad you think so. I believe a more humanoid, "giant" interpretation of them, rather than as walking trees, is closer to Tolkien's intent.
Reply
:iconsaiyanslayergaming:
saiyanslayergaming Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2017
Neat
Reply
:iconsilamir:
silamir Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2017   General Artist
I just love your interpretation seen as how almost every other artist's rendition I've seen, they just draw them basically as anthropomorphic trees and that never sat well with me. The way Tolkien describes Treebeard is like a giant person with tree aspects, not a giant tree with some human aspects. I would love to see your idea of an entwife. Also, do you think they wore clothing (probably made of treestuffs) or just went without? Since Tolkien leaves that up for interpretation in TTT.
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
I tend to imagine that their material culture is extremely limited and primitive. The description of Treebeard's home at wellinghall makes it sound like a more or less naturally occuring structure, and the articles found therein sound more like things gathered (bedding of leaves and moss) or shaped/set in place (like his stone table or bowls) with great strength and little to no tool use. I don't have a set answer about entish garmentry, but I lean toward them not being clothed - it seems unlikely to me that they would experience heat and cold as sensitively as we do, or be less equipped to exist naked in the world than yavanna's other creatures - perhaps cultures of mosses, lichens or ivy grow on them in their long periods of stillness, the way barnacles grow on whales.
Reply
:iconsilamir:
silamir Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2017   General Artist
That's an interesting thought and makes a lot of sense. Like how moss grows on sloths.
Reply
:icondragonstormstudios:
DragonstormStudios Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm also deeply curious to see an interpretation of entwives. The ents were written as being stewards and guardians of the forests, the wild really, while entwives were more focused on horticulture and domestication, planting gardens and making meadows. It would be interesting to see the difference between them especially in Turner's style.
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Edited Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
This one, though not created for Tolkien's world, is essentially an entwife in spirit if perhaps too trollish, too round and too fairy-tale-like in appearance for Tolkien's entwives (a certain amount of fairy-tale trollishness - even to the point of appearing somewhat cartoonish like the one above - is i think appropriate i think for the tree shepherds, but it's all about degree)

these were fun to draw, and I think I will likely be doing more drawings of ents at various ages, as I imagine they would likely change in appearance considerably over the course of their long lives, so yeah, expect some entwives in the future :)
Reply
:icondragonstormstudios:
DragonstormStudios Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
A lovely drawing regardless! :) And to be quite fair, even round and trollish looking Ents can be appropriate. There are plenty of trees out there with bulbous trunks and growths, for some reason willows come to mind. Such forms have always given off a matronly aura of some sort, it might even be fitting for entwives as a result. At the end of the day you're right, it's all about degrees and there's plenty of room to play with what Tolkien designed or implied. 

I am definitely looking forward to your next works. :) 
Reply
:iconsilamir:
silamir Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017   General Artist
Yes it would. :)
Reply
:iconictonyx:
Ictonyx Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great image and description. Of the two 'peoples' created directly by Iluvatar, the elves have a certain cultural inflexibility and are more drawn to nature, while men are extremely adaptable and more materialistic. But elves and men still have a huge amount in common. It is therefore interesting that of the two peoples created 'indirectly' by lesser, more specialist gods, the ents are right at the green, organic end of the spectrum, and the dwarves right at the iron and stone / material end of the spectrum. Iluvatar's pair of peoples are different, but both are balanced enough to take centre stage, while Yavanna's and Aule's peoples are so specialised that their relative marginalisation was arguably inevitable.
Reply
:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2017  Professional General Artist
my own interpretation is that elves and men are essentially the same thing; two iterations of the same concept, like a controlled experiment between identical subjects with one variable that changes everything. The elves are designed to inhabit the physical world forever and never leave it while men, by design, are visitors here, and this colors everything about their respective capacities, outlooks, and relationship to the natural world. both are the children of god and the physical world was created for them, whereas dwarves and ents were something shoehorned into creation, and as such are at odds with certain aspects of it. this is especially true for the dwarves, who i tend to think would have a strained relationship with much of creation outside of their own maker's domain; the rock earth and it's character and composition they understand instinctively but animals and plants, forests and trees (and the sea, ulmo's domain) are mysterious and threatening to them.
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×




Details

Submitted on
February 24
Image Size
2.1 MB
Resolution
1800×1824
Link
Thumb
Embed

Stats

Views
757
Favourites
66 (who?)
Comments
22
Downloads
6
×