Treebeard began in Tolkien’s mind as the evil Giant Treebeard who imprisoned Gandalf, well before Saruman was thought of. He was later to be an apparently virtuous being who would deceive Frodo. But here we find him in his final form.
But not at once. When Merry and Pippin escape the Orcs, they are still lost and with little food. And notice the old and overgrown nature of the forest, yet realise that it is not evil. They are also reminded of Old Took and the increasingly shabby and unchanging room he died in. Still, it is not a place for them.
Looking round, they find a high place useful for a wider view. Steps lead to it that might be natural, or else made for someone much bigger than a hobbit:
“The light grew broader as they went on, and soon they saw that there was a rock-wall before them: the side of a hill, or the abrupt end of some long root thrust out by the distant mountains. No trees grew on it, and the sun was falling full on its stony face. The twigs of the trees at its foot were stretched out stiff and still, as if reaching out to the warmth. Where all had looked so shabby and grey before, the wood now gleamed with rich browns, and with the smooth black-greys of bark like polished leather. The boles of the trees glowed with a soft green like young grass: early spring or a fleeting vision of it was about them.
“In the face of the stony wall there was something like a stair: natural perhaps, and made by the weathering and splitting of the rock, for it was rough and uneven. High up, almost level with the tops of forest-trees, there was a shelf under a cliff. Nothing grew there but a few grasses and weeds at its edge, and one old stump of a tree with only two bent branches left: it looked almost like the figure of some gnarled old man, standing there, blinking in the morning-light.”
The ‘stump’ is of course Treebeard. He had not noticed them arrive and so did nothing until he heard them talking:
“[Pippin says] This shaggy old forest looked so different in the sunlight. I almost felt I liked the place.’
“’Almost felt you liked the Forest! That’s good! That’s uncommonly kind of you,’ said a strange voice. ‘Turn round and let me have a look at your faces. I almost feel that I dislike you both, but do not let us be hasty. Turn round!’ A large knob-knuckled hand was laid on each of their shoulders, and they were twisted round, gently but irresistibly; then two great arms lifted them up.
“They found that they were looking at a most extraordinary face. It belonged to a large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating. They were brown, shot with a green light. Often afterwards Pippin tried to describe his first impression of them.
“’One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake. I don’t know but it felt as if something that grew in the ground-asleep, you might say, or just feeling itself as something between roof-tip and leaf-tip, between deep earth and sky had suddenly waked up, and was considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years.’
“’Hrum, Hoom,’ murmured the voice, a deep voice like a very deep woodwind instrument. ‘Very odd indeed! Do not be hasty, that is my motto. But if I had seen you, before I heard your voices – I liked them: nice little voices; they reminded me of something I cannot remember – if I had seen you before I heard you, I should have just trodden on you, taking you for little Orcs, and found out my mistake afterwards. Very odd you are, indeed. Root and twig, very odd!’
“Pippin, though still amazed, no longer felt afraid. Under those eyes he felt a curious suspense, but not fear.”
We later learn that his kind no longer have children, being separated from their wives. He is reminded of them and treats the hobbits like ‘entlings’.
Treebeard for Tolkien was much less like a tree than Jackson made him. I’d see him very much as a woodland troll: the creature from the 2016 film A Monster Calls would make an excellent Ent. (It may indeed have borrowed the idea.)
This is also an apparently unconnected tree-giant I saw in Birmingham when there was a Tolkien conference back in 2005.
Regardless, I hope that when the inevitable Lord of the Rings remake comes, they will look to that model. Or rather have this for Treebeard himself so, while many of the other Ents have come to look like particular trees. But the eyes ought to be special; it would be a good place for some subtle Special Effects to make them look uncanny.
Though no longer the evil giant of Tolkien’s first thoughts, Treebeard is decidedly unsafe: he admits to having nearly killed them. And while he only mentions the tone of their voices, Pippin had expressed a liking for the forest, which no Orc every would.
