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Extremely old1
On the western bank of the river Withywindle in the heart of the Old Forest; his power was said to extend throughout the trees of that forest
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 July 2021
  • Updates planned: 1


The dark-hearted tree on the banks of the Withywindle

During the earlier history of Middle-earth, the lands westward of the Misty Mountains were filled with a dense green forest. The trees of that ancient wood stretched for hundreds of miles, broken only along the courses of rivers running down from the mountains. Within it the trees grew old and ancient, and some of them began to awaken.2

These ancient trees had grown undisturbed for centuries when, in the middle of the Second Age, they suddenly found themselves confronted by an enemy from across the Sea. The Númenóreans, needing timber for their ship-building, began cutting down the forest. Wide swathes of woodland fell to the Númenóreans' axes, so that within a matter of centuries, the wide forests had been almost entirely lost, leaving only enclaves on its northern and eastern fringes.

One of these surviving patches lay in the northern lands of Middle-earth, a small wood known to the local people as the Old Forest. Within it lurked a willow tree of immense age, one of those more 'awake' than those around it, and it nursed a deep hatred for the beings who had torn down its forests. This great dark-hearted tree came to be known as Old Man Willow or the Willow-man.

The Willow-man's power extended throughout the trees of its reduced domain. When a colony of settlers established themselves on the wood's western edges, the trees moved against them, and these people, the Bucklanders, were forced to defend themselves by building a stout Hedge along their border.

Those who wandered into the Old Forest placed themselves in great peril, as Frodo Baggins and his companions discovered during the early stages of their journey out of the Shire. Wandering down into the valley of the Withywindle under the malign influence of the Willow-man, they were drawn to the tree and came close to disaster. They were only saved by the fact that the Willow-man was not the only ancient power in that part of the world, and though the tree was strong, the strange being known as Tom Bombadil was even stronger. Thus the Hobbits were rescued from the Great Willow's malice, but the brooding tree remained, awaiting further venturers into its forest domain.



Based on comments from Tom Bombadil (who seems to place the Willow-man among the 'fathers of the fathers of trees' - The Fellowship of the Rings I 7, In the House of Tom Bombadil) this willow tree apparently dated back to the times when forests covered the lands of Eriador. This would make him at least several thousand years old at the end of the Third Age.


According to Treebeard, it was natural for some trees to stir into wakefulness and become more 'Ent-like' over the years, and this seems to have been the origins of the Willow-man's growth into a powerful presence in its own right.


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 July 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

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