Aug 18 2021, 12:39am
Tolkien, with his usual economy, barely describes the Ents. To supplement the sparse text, I guess every fan has their own visual image, influenced by fan art, the New Line films, and their own preferences and imaginations about the fantasy genre.
It's a very difficult subject
For myself I much prefer a more humanoid form, taking into account Tolkien's references to bark-like skin and twig-like beard roots. The Ents are one of the Free Peoples, like the Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits, as they themselves say in their list-song that Treebeard recites to Merry and Pippin, so they should look like a variation on the Children of Eru.
To me, they should be very tall men of different weights and heights and types of hair and coloring, in line with the different families of trees that they tend - but they should not look like walking trees with branches and leaves as you have noted in Lee and Howe's interpretations (not to mention very many others).
I admit there are several weaknesses to my ideas - one is that when Treebeard was standing on his hill behind the two hobbits he appeared much more like a tree than a man; and Treebeard notes that some Ents have become "tree-ish" in a kind of metamorphosis.
My best response is that, as we know that shape-shifting is possible in Middle-earth (Beorn, Radagast, Luthien, etc.), it would seem that Ents can, if they wish, assume a far more treelike form under certain circumstances.
It's not ideal, but one artist's approach that agrees with mine, I think, is that of the late Angus McBride, below:
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