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Old 06-20-2005, 07:41 AM   #1
Frodo Baggins
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Question Why Entwives?

My dad and I spent Father's Day watching The Two Towers extended edition. (what better way to spend Father's Day?). He had an interesting thought which made me think. Why are the lady Ents called Entwives? As Dad said, "wife" denoted some kind of covenant or bond. Why not just call them Ent women or she-Ents or Entesses or Ent Ladies or lady Ents or Ent lasses? Any thoughts on this? I certainly cannot think of a thing.
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Old 06-20-2005, 08:21 AM   #2
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You know, I'd never thought of that before, but "entwife" does suggest a certain reliance on ents. It's like my mom always says when I introduce her. "Fea, when you introduce me as "this is my mom", they have no idea how to address me." It's as though my sheer unthinking sort of strips my mom of any identity besides "Fea's mom".

I wonder if that was intentional on Tolkien's part, to make Entwives so attached even though they are so distant. Perhaps that's the very reason.
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Old 06-20-2005, 09:23 AM   #3
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It could be a philological point. If I am remembering correctly, I think there is a language where the word wife means 'housey woman.' Or is it woman and 'housey wife'? Turkish? I'll have to look that up.

Well, I am serious about that phrase representing a point about language rather than any cultural or social attempt on Tolkien's part to subsume the female ents totally under their role as partner. Rather funny, though, as they are claimed to be so domineering over their gardens, that they should be so 'owned' themselves.
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Old 06-20-2005, 10:06 AM   #4
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Perhaps 'Entwife' was the Ents' name for them, but not their name for themselves?

I had been taught that 'wife' was simply a cognate for 'woman', I suppose with the added sense of ownership, as Bethberry alluded to. Of course, that marital ownership thing does cut both ways, I believe, in historically Germanic cultures.

My sense, in answer to Fea, is that an Ent calling his "spouse" Entwife is tantamount to saying that there is an insuperable connection, and the ownership does stretch both ways. The Ents are saying they can't really do without the Entwives, which, of course, is quite correct, despite the ability of Trees to turn into Ents.
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Old 06-20-2005, 10:09 AM   #5
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I thought that wife just meant woman originally -as in midwife meaning "with woman" ...
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Old 06-20-2005, 10:20 AM   #6
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Right you are Mithalwen and littlemanpoet. As the venerable OED claims:

Quote:
A woman: formerly in a general sense; in later use restricted to a woman of humble rank or of low employment. (J), esp. one engaged in the sale of some commodity. Now dial esp. in compound words such as Ale-wife, Apple-wife, Fishwife, Old wife, Oyster wife.
See, a point about language.
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Old 06-20-2005, 10:46 AM   #7
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Well, the reason may have already been determined, but I think a major point was forgotten: maybe it sounded better.
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Old 06-20-2005, 11:41 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Right you are Mithalwen and littlemanpoet. As the venerable OED claims:



See, a point about language.

Or as I did not have time to mention at lunchtime ... the unforgettable "Wife of Bath"
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Old 06-20-2005, 11:49 AM   #9
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Oh Mithalwen! Who can forget the Wife of Bath! How many times was she married? Five? Six?

I was forgetting, Bethy, that in some languages wife and woman can be used interchangeably. Take the Gaelic "bean" (pronounced Ban) which can mean either wife or woman. You could say "This is my wife" or "This is my woman". I'm not sure about Entwves being of low rank or humble employment.

Hmm, maybe to the lady ents the Ent men were called Enthusbands?
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Old 06-20-2005, 01:06 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mithalwen
Or as I did not have time to mention at lunchtime ... the unforgettable "Wife of Bath"
Ah, but there, Mithalwen, I'm willing to bet, 'Wife' really does mean 'wife', for as Frodo Baggins has admirably pointed out she seems to have made quite the career of 'serial monogamy', bless her witty tongue and ever-loving heart.
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Old 06-20-2005, 02:04 PM   #11
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Well it is too long since I studied her tale for A-Level .... but while I remember one husband was Jannekyn I am fairly sure none of the others were called bath. Teh womann of Bath was she and not a lowly one either ( do any other Archers fans think Lilian Bellamy?) . As for the number of husbands she had - well I cannot resist saying that it rather depends if you mean just her own ...


