March 21, 2012

The Brown Lands

Despite every expectation that the name might convey, it was a joy to be able to enter and quest in this area.  As is the case with my entire blog, Here Be Spoilers.  If you haven't ventured this far in your questing and don't wish to be disappointed, read at your peril!

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
Our main ally post in the Brown Lands is Etheburg.  This makes me think of a passage from Unfinished Tales, where Eorl the Young talks about returning after Cirion had granted to him the lands that would become Rohan, leaving some men behind to keep order while others returned home to gather their families and belongings.  "....the main force shall remain in the North-east to guard above all the place where the Balchoth made a crossing of the Anduin out of the Brown Lands; for there is still the greatest danger, and there also is my chief hope, if I return, of leading my people into their new land with as little grief and loss as may be."  For he planned to bring his people back down the east side of the Anduin (choosing this side despite having to travel in the shadow of Dol Guldur, avoiding travel down the western side of Anduin in part due to it not being easily traveled by horses/wagons but also because it would take them near the "Dwimordene where dwells the White Lady and weaves nets that no mortal can pass" - such a reputation Galadriel built up for herself!).

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!
This is also the place Turbine has chosen to have the Company  encounter the Nazgûl and shoot down him and his mount on their trip down the Anduin, not knowing what manner of foe it was (though Frodo of course had his suspicions).  "Suddenly the great bow of Lorien sang.  Shrill went the arrow from the elven-string.  Frodo looked up.  Almost above him the winged shape swerved.  There was a harsh croaking scream, as it fell out of the air, vanishing down into the gloom of the eastern shore.  The sky was clean again.  There was a tumult of many voices far away, cursing and wailing in the darkness, and then silence.  Neither shaft nor cry came again from the east that night."  Too bad it hadn't fallen just a littttttle more to the west.

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


  1. I think the Entwives are up around The Shire somewhere. Sam said his cousin Hal saw a walking tree in the North Moors.

    1. I'm so glad you mentioned that, thanks for posting! That is a common part of the debate about the Entwives. But for myself, based on the fact that early part of FotR was written before the conception of the Ents, and that various earlier drafts use a different language to describe what was seen, I agree with the group of people who believe that what was really meant in that passage was a giant. (See my very first post on my blog site!) But like I said, this is a commonly debated thing, so I'm glad you added it.

  2. Of course, Sam's cousin Hal could have simply employed some classic Hobbit exaggeration to make the rumor juicy enough for standard Shire gossip! Maybe he had a little too much ale and saw some trees swaying back and forth :)

    1. Actually, there is some truth behind what Hal thought he saw. I don't recall how or where the quest chain starts (probably from Hal), but in the Shire town Overhill you are told to investigate his sighting of the "walking tree". I won't say anymore in case anyone wanted to see for themselves, but I thought it was an interesting little quest chain in a rarely visited part of the Shire.

  3. I love how they did the gardens in the game! They look so beautiful and yet so sad. I'm with the writer on this one: I fear the entwives did not survive, and it always makes me feel a bit sad.