Treebeard stood in the clearing, looking down at the frightened child. She crawled backwards on the ground, away from the imposing creature, until she ran into what she assumed was another tree. When she turned around, however, she saw it blink. She scrambled to her feet and looked around. Her eyes rested on the one thing that wasn’t a tree: a white rock, tall and slender, sticking out of the ground like a sundial. Laramir made for it and scurried to its top.
Suddenly a deep laugh resonated through the hills, like Gandalf’s but deeper and older. “Do not worry, little child. I will not harm you. We are vegetarians–or mineral-tarians, I suppose. At any rate, we do not eat little girls, that much is certain.
Laramir still looked worried. “But what are you? And what are you going to do?”
“I am an Ent. The Ent, you might call me. Your Gandalf undoubtedly named me as Treebeard, for that is what what I am called in the world atside, or at least I was called by that name whent the world outside still spoke of me. But here in the depths I am called Fangorn: for I am the heart of Fangorn, and Fangorn is the heart of me. I and the others like me were created years ago to protect the trees, who because they cannot move cannot run.”
During this whole conversation Laramir had been sliding slowly off her rocky perch and now stood at Fangorn’s roots. She looked up at Gandalf, a question, in her eyes.
“Well, you have met the Ent,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied. It was worth the journey, just for you to meet Treebeard. If you spent much time here, you might begin to see more deeply. And wouldn’t your father love that.” He chuckled, then turned to the Ent. “Treebeard, this is Laramir, child of Denethor, High Steward of Gondor who rules there until the King returns. She was born with the name Mellawyn, but when her mother died took the name Laramir: Lara, from her mother’s name, Mellaura; and -mir, because just before her mother died Mellaura promised to teach Mellawyn how to read Elvish. Her father wanted to honor that promise–though he couldn’t see any purpose in anyone learning that Elvish, let alone a girl, and feared the language, as it had cost him his brother–but he himself could not read it, and he could not find a tutor willing to teach a girl. He did find one scholar, learned and respectable, but also liberal enough to teach a girl if it meant the honor of teaching the steward’s children.
“So for two years now Laramir has been studying with her brother Faramir everything that Gondor’s boys learn. And now Denethor has a problem: he has a son for a daughter.”
Treebeard did not respond immediately, but instead stooped over the frightened girl. He stared into her eyes and examined her clothing. Only then did he turn to Gandalf. “A problem? All children are precious, Gandalf, whether they be daughters or sons. Too precious to drive them away. I know that full well, and you know that I know, which is, I suspect, why you brought Laramir to me. But I can see in a country where such things matter this would be a problem. Yet not necessarily so. Is she really a son? Pants do not make the boy. And if she is a son today, was she ever really a daughter?
“Hrum-ha-rum-rum. You seem to understand her quite well, Gandalf. Well enough, peraps, for both of us. But we must not be too hasty. I must learn these things for myself, and that will take time.”
“Treebeard, after all our years of friendship, hastiness is the last thing I would expect of you. Of course, take Mellawyn and learn what you can about her. And with her safe in Fangorn I can concentrate on weightier matters. Your neighbor to the south is very learned in ring-lore–“
“Saruman. Yes, he is a neighbor. That I cannot forget. But hardly neighborly, and not one I would ask for advice.”
“And the steward would not have me leave his daughter withsomeone he had never met,” Gandalf replied, “let alone with a race he had never seen, nor even heard of except from me. But in these dangerous days, we all do things we wouldn’t in safer days. Nothing I regret, of course, but I cannot afford all the safeties I might prefer.”
“You have grown rash, Gandalf, in your old age. Rash, but not hasty. I understand. Seek Saruman, if you feel you must.”
“Good. You will watch Mellawyn, and learn what you need to. I will travel to Orthanc, and learn what I need to, Eru willing. I will return within the week, or at least send word. Now I believe you have our horses.”
Suddenly a great wind went out through the trees. The leaves fluttered, and the trunks groaned. The wind seemed to circle through the whole forest and return to Treebeard. A horse came galloping up.
“Your horse, Gandalf. Laramir’s I have sent on to Rohan. There he will have good pasture and better company, until he is needed again.
Gandalf turned and mounted his horse, then faced Laramir. “Treebeard is a good friend of mine. True, he is intimidating, but you are completely safe here. Trust him!” With that the wizard slapped his horse, yelled “Hyah!” and galloped out of view.