The Brown Lands feature on various maps of Middle Earth created by Professor Tolkien, and certainly served as the locale for certain points of Lore. When I first learned the term "scorched earth policy" in a history class long ago, I carried that image into every reading of LotR ever after. This region personifies that - this isn't the healthy, earthy brown hues of living things; this is the brown of death. Even the air is tinted brown.
|The Desolation of the Gardens|
The Brown Lands have been so for 3000 years - Treebeard references traveling here during the time of the "war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea" to find "a desert: it was all burned and uprooted, for war had passed over it."
|Nice blind shot, Legolas!|
But of course the big draw for me to the Brown Lands was the chance of hearing more about the Entwives, and this did not disappoint at all.
As Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin, when the world was young the Ents and Entwives walked together and housed together, but their "hearts did not go on growing in the same way" - what a wonderful way to put it! The Entwives became most concerned with growing things that produced seeds and berries and nuts that could be harvested, things that could be cultivated and trained. The Entwives sought "order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them)." Another wonderful description! At the time when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Anduin to plant gardens and fields, and taught their knowledge and skills to Men. But the Ents and Entwives saw less and less of each other as the years passed, until the visit Treebeard made to discover they were gone.
As far as the Ents were concerned, they were gone, not dead. He makes this very clear to Pippin and Merry. As he states, songs were made of the search of the Ents for the Entwives. Some people said they saw them heading west, or east; others said south. Some never saw them at all. Nowhere could the Ents find any trace of them, however, and they eventually returned to their forests. Ent legend holds that the two will meet again some day in a new land where both can be happy, but that it cannot happen until both have lost everything dear to them.
This is why Treebeard is particularly interested in learning more about the Shire; based on the description he gets from Merry and Pippin, it naturally sounds like a place the Entwives would have dearly loved.
In my post on the Old Forest, I talk about how Turbine cleverly found a semi-resting place for these highly sought Entwives. Truly, do the Flowers of the Old Forest quest - use a map if it makes you crazy, several good ones exist! - and most importantly hover over each flower's deed once you complete it. I had always noted that a flower for one famous name was missing, and I wondered why - until now. I won't spoil this, and will instead leave it for you to find in the Brown Lands.
We also see more mention of the Entwives in the dialogue that appears in the green haven, Limlight Glade, you eventually reach when visiting the Limlight Gorge to knock out the quests in that region. If you stay to listen, you also encounter some very neat dialogue between one of the Ents here and an Elf, Ordhrien (who reveals himself to be over 3000 years old), including the following:
Ordhrien says, ''Have you considered the Lady's offer yet Thickbark?''
Ordhrien says, ''Such an alliance could protect both our forests.''
Thickbark says, ''Oh? Indeed. Hrrm...''
Thickbark says, ''Then tell me, where were the Galadhrim when our Gardens were despoiled by the enemy?''
Ordhrien says, ''What?''
Ordhrien says, ''We were fighting... *I* was fighting - on the very slopes of Mount Doom!''
Thickbark says, ''Haroom... No doubt. No doubt. You are a great warrior. That much I can see.''
Thickbark says, ''But Mount Doom was a long way away from the Gardens... a long way indeed.''
Thickbark says, ''Too far and too late, I am afraid, to be of any help to us.''
Ordhrien says, ''Nothing I say can change what happened then. But we can still help each other now.''
Thickbark says, ''Hrrmm... I suppose we could help you, yes. We are still strong. Strong enough for orcs.''
Thickbark says, ''But I do not think you can help us. Hrrumm... It has been too late for that for a long time now.''
The real Lore about the Entwives is less encouraging. Fortunately this isn't mentioned in the Lord of the Rings, so it leaves the ability to conjecture in the LOTRO storyline. Yet Professor Tolkien was frequently asked about the fate of the Entwives. In a letter (Letter 144) the fate of the Entwives does not sound promising: "What happened to them is not resolved in this book. ... 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. They survived only in the 'agriculture' transmitted to Men (and Hobbits). Some, of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved: tyrants even in such tales must have an economic and agricultural background to their soldiers and metal-workers. If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult -- unless experience of industrialised and militarised agriculture had made them a little more anarchic. I hope so. I don't know." Readers can and do still debate what this all means, but in the end, I myself am left with little hope that they survived.
That's why I'm so glad Turbine is able to give us a way to experience a happier ending for this great story.
Sources: Unfinished Tales, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien