Archive for the ‘8 – The Scouring of the Shire’ Category

And so, he’s had enough. After Wormtongue is offered the chance to stay in the Shire, Saruman mocks him. The fallen wizard says that Wormtongue isn’t such a nice guy. Everyone’s wondering where Lotho is, and Wormtongue knows. In fact, Wormtongue killed him.

Wormtongue won’t deny that, but he’s unhappy that Saruman made him do it. After Saruman kicks him in the face, Wormtongue lunges, pulling a knife, and slits Saruman’s throat. Wormtongue is killed as well by hobbit archers as he runs out.

Bag End sure isn't as nice as it used to be.

Bag End sure isn’t as nice as it used to be.

Saruman’s body decays rapidly, and his death creates a foggy smoke that rises above Bag End before being blown away. Again, he was a Maia, and in truth a very old and powerful being. We don’t get to see firsthand what happens with Gandalf’s “death” at the summit of Zirakzigil, but perhaps something similar occurred. Whatever it was, I find this line interesting: “For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.” Saruman’s soul, or whatever it is, looks to the west, where the Valar dwell in Valinor. He hopes to return there, but is denied. His evils have taken their toll, and a force comes from the west to blow him away. It’s very symbolic, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this could be what happened.

And this brings an end to this chapter. I fully believe that only one remains. We have merely 11 more pages!

“‘And that’ll take a lot of time and work.'”

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Remember those times in high school (or around those younger years) when things would go down at school? Everybody would crowd around, of if it was one of those times you got called down to the principal’s office, they would all go: “Ooooooooohhhh!” really obnoxiously? This is one of those times, but for hobbits.

The hobbits are pressed against the windows of Bag End to see what happens inside.



Inside, Frodo holds serve with Saruman. Frodo very much wishes that no harm comes to Saruman, even through all the evil that he’s done. In fact, Frodo commands Saruman to leave, and Saruman agrees. He calls for Wormtongue, and the two begin to shuffle out.

BOOM! Saruman tries to knife Frodo. Thankfully, Frodo’s wearing mail under his clothes, and no harm is done. Sam and other hobbits jump Saruman with intent to kill. Frodo still refuses this, and Saruman does actually walk out. On the way, Frodo calls for Wormtongue to stop following this toxic wizard.

So, just in case you were wondering, Saruman is indeed very good at sleight of hand.

"I wasn't trying to kill you at all! I promise!"

“I wasn’t trying to kill you at all! I promise!”

Though I highly doubt that the hobbits outside are all applauding his tricks. Rule #1: don’t turn around and stab the dude who just gave you your freedom and your life. It reflects poorly on your character. And people probably won’t like you anymore.

No one dies today.

“‘You can have rest and food here for a while, until you are stronger and can go your own ways.'”

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Cue dramatic entrance.

This is an appropriate time for a gif.

This is an appropriate time for a gif.

As our four hobbits sniff around the mess of Bag End, Saruman appears, laughing. He details how he made plans to come conquer the Shire after meeting the hobbits on the road. They all seemed so pleased with themselves, happy to return home. But Saruman? He has no home to return to. TIME TO MESS WITH THEIRS.

That’s basically the logic. He also goes on to say that he could have done much worse with more men and more time. Blah, blah, blah, monologue, monologue, monologue.

I find humor in the fact that this is all that Saruman is reduced to. He was once one of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth, but now he finds himself pleased with making mischief for revenge on four hobbits. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

He also totally fails to comprehend how his plans are already unraveling. The Shire is reuniting, and it won’t take long for the hobbits as a whole to rebuild what’s been destroyed. Saruman really wants to see the hobbits suffer, and he hopes that it will take more than their lifetimes to undo what he’s done. Too bad. It won’t take all that long at all. Hobbits are resourceful folks.

Everything is cool when we're part of a team.

Everything is cool when we’re part of a team.

What else is Saruman wrong about? He thinks his nickname, Sharkey, is a term of endearment. It’s not, really. Today there’s a small footnote that explains what I said earlier: “sharkû”, in the Orc-tongue, means “old man”. I don’t exactly see that as endearing. Blinded by pride, this one is.

No one dies today.