He accepts they are not Orcs, but he cannot place them
“‘You do not seem to come in the old lists that I learned when I was young. But that was a long, long time ago, and they may have made new lists.’”
He recites the list to remind himself – that is true to actual practice in pre-literate societies, where they see a poem as a whole thing that you cannot just snatch bits out of. It begins:
“Learn now the lore of Living Creatures!
“First name the four, the free peoples:
“Eldest of all, the elf-children;
“Dwarf the delver, dark are his houses;
“Ent the earthborn, old as mountains;
“Man the mortal, master of horses:
His credits the Elves with being the eldest, and with making the first words. And he correctly recognises that ‘hobbit’ is not a name given by elves.
He then tells them what he had been thinking about before they interrupted him:
“’But now,’ [Treebeard said,] and the eyes became very bright and ‘present’, seeming to grow smaller and almost sharp, ‘what is going on? What are you doing in it all? I can see and hear (and smell and feel) a great deal from this, from this, from this a-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lind-or-burúmë. Excuse me: that is a part of my name for it; I do not know what the word is in the outside languages: you know, the thing we are on, where I stand and look out on fine mornings, and think about the Sun, and the grass beyond the wood, and the horses, and the clouds, and the unfolding of the world. What is going on? What is Gandalf up to? And these – burarum,’ he made a deep rumbling noise like a discord on a great organ – ‘these Orcs, and young Saruman down at Isengard? I like news. But not too quick now.’”
To him, both Gandalf and Saruman are young. They arrived during the Third Age, while he has been alive since the First Age. Of course the final concept as Tolkien developed it was that both would have been among the original Maia, existing before the world itself. But earlier writings have ‘children of the gods’, which is also implied by Gandalf calling Treebeard the eldest living thing, and mentioning monsters older than Sauron. I think when he wrote Book Three, he was still imagining Sauron, Saruman and Gandalf as spirits born within the world.
Tolkien also says that the Five Wizards kept their origins secret and were mostly believed to be men of Middle-Earth who had great lore. So Treebeard could be sincerely mistaken on this point. But Gandalf returned as Gandalf the White would not, so I’m convinced this is a shift in the back-story.
Merry and Pippin explain that Gandalf was their guide, and Treebeard praises him as ‘the only wizard that really cares about trees’. Jackson presents Radagast as a gentle nature-lover who lets a tree grow through his house, but Tolkien says only that he cares about birds and animals.
We then get Treebeard’s anarchic view of authority, which Tolkien would have sympathised with:
“[Merry asks] ‘Would you think it rude, if we asked what you are going to do with us, and which side you are on?’ …
“’I am not going to do anything with you: not if you mean by that ‘do something to you’ without your leave. We might do some things together. I don’t know about sides. I go my own way; but your way may go along with mine for a while.”
He then asks more about Gandalf:
“But you speak of Master Gandalf, as if he was in a story that had come to an end.’
“’Yes, we do,’ said Pippin sadly. ‘The story seems to be going on, but I am afraid Gandalf has fallen out of it.’”
We later learn that Treebeard had seen Gandalf earlier on, but made no effort to meet him. Supposing he knew that Gandalf the White was still Gandalf and not a trick of Saruman, he still chose to do nothing. That is his habit, and Gandalf later credits Merry and Pippin with nudging him out of his unwillingness to be hasty. Rousing him in time for the Ents to play a vital part in the coming war.
All of this is very unlike the film. Before meeting Treebeard, Pippin does no more than Merry. He is then cunning and also dishonest in rousing the Ents against Saruman – which also supposes that Treebeard hasn’t kept up with what is happening in his own territory and was surprised to find so many trees cut down.
I prefer the tale as told by Tolkien. First we get Treebeard’s view of both his own land and the wider world:
“At last Pippin ventured to speak again.
“’Please, Treebeard,’ he said, ‘could I ask you something? Why did Celeborn warn us against your forest? He told us not to risk getting entangled in it.’
