This Halloween, a few Ents in human disguise migrated over from Middle Earth’s Fangorn Forest to pay us a spooky visit. You might’ve spotted Tolkien’s tree-like creatures participating in Kent’s Pumpkin Run or winning the Lantern’s costume contest in Wassaic. Do not be deceived! These Ents hail from far off lands. Great shepherds of the forest, they are rarely roused. Created by ancient spirits who distrusted the overweening desires of men, dwarves, and orcs, Ents were placed on Middle Earth to guard trees with their lives.
If you listen long and closely, you might make out their Old Entish speech, a woodland language that flows the way of lazy rivers. It takes a very long time to say anything in Entish, and what is said is always worth hearing.
The Ents are here to remind us that our forests are in need!
“Follow the Forest,” they announce in their old Entish speech. “Birds, turtles, salamanders, and bobcats fly, crawl, swim, and leap across our lands. Generations of trees migrate towards more favorable lands. But their paths are constricted by housing developments and their ranks reduced by the effects of climate change. Our friends the ashes and the hemlocks are sick, and we must protect our friends the red maples and the white pine from felling hands.”
We ought to be more like the Ents, great stewards of trees and patient beings. They are not hasty, but when stirred into action, they respond in unison. They are tall, powerful, and adept at swinging boulders at their oppressors, but they are vulnerable, too. Fire and the ringing blows of axes threaten their survival.
Now that Halloween has passed, the Ents have returned to Fangorn, the remaining edge of a large forest that once covered Middle Earth when “a squirrel could go from tree to tree from what is now the Shire to Dunland west of Isengard.”
Standing on a mountaintop at sunset, too high to make out bisecting roads and shingled roofs, you might imagine a time past when our Northeastern forests — from the Hudson Valley to Canada — were whole. The forest of Fangorn is the last dwelling place of the Ents, but here in the Northeast, hope remains. Even as the pace of development continuously rises, land trusts work hard to protect our forests.
So let us resemble the Ents in our caring deliberation and our united calls to action in the name of creatures in need.