“‘Go at once and never return!'”

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For a brief moment, I entertained the idea of starting today’s post off with some admission that I’m actually Mark Zuckerberg or something, and this has all been an elaborate social media experiment. April Fool’s! But no, I decided not to do that.


Please, be my friend.

Please, be my friend.

I’m not. Let’s talk about Lord of the Rings.

The four hobbits arrive at Bag End, but not before Ted Sandyman accosts them with mockery. The profiteer off the new mill laughs at them, calling Sam soft, and hiding behind his friendship with “the Boss”. He cowers when the full escort of hobbits march up behind Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, and that’s that. They approach Bag End, its yard filled with rubbish and hastily built huts.

One more thing: Sam notices that they cut down Bilbo’s party tree.

Gasp! The party tree! I have a special place in my heart for this tree, because one of my roommates, on a trip to New Zealand in college, collected a pinecone from the enormous tree that the scene in the movie was filmed under. We had it in our apartment for quite some time. It was awesome.

You know the tree.

You know the tree.

Meanwhile, Ted Sandyman fills in as one of our early antagonists who continues to suck. He’s benefited greatly from the changes in the Shire, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Thankfully, he’s just as cowardly as all the ruffians (well, Bill Ferny, at least), and backs down at the first sign of trouble. Too easy.

No one dies today.

“The place stank and was full of filth and disorder: it did not appear to have been used for some time.”

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No, no, not the book and everything. We still have two more weeks of that. What’s over? Just this battle. The Battle of Bywater! Epic.

The page begins with the cleanup of the battle. Some 70 (70!) ruffians were killed, along with 19 hobbits. The ruffians are buried unceremoniously in a pit, and the hobbits in a grave that would later be marked with a stone and garden. Hobbits like gardens.

Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin ride back to Bywater with the Cottons, and discuss their next steps over lunch. It’s clear that they must now strike out against Sharkey, and Farmer Cotton prepares an escort to bring them to Bag End. The road there is depressing, with familiar buildings in disarray or completely torn down, and new ones rising bleak from the rugged earth. The Shire is in a bad way.

Sometimes, that one new building just doesn't fit in with the rest.

Sometimes, that one new building just doesn’t fit in with the rest.

First Mentions:

-the Battle Pit: The mass grave of the ruffians, which gets a way cooler name than it deserves.

-the Battle of Bywater: That was this battle! It has a name now, so it’s official.

-the Greenfields: A battle in the Shire some 300 years ago. It was here that, through victory, Bullroarer Took invented the game of golf.

-the Red Book: What a meta moment! The Red Book of Westmarch is the volume in which Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures are detailed. This is the first time we’ve heard about it in a direct, official sense.

-the Old Grange: A granary in Hobbiton that’s been torn down.

As I noted above, the mention of the Red Book of Westmarch is a strangely meta-textual moment. On the page, we’re talking about the way that the hobbits remembered the participants in the Battle of Bywater, which becomes legend. The names of all present are written in the book, and historians vow to commit them to memory. Of course, the book is much more than that. Bilbo’s “first edition” contained his story of the journey to the Lonely Mountain, edited in part to detract from the importance and treachery of the ring, which he was keeping secret from many at the time of his writing. He entrusts this book to Frodo at their last meeting in Rivendell in hopes that he will edit things up a bit. (We saw this not too long ago!) A second edition is created, this time with Frodo’s story added. Numerous other editions are made and passed down, until supposedly the book (or a copy of it) comes into J.R.R. Tolkien’s keeping. He translates it to English, and these great stories are told.

The cover of Bilbo's book is indeed subtly red.

The cover of Bilbo’s book is indeed subtly red.

Of course, this is all a fiction. The stories came from Tolkien’s imagination, not an ancient book in a strange language. However, there’s nothing wrong with finding some magic in it.

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I mean, after all, what if it were true?

No one dies today.

“Bagshot Row was a yawning…”

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More hobbits fighting! You’d never have guessed this would happen from the beginning of the book, what with all the hobbits living such peaceful lives. When angered, they can put up quite the fight.

It's probably a lot like this.

It’s probably a lot like this.