“’Hmm, did he now?’ rumbled Treebeard. ‘And I might have said much the same, if you had been going the other way. Do not risk getting entangled in the woods of Laurelindórenan! That is what the Elves used to call it, but now they make the name shorter: Lothlórien they call it. Perhaps they are right: maybe it is fading; not growing. Land of the Valley of Singing Gold, that was it, once upon a time. Now it is the Dreamflower. Ah well! But it is a queer place, and not for just any one to venture in. I am surprised that you ever got out, but much more surprised that you ever got in: that has not happened to strangers for many a year. It is a queer land.
“’And so is this. Folk have come to grief here. Aye, they have, to grief… They are falling rather behind the world in there, I guess,’ he said ‘Neither this country, nor anything else outside the Golden Wood, is what it was when Celeborn was young…
“Some of us are still true Ents, and lively enough in our fashion, but many are growing sleepy, going tree-ish, as you might say. Most of the trees are just trees, of course; but many are half awake. Some are quite wide awake, and a few are, well, ah, well getting Entish. That is going on all the time.
“’When that happens to a tree, you find that some have bad hearts. Nothing to do with their wood: I do not mean that. Why, I knew some good old willows down the Entwash, gone long ago, alas! They were quite hollow, indeed they were falling all to pieces, but as quiet and sweet-spoken as a young leaf. And then there are some trees in the valleys under the mountains, sound as a bell, and bad right through. That sort of thing seems to spread. There used to be some very dangerous parts in this country. There are still some very black patches.’
“’Like the Old Forest away to the north, do you mean?’ asked Merry.
“’Aye, aye. something like, but much worse. I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am. Still, we do what we can. We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed.
“’We are tree-herds, we old Ents. Few enough of us are left now. Sheep get like shepherd, and shepherds like sheep, it is said; but slowly, and neither have long in the world. It is quicker and closer with trees and Ents, and they walk down the ages together. For Ents are more like Elves: less interested in themselves than Men are, and better at getting inside other things. And yet again Ents are more like Men, more changeable than Elves are, and quicker at taking the colour of the outside, you might say. Or better than both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer. ‘Some of my kin look just like trees now, and need something great to rouse them; and they speak only in whispers. But some of my trees are limb-lithe, and many can talk to me. Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk. They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did. But then the Great Darkness came, and they passed away over the Sea, or fled into far valleys, and hid themselves, and made songs about days that would never come again. Never again. Aye, aye, there was all one wood once upon a time: from here to the Mountains of Lune, and this was just the East End.”
A sensible script-writer would reword that last, since ‘East End’ is nowadays very much associated with London, and mostly with supposedly comical criminality.
The ‘Great Darkness’ is presumably the period between Morgoth destroying the Two Lamps and the rising of the sun and moon to bring light back to Middle-Earth. Tolkien imagined life carrying on in reduced fashion with just the light of the stars. The elves are born then, and elven kingdoms formed, including Thingol and Melian in Doriath.
Whether Treebeard was born during or after this darkness is not specified: we just know that it was after the elves, whom he accepts as older than he. But he has very ancient memories. He expresses himself in a poem, speaking of lands long lost. It begins:
“In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring.
“Ah! the sight and the smell of the Spring in Nan-tasarion!
“And I said that was good.”
They then arrive at Treebeard’s home, which is both beautiful and magical:
“He set them down on the grass between the aisles of the trees, and they followed him towards the great arch. The hobbits now noticed that as he walked his knees hardly bent, but his legs opened in a great stride. He planted his big toes (and they were indeed big, and very broad) on the ground first, before any other part of his feet.
“For a moment Treebeard stood under the rain of the falling spring, and took a deep breath; then he laughed, and passed inside. A great stone table stood there, but no chairs. At the back of the bay it was already quite dark. Treebeard lifted two great vessels and stood them on the table. They seemed to be filled with water; but he held his hands over them, and immediately they began to glow, one with a golden and the other with a rich green light; and the blending of the two lights lit the bay; as if the sun of summer was shining through a roof of young leaves. Looking back, the hobbits saw that the trees in the court had also begun to glow, faintly at first, but steadily quickening, until every leaf was edged with light: some green, some gold, some red as copper; while the tree-trunks looked like pillars moulded out of luminous stone.”