Of course in German Mann means husband as well as man. I remember when I visited German friends, Frau had travelled separately since she had to collect someone else and when she arrived at the venue... she wanted to look inside to see that Herr, and I and her Aunt Lise-Lotte had arrived already arrived without giving up her ticket explaining to ticket collector "Ich besuche mein Mann" (I am looking for my husband" However he heard it as "Ich besuche ein Mann" (I'm looking for a man) and answered (and this goes too far beyond my skill ) "There are lots of men in there - take your pick!"
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Old 06-20-2005, 05:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo Baggins
Hmm, maybe to the lady ents the Ent men were called Enthusbands?
I hunch me that with a roll of their deep green eyes they might have called them 'those wandering treeherds'. Or however that might be rendered in Entish......

"Baroomba basnarenend narenend narenoomenend besmearentend blankety blankety blank et cetera tera tera tera ra ra ra ra besombrained nitroombawits"

Or something like that....
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Old 06-21-2005, 09:13 AM   #13
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Maybe it has to do with the translation from Entish. Perhaps in Old Entish, they called them Ent-women, but it changed to Entwife when going to elvish.

Yet here's another thought. The Entwives seemed to stay out of the forests, generally so they could tend their gardens. Perhaps the only time the Ents cared about these Ent-women, was when they became in love and got married. In which case, it would be proper for the Ents to refer to only their wives as Entwives. Although that term would be excluding all other female Ents who had not become married.
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Old 06-21-2005, 07:37 PM   #14
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I do beleive that entwives are the names for only the married ents, not for all female ents, because in the book, in the chapter Treebeard, Treebeared describes at least his entwife in the past tense referring to her as "when she was an entmaiden" or something along those lines. So I beleive there is a distinction, but I beleive by that time there probably were not any entmaidens left, all just entwives
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Old 06-22-2005, 02:12 PM   #15
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Wives/women

In Norwegian as well, mann means husband as well as man, and kone (and also the slighty less formal kjerring ) means both wife (usually this) or (old) woman. Like arcticstorm pointed out about the entmaidens, the term kone won't be used about young women, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the woman is married.
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Old 06-23-2005, 06:31 AM   #16
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Good on you for referring to the OED Bb -- I agree: this is a point of language.

But you neglected to give the translation for "ent" which is Old English for "giant". So the names of the actors involved are "giant" and "giant-woman".

But I can't help but think that Tolkien liked the use of "wife" insofar as he was aware of the modern connotations of the word, and of the resonances that it would have with his audience.
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Old 06-26-2005, 11:08 AM   #17
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Perhaps also the modern meaning of "wife" heightens the sorrows of their separation - makes it seem more profound and "unnatural" - the separation of spouses rather than genders. It empahsises the individual personal tragedies within the widser catastrophe for the species.
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Old 06-27-2005, 12:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Rather funny, though, as they are claimed to be so domineering over their gardens, that they should be so 'owned' themselves.
It's kinda like that today.

Quote:
Perhaps 'Entwife' was the Ents' name for them, but not their name for themselves?
Quote:
Hmm, maybe to the lady ents the Ent men were called Enthusbands?
Maybe that's it. Much like the hobbits. They call themselves hobbits, but most men call them halflings.
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Old 11-19-2005, 07:17 PM   #19
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Question

Gurthang, you mentioned that Ent-woman could have been translated as Entwife to Elvish. Is the Elvish word for woman the same as the word for wife? I think wive in Sindarin is Hervess but I do not remember.
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Old 11-19-2005, 07:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo Baggins
Gurthang, you mentioned that Ent-woman could have been translated as Entwife to Elvish. Is the Elvish word for woman the same as the word for wife? I think wive in Sindarin is Hervess but I do not remember.
Then you probably know better than me, because I have not studied into translation at all. I was simply giving a theory I had just thought of. I was really rather hoping that someone more knowledgable would come and either confirm my thought or set me straight.
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Old 11-19-2005, 09:06 PM   #21
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To me, the term 'Entwife' gives me a sense of a responsibility that the Entwives had for the Ents and vice versa. It adds to the idea of abandonment; the image of a 'married couple' that comes from the word 'wife' makes it feel wrong for them to be gone. It brings me to a moral dilemma, about marraige and leaving. Perhaps Tolkien meant it to do this?
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