Hobbits arrive in number from Tookland with Pippin at their head. They vastly outnumber the ruffians headed their way, and it’s discovered that the ruffians lack leadership and any ounce of battle sense. Merry devises a quick plan to trap them, and it works like a charm. The ruffians find themselves hemmed into a spot on the road blocked by hedges on either side, and upturned carts in front and behind. Hobbits encircle them, and Merry calls for their surrender. It doesn’t work so easily. Some ruffians break out, fighting and killing hobbits in desperation. Many are shot or hewed down, and those escaping towards a wooded area for cover will soon run into more hobbit hunters. Merry and Pippin lead a charge that captures the remaining fighters.

So, this isn’t without some loss. Despite Frodo’s insistence on peace, some ruffians must be killed, and they take some hobbits with them. It isn’t a slaughter on either side, but some do fall. In truth, these men are loose cannons, desperate to stay alive at all costs. They live and die by the sword.

Unfortunately for the ruffians, their lack of knowledge is their greatest weakness. Without tactics, they are easily outnumbered and outmanned. Merry might not be the greatest military tactician, but he learned enough in his time with the army of Rohan to outsmart a few score brigands and scoundrels. That’s all it takes.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:


This is a fantastic word. That is all.

“Then he drew his forces off, encircling the last remnant of the Men in a wide ring of archers.”

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The return of Sam! He bursts back in with his father, who seems to be alright. The Gaffer gives his greetings to Frodo, but scolds him for selling Bag End. That is, of course, the very reason why all of this trouble started in the first place. He then asks if Sam proved adequate in their travels. Frodo boasts about Sam’s accomplishments, both to sate the Gaffer and impress Rosie Cotton, who’s smiling right at Sam.

Smooth move, Sam.

Smooth move, Sam.

The group settles down for the night, and are woken by news of the ruffian movements. A messenger comes from Tookland to relay news of the fighting in that area, and that Pippin is coming back to Bywater/Hobbiton with hobbits that his father can spare. In contrast, Merry comes with news that ruffians are on their way here, close to 100 of them, adding strays as they go along.

If you can, picture the ruffians as a magnet. Where they go, straggling wayward men latch on. They form this huge clump of ne’er-do-wells, like a Katamari ball of evil. Does that make sense?

Just your normal, everyday videogame.

Just your normal, everyday videogame.

Don’t fret about the ruffians, though, because it’s much more fun to envision Frodo as the Shire’s best wingman. He’s just recently gotten home from a whirlwind journey that took him (and Sam) to the edge of death, and he still has the wherewithal to notice that he can score some major points for Sam with Rosie with some simple bragging. When you add in that it also functions to tell Sam’s father about his usefulness, Frodo kills two birds with one stone. Get that dude a high five.

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The Gaffer uses ruralisms, too! Runs in the family.

No one dies today.

“‘If Tooks don’t come sooner, we’d best get behind cover…'”

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The ruffians are bad enough that they can even make Lobelia Sackville-Baggins a pitiable victim. That’s no small feat. Let’s learn how.

In short, logic has been used seldom in the takeover of the Shire. Lotho’s plans originally seemed to be making things run more efficiently, even if they meant lost jobs and destruction of trees and homes. Some people were fine with changing their ways. Others weren’t. However, things have only gotten worse since the arrival of the mysterious “Sharkey”. Pollution is growing, and more and more hobbits find that distasteful.

You tell 'em.

You tell ’em.

Even Lobelia Sackville-Baggins has some concerns. She sees some ruffians one day heading up to Bag End, and gives them some scolding. She ends up getting hauled away just like all the other agitators, but I think that Lotho is powerless at this point to help his own mother.

Would Bilbo find this funny? Yeah, probably. He really hates those Sackville-Bagginses. They were our first true antagonists, remember.

This seems to bring to an end the story being told by Farmer Cotton. In fact, it’s his son Tom who brings up Lobelia’s predicament. It was a nice story-time while it lasted.

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It’s very, very important to note that “umbrella” has an extra syllable in the Shire. I have no idea how this would translate into a hobbit-Rihanna cover, but I would assume that concessions would have to be made.

No one dies today.

“‘They’ve took others we miss more, but there’s no denying she showed more spirit than most.'”