It reminded me to the Two Trees, though those were golden and white.
They then get refreshment, which also seems magical:
“’You are thirsty I expect. Perhaps you are also tired. Drink this!’ He went to the back of the bay, and then they saw that several tall stone jars stood there, with heavy lids. He removed one of the lids, and dipped in a great ladle, and with it filled three bowls, one very large bowl, and two smaller ones.
“’This is an ent-house,’ he said, ‘and there are no seats, I fear. But you may sit on the table.’ Picking up the hobbits he set them on the great stone slab, six feet above the ground, and there they sat dangling their legs, and drinking in sips.
“The drink was like water, indeed very like the taste of the draughts they had drunk from the Entwash near, the borders of the forest, and yet there was some scent or savour in it which they could not describe: it was faint, but it reminded them of the smell of a distant wood borne from afar by a cool breeze at night. The effect of the draught began at the toes, and rose steadily through every limb, bringing refreshment and vigour as it coursed upwards, right to the tips of the hair. Indeed the hobbits felt that the hair on their heads was actually standing up, waving and curling and growing. As for Treebeard, he first laved his feet in the basin beyond the arch, and then he drained his bowl at one draught, one long, slow draught. The hobbits thought he would never stop.
“At last he set the bowl down again. ‘Ah – ah,’ he sighed. ‘Hm, hoom, now we can talk easier. You can sit on the floor, and I will lie down; that will prevent this drink from rising to my head and sending me to sleep.’”
Refreshed, and possibly in a state rather like drunkenness, they then tell him all their news. You could wonder what Treebeard is up to: he treats them as guests but also has his own agenda. Without harming them, he perhaps hopes that they will say more than they should. In fact they do not: later at Orthanc after consulting with Gandalf Treebeard comments:
“‘I find you are not such hasty folk as I thought. You said much less than you might, and no more than you should.’”
They hadn’t told him about the One Ring. But what they did say when he first met them matters:
“Treebeard was however especially interested in everything that concerned Gandalf; and most interested of all in Saruman’s doings. The hobbits regretted very much that they knew so little about them: only a rather vague report by Sam of what Gandalf had told the Council. But they were clear at any rate that Ugluk and his troop came from Isengard, and spoke of Saruman as their master…
“’Hoom, hm, I have not troubled about the Great Wars,’ said Treebeard; ‘they mostly concern Elves and Men. That is the business of Wizards: Wizards are always troubled about the future. I do not like worrying about the future. I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them, not even Elves nowadays. Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others: it was the Elves that cured us of dumbness long ago, and that was a great gift that cannot be forgotten, though our ways have parted since. And there are some things, of course, whose side I am altogether not on; I am against them altogether: these – burarum’ (he again made a deep rumble of disgust)’ – these Orcs, and their masters.
“’I used to be anxious when the shadow lay on Mirkwood, but when it removed to Mordor, I did not trouble for a while: Mordor is a long way away. But it seems that the wind is setting East, and the withering of all woods may be drawing near. There is naught that an old Ent can do to hold back that storm: he must weather it or crack.
“’But Saruman now! Saruman is a neighbour: I cannot overlook him. I must do something, I suppose. I have often wondered lately what I should do about Saruman.’
“’Who is Saruman?’ asked Pippin. ‘Do you know anything about his history?’
“’Saruman is a Wizard,’ answered Treebeard. ‘More than that I cannot say. I do not know the history of Wizards. They appeared first after the Great Ships came over the Sea; but if they came with the Ships I never can tell.”
