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Return to Hobbiton (chapter in The Return of the Shadow)

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The Return of the Shadow chapters

The First Phase

  1. A Long-expected Party
  2. From Hobbiton to the Woody End
  3. Of Gollum and the Ring
  4. To Maggot's Farm and Buckland
  5. The Old Forest and the Withywindle
  6. Tom Bombadil
  7. The Barrow-wight
  8. Arrival at Bree
  9. Trotter and the Journey to Weathertop
  10. The Attack on Weathertop
  11. From Weathertop to the Ford
  12. At Rivendell
  13. 'Queries and Alterations'

The Second Phase

  1. Return to Hobbiton
  2. Ancient History
  3. Delays Are Dangerous
  4. A Short Cut to Mushrooms
  5. Again from Buckland to the Withywindle

The Third Phase

  1. The Journey to Bree
  2. At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
  3. To Weathertop and Rivendell
  4. New Uncertainties and New Projections

The Story Continued

  1. In the House of Elrond
  2. The Ring Goes South
  3. The Mines of Moria

"Return to Hobbiton" is the title of the fourteenth chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.

Christopher begins this chapter by stating that his father had decided upon the "simpler story" he had sketched in his "Queries and Alterations" from the previous chapter. He created a rough outline of the opening chapter before rewriting it (for the fifth time), returning to the notion that the birthday party was Bilbo's, not Bingo's.[note 1]

In the outline J.R.R. Tolkien states that it is Bilbo who disappears on his 111th birthday. The first chapter is to be suitably altered up to the point where Gandalf and Bilbo enter Bag End. They converse, with Bilbo saying that his Ring has become wearisome, he is feeling stretched, he must get rid of it, and wishes to leave Hobbiton. He has no idea where he will go and asks Gandalf to hand the Ring to Bingo. Not wanting Bingo to worry or follow him he does not tell his heir about the disappearing joke he is planning. Bilbo says goodbye to Gandalf at the end of the chapter, handing him a package containing the Ring. In the second chapter Bingo will be the focus. Gandalf furtively visits and urges him to leave without saying why. Bingo does not speak of his desire to go look for Bilbo. Gandalf does not talk about the Ring; the Gollum business will appear at Rivendell.

Christopher interjects that the "suitably altered" parts of the first chapter are to fix the fourth version which was near the final form, but still having the Party as Bingo's 72nd, with Bilbo having quietly disappearing thirty-three years earlier. Also, other than providing fireworks, in version four Gandalf did nothing else.

Added to the chapter was Gandalf's encouragement of Bilbo and lively nephews and cousins to go walking about the Shire in untidy clothing, and the fact that people began to notice Bilbo's strange youthfulness. He adopts his favorite nephew Bingo when Bilbo was 99 and Bingo just 27. Actually Bingo is a first and second cousin once removed in either way and they share the same date for their birthdays. This genealogical fix got rid of the name Bolger-Baggins that Tolkien had decided was bad. Bingo had been orphaned at age twelve and then lived in the Great Hole of Bucklebury until he was twenty-seven. Twelve more years had passed and now with Bilbo's 111th birthday something unusual was planned for a birthday party.

In the party preparations the Men have been removed but the Dwarves and Elves are still included. Now appears the "short conversation" that Tolkien had mentioned in his Queries and Alterations: Bilbo and Gandalf enjoy looking at Bilbo's garden. Bilbo says he has made up his mind to get rid of It at last and that he is feeling stretched, like string that will not quite go round a parcel or butter scrapped over too much bread. While it may be hard on Bingo to receive the Ring Bilbo has no other idea what to do with it – he cannot destroy it, he cannot throw it away, and he does not want it.

The chapter continues with party preparations and the text is essentially unchanged except for substituting 'Bilbo' for 'Bingo' as the host of the party. The 'Gawkrogers' (later to become Goodbodies) are added to the guests. The Brockhouse family members come not from the Shire but all the way from Combe. Curiously, at this stage there are one hundred and sixty guests at the party, making Bingo forty-nine since Bilbo is one hundred and eleven. When he vanishes after his speech there is still no flash provided by Gandalf. Tolkien did change the number to one hundred and forty-four and added the flash soon thereafter.

The details of what Bilbo did after vanishing were now added. He changes his clothes and puts a bulky envelope with the Ring inside on the mantelpiece, marked 'Bingo'. He calls for the Dwarves who will accompany him, Nar, Anar, and Hannar (a fourth Dwarf, Lofar, is left behind to make sure Bingo gets the envelope). Bilbo gets to the bottom of the Hill before he encounters Gandalf. Gandalf is alarmed that Bilbo would be so careless about the Ring with Otho and Lobelia nearby. Bilbo fancies that Bingo will come back to Bag End first. Gandalf asks Bilbo where he is going and he is not sure.

Tolkien created two endings for the first chapter at this point. The first variant was much longer than the second and was heavily modified. The presents are listed, comments are made about the clutter found in Hobbit-holes, the Sackville-Baggins appear and demand to see Bilbo's will, which is given in detail. The rumour that all of the contents of Bag End were being distributed is mentioned. Bingo finds Lobelia investigating, ejects the three young hobbits, and fights with Sancho Proudfoot. In replacement text the final form of the text is nearly achieved although Lofar is still in the story. The second variant, not adopted, was quite short. The crowd that gathers the next day sees a sign warning all away except those on urgent business. The Sackville-Baggins get in and afterwards Bingo tells Lofar not to allow anyone in.

As the manuscript continues Bingo and Gandalf discuss some of the 'symptoms' of the Ring – the ability to disappear, Bilbo's longevity, and his restlessness. Gandalf