Merry and Pippin hurry deep into the forest. They stop for a brief moment to assess their situation.
It ain't good. As they drink from the Entwash, which they have been following, they notice that the forest is dark and very still, without an animal in sight.
Plus, their supplies are low: they just have a few lembas cakes left; they don't even have blankets. Not good.
They see a yellow light in the distance and head for it, because hey, they don't exactly have a plan here.
Soon, they reach a bare hill, and scramble up the rock to get a view and a breath of fresh air.
Merry and Pippin don't even notice that their small aches and pains have been healed. Hmm. That's strange.
Merry does notice that the wind is changing, and Pippin says it's a shame—he almost feels as though he likes this forest.
A voice behind him comments wryly: "That's good! That's uncommonly kind of you" (3.4.19).
Then, out of nowhere, two arms turn them around and lift them up.
Merry and Pippin find themselves looking at a tall creature almost like a man, but more like a tree. Uh. Come again?
Its eyes are remarkable: it looks as though there is "an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking" (3.4.21).
Okay, now for a proper introduction: the creature is an Ent. In Elvish, he's known as Fangorn, but in the common tongue, folks just call him Treebeard. Sounds about right.
The Ent, for one, has never seen anything like Merry and Pippin. We're thinking that goes both ways.
He wants to know what they are so he can categorize them in his list of creatures.
Pippin explains that they are hobbits: "Half-grown hobbits, the hole-dwellers" (3.4.28).
Treebeard asks what's going on—and what is Gandalf up to? He wants to know because the rise of "young Saruman down at Isengard" (3.4.35) is really bugging him. He knows Gandalf as the only wizard who really cares about trees. Maybe he can help.
Unfortunately, Merry and Pippin are the bearers of bad news: Gandalf has died.
He tells them that many of the Ents are growing "sleepy, going tree-ish" (3.4.58). On the other hand, many of the trees are getting lively and more like the Ents.
The Ents are tree-herds, and they try to keep an eye on these waking trees, which can be very dangerous to the unwary (like Old Man Willow in the Old Forest, in The Fellowship of the Ring).
The elves are the ones who first woke the Ents, back before the Great Darkness came (see the Silmarillionfor details). But now, those elves have traveled out of Middle-earth and the forests are diminishing.
They reach the base of a cliff with a small hollow near a stream. This is Treebeard's home, Wellinghall, near the roots of the Last Mountain. Not too shabby, says Shmoop.
Treebeard offers Merry and Pippin a drink like water, but it is way more refreshing. It makes them feel like it is bringing vigor to their whole bodies. Hey, can Shmoop get a sip?
Treebeard asks them for their tale, so they start off with the Shire and keep going in no particular order.
Treebeard, for one, is interested in the Shire. He asks them if they have ever seen any Entwives in their country, because the Entwives would totally dig the Shire.
Merry and Pippin have no idea what he is talking about. To be fair, neither do we.
Then, Treebeard gets right to the point: what's going on with Saruman and Gandalf?
When he finds out that Uglúk and company came from Isengard, he gets downright wrathful. We're talking serious anger.
Apparently, the Ents try to stay neutral in these kinds of wars, but the orcs are starting to attack the forests, which is beyond uncool.
Treebeard knows Saruman. In fact, the two were buddies. Saruman used to come walk with the old Ent.
But that was before Saruman turned into a Class-A jerk. The evil wizard is even breeding orcs to be more like men. Creepy.
Treebeard can't take it anymore. All this harm to the forest has got to stop, so he thinks about whom he can gather to help.
There are not many Ents left, but the younger ones may join in the fight.
When Pippin asks if many of the Ents have died, Treebeard tells him that the Ents don't die at all. Over time, they can grow sleepy and tree-ish.
The problem is that the Entwives have disappeared, so there are no new Entings, or baby Ents (which we bet would be adorable).
See, the thing is, the Ents love the wild country of the forests. But the Entwives adore cultivated land: gardens and orchards (like, say, the Shire). That means they have never been able to live together.
Apparently, after the first war against the Great Enemy, the Entwives' gardens blossomed and they grew famous for their skill with cultivation.
But during the war between the Last Alliance and Sauron (in which Elendil and Isildur feature; see The Fellowship of the Ring for more on this history), the war destroyed their gardens, which are now called the Brown Lands.
Back then, Treebeard went to find Wandlimb, his love, but she was not there. In fact, none of the Ents have been able to find any of the Entwives, and they have grown old searching for them.
Treebeard takes this opportunity to sing a sad, elven song about the loss of the Entwives, and Merry and Pippin curl up to sleep to the strange lullaby.
The next morning, Treebeard takes the hobbits to the Entmoot, which is a gathering of Ents.
Treebeard takes them to a clearing walled by a tall evergreen hedge, where a small number of Ents have already gathered.
Merry and Pippin are surprised to see that the Ents look very different from one another, as different as different species of trees look.
They listen to the Entish language, which is very slow and rolling. When Pippin yawns, Treebeard turns to him and apologizes.
The business of the Entmoot is slow, so he sends Merry and Pippin to walk for a bit, if they'd like.
As they mosey around nearby, Merry describes Isengard to Pippin. There is a ring of rocks around a central tower, Orthanc.
Merry for one can't figure out what the Ents will do against Isengard, but he is sure that they would be intimidating if they ever set their minds against anything. Would you want to mess with a tree?
Merry and Pippin feel out of place among these Ents, and the poor little hobbits really miss the Company.
Treebeard approaches and tells them he has found them a companion: Bregalad, who "is the nearest thing among us to a hasty Ent" (3.4.133).
While the Entmoot goes on (the meeting lasts three whole days), Merry and Pippin wile away the hours at Bregalad's nearby home.
Finally, the Ents reach a decision, and with a song that sounds like pounding drums, they set off for Isengard.
That may have taken three days, but both Treebeard and Pippin are impressed with how quickly the Ents rallied around the cause.
Now, all the Ents at the Entmoot are totally and completely determined to stop Saruman's destruction of the forest. They will break Isengard down, no matter what it takes.
And, frankly, it might take a lot. Treebeard admits sadly that it is likely that this will be the last march of the Ents.
Still, they can't stay home and do nothing.
Pippin looks back and sees that the trees are rising up to join the Ents to march on Nan Curunír, the Valley of Saruman. Isengard or bust.