The Dunedain came from Numenor at the end if the Second Age, while the wizards arrived about a thousand years into the Third Age. At least that’s how Tolkien later specified it. It seems a long gap even for an Ent, but you could also suppose that they had known little of wizards and cared little until the threat of Mordor grew.
“Saruman was reckoned great among them, I believe. He gave up wandering about and minding the affairs of Men and Elves, some time ago – you would call it a very long time ago: and he settled down at Angrenost, or Isengard as the Men of Rohan call it. He was very quiet to begin with, but his fame began to grow. He was chosen to be head of the White Council, they say; but that did not turn out too well. I wonder now if even then Saruman was not turning to evil ways. But at any rate he used to give no trouble to his neighbours. I used to talk to him. There was a time when he was always walking about my woods. He was polite in those days, always asking my leave (at least when he met me); and always eager to listen. I told him many things that he would never have found out by himself; but he never repaid me in like kind. I cannot remember that he ever told me anything. And he got more and more like that; his face, as I remember it – I have not seen it for many a day – became like windows in a stone wall: windows with shutters inside.”
“’I think that I now understand what he is up to. He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment. And now it is clear that he is a black traitor. He has taken up with foul folk, with the Orcs. Brm, hoom! Worse than that: he has been doing something to them; something dangerous. For these Isengarders are more like wicked Men. It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman’s Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it. I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!’”
Treebeard perhaps had not known before then that Saruman was corrupt enough to have Orcs working for him: the same Orcs who were attacking Treebeard’s trees. Or perhaps he had suspected but now has clear evidence. This might be what prompts him to move: he is already part of the war and now knows that Saruman is his enemy.
He also views Orcs as sometimes being descended from corrupted men, even without mingling with true Orcs. That’s one of two ideas that Tolkien floated, the other being that they were corrupted Elves. Since Elves and Men can interbreed, they might be both.
He then tells the sad story of losing the Entwives. He hopes they still live, but there is a strong suggestion that all are now dead:
“After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed richly, and their fields were full of corn. Many men learned the crafts of the Entwives and honoured them greatly; but we were only 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.”
Someone in the Smial pointed out to me that the probable loss of the Entwives in Middle-Earth’s Great War parallels the massive loss of men in the real-world Great War. Bad in Britain, and even worse in France and other countries.
Treebeard then recites another fine poem, and decides to sleep. Sleeps standing up, and has to be reminded that they sleep lying down. As I said earlier, he is thinking of them as children of his kind.
The next morning they find him gone. He returns and explains he has been organising an Entmoot: a gathering of whichever Ents take an interest when something has to be decided. He brings the hobbits with him – they are his evidence of Saruman’s misdeeds, if any Ent will not accept his word on it. It seems that none do, but they do see them as important and have to decide just what sort of creatures these are. That they are among the ‘Free Peoples’ along with Elves, Dwarves, Ents and Men.
Meantime the hobbits see that Ents are surprisingly diverse. That as Treebeard said, they are sometimes like the trees they tend:
“At first Merry and Pippin were struck chiefly by the variety that they saw: the many shapes, and colours, the differences in girth; and height, and length of leg and arm; and in the number of toes and fingers (anything from three to nine). A few seemed more or less related to Treebeard, and reminded them of beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, the rowan, and the linden. But when the Ents all gathered round Treebeard, bowing their heads slightly, murmuring in their slow musical voices, and looking long and intently at the strangers, then the hobbits saw that they were all of the same kindred, and all had the same eyes: not all so old or so deep as Treebeard’s, but all with the same slow, steady, thoughtful expression, and the same green flicker.”
The Ents accept them, and Merry and Pippin politely bow to them, which they find amusing. Ents, we learn, cannot bend their body: this must be why they do not have chairs.