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Sam’s going off to go grab his father and bring him to safety. Our hobbits are splitting up!

Mitosis of hobbits.

Mitosis of hobbits.

That leaves Frodo and Merry, who listen to Farmer Cotton’s story of how Lotho Sackville-Baggins took control of the Shire.

It began shortly after Frodo and his friends left the Shire, with Lotho now entrenched as the owner of Bag End. He had quite a bit of money inherited from his father’s (Otho Sackville-Baggins) holdings of land in the Southfarthing. Lotho began to buy more property across the Shire, and Hobbiton in particular. He also started shipping goods out of the Shire, notably the pipe-weed. Hobbits started to be bothered by this, but that was when Lotho’s cavalry arrived in the form of the ruffians. They set about making rules and shutting the locals down. When the Mayor of the Shire, Will Whitfoot, had seen too much, he made up his mind to go to Hobbiton and have a talk with Lotho, but he was taken and locked up before he had the chance. Others soon followed him. Things got worse from then on, with Lotho ruling the Shire unchecked.

The structure of today’s page brings back something we haven’t seen in some time: storytelling! In the beginning, this was all over. Gandalf told stories of the earlier ages, and he, Elrond, and others told tales at the Council of Elrond. We got used to hearing stories of previous events in long form. It hasn’t happened so much lately, with little time to sit down and listen.

I got a little tired of the long tales early on, but now I welcome Cotton’s story. Storytelling is the root of all this, of course. Hey, don’t forget that the framing device of the entire novel is that it’s really being written down as Frodo’s memoir. It’s all just one big story-tell!

Did someone say framing device?

Did someone say framing device?

Finally, I want to have a little talk about political-economic themes. Yeah, let’s do that.

Lotho takes over the Shire with a simple act of capitalism. In a sense, he’s an old-money hobbit. He has lands to profit off of from his father, and it sounds like some of those must be some of the most profitable lands a hobbit could have: pipe-weed fields in the Southfarthing. When Saruman comes to power at Isengard, he needs an ally to supply his growing forces. He purchases pipe-weed, among other things, from Lotho, which makes Lotho a lot of money. Lotho then buys more land and goods. Saruman can then buy those goods from Lotho. The cycle continues until Lotho owns most of the Shire, and Saruman has himself a strong foothold there. He can send men to support Lotho when they no longer fit his needs at Isengard.

And so, Lotho buys the Shire. It’s all in the economics.

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Yeah, the very first word of this page betrays us all.

No one dies today.

“‘There wasn’t no smoke left, save for the Men; and the Chief didn’t hold with beer, save for his Men, and closed all the inns; and everything except Rules got shorter and shorter, unless one could hide a bit of one’s own when the ruffians went round gathering stuff…'”

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This page number is probably a binary code for something secret and exciting, but I have no idea what it is.

I mean, I could look up what “1011” is in binary, but it’s actually probably not secret or exciting, so I don’t care all that much.

Hobbits at war!

Battle hobbit!

Battle hobbit!

The hobbits pull out their plan, which is surrounding the ruffians and demanding that they leave. The ruffian leader chooses to fight, and he chooses…poorly. In trying to rush Merry, the leader gets pumped full of arrows. The remaining 19 men surrender quietly, and get tied up. End of scene.

Afterwards, Sam asks Farmer Cotton about the condition of the Gaffer, his father. Cotton says that the Gaffer, while getting old, is seemingly doing alright. He’s lost his home, but the Cottons are caring for him, even though it’s AGAINST THE RULES.

Screw the rules! ANARCHY!



We’re told that there’s some 200 hobbits present to ambush the ruffians. That’s a lot. And the ruffian leader tried to get away, still pridefully thinking that he and his men would have no problem against such numbers. He was wrong. DEAD WRONG.

And just like that, the ruffians showcase their cowardice. It was that easy, though I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be so. Maybe a little more effort? Well, these guys are pretty awful, and I don’t mind them being dealt with quickly and easily. Remember, of course, that we don’t have all that much time to go. I haven’t said it in a while, but things are proceeding quickly to the end!

“‘I’d have had him with me, but that wasn’t allowed.'”

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