The hobbits are then given over to the care of an Ent called Quickbeam, who lives nearby and had already decided. He had been fond of trees that the Orcs had destroyed:
“’There were rowan-trees in my home … that took root when I was an Enting, many many years ago in the quiet of the world. The oldest were planted by the Ents to try and please the Entwives; but they looked at them and smiled and said that they knew where whiter blossom and richer fruit were growing. Yet there are no trees of all that race, the people of the Rose, that are so beautiful to me. And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of each was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder. Birds used to flock there. I like birds, even when they chatter; and the rowan has enough and to spare. But the birds became unfriendly and greedy and tore at the trees, and threw the fruit down and did not eat it. Then Orcs came with axes and cut down my trees. I came and called them by their long names, but they did not quiver, they did not hear or answer: they lay dead.”
This is another case of a land being infected by evil. Presumably Saruman becomes a general evil influence, causing harm even when he has no direct interest in it. Or perhaps birds need to be turned generally evil before Saruman can trust them to work for him.
The hobbits wait, with Quickbeam recites a poem about his lost rowan-trees, calling them by name. This is the fourth of five poems in the chapter, almost the greatest number in any chapter. (After asking on Quora, I was reminded of Fog on the Barrow Down, which has at least five. Six if you count Tom’s two-line parting before Bree, and seven if you treat Frodo’s summons and Tom’s reply as separate.)
On the third day, they hear loud voices and learn that the Ents have decided. And express it in rather good song, which I think was ignored by Jackson. It was memorably dramatized in Brian Sibley’s 1981 BBC radio series:
“To Isengard! Though Isengard be ringed and barred with doors of stone;
“Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone,
“We go, we go, we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door;
“For bole and bough are burning now, the furnace roars – we go to war!
“To land of gloom with tramp of doom, with roll of drum, we come, we come;
“To Isengard with doom we come!
“With doom we come, with doom we come!
Treebeard explains that they can do some of this, but chances of victory or even survival are not good:
“’Will you really break the doors of Isengard?’ asked Merry.
“’Ho, hm, well, we could, you know! You do not know, perhaps, how strong we are. Maybe you have heard of Trolls? They are mighty strong. But Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves. We are stronger than Trolls. We are made of the bones of the earth. We can split stone like the roots of trees, only quicker, far quicker, if our minds are roused! If we are not hewn down, or destroyed by fire or blast of sorcery, we could split Isengard into splinters and crack its walls into rubble.’
“’But Saruman will try to stop you. won’t he?’
“’Hm, ah, yes, that is so. I have not forgotten it. Indeed I have thought long about it. But, you see, many of the Ents are younger than I am, by many lives of trees. They are all roused now, and their mind is all on one thing: breaking Isengard. But they will start thinking again before long; they will cool down a little, when we take our evening drink. What a thirst we shall have! But let them march now and sing! We have a long way to go, and there is time ahead for thought. It is something to have started.’
“Treebeard marched on, singing with the others for a while. But after a time his voice died to a murmur and fell silent again. Pippin could see that his old brow was wrinkled and knotted. At last he looked up, and Pippin could see a sad look in his eyes, sad but not unhappy. There was a light in them, as if the green flame had sunk deeper into the dark wells of his thought.
“’Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,’ he said slowly, ‘likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. It was not a hasty resolve. Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song. Aye,’ he sighed, ‘we may help the other peoples before we pass away. Still, I should have liked to see the songs come true about the Entwives. I should dearly have liked to see Fimbrethil again. But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.’”
They choose to take an unselfish view, which gets rewarded. It so happens that when the arrive, Saruman has sent out most of his army to attack the Rohirrim at Helms Deep.
The chapter ends with Pippin noticing that the number of Ents seems to have grown. These we later learn are the Huorns, trees that have become like Ents, rather like Old Man Willow. Dangerous without Ents to supervise them, but also very useful if they are on your side.
Stepping back to take a wider view, Tolkien writing in the 1950s was ahead of most people in seeing raw nature as valuable. Treebeard is generous, while Saruman takes and does not give back. Treebeard is open in his separation from all other causes. Saruman has been playing off everyone against everyone else, and it about to be caught in his own webs.
Copyright © Gwydion M. Williams.
 Detailed in The Istari in Unfinished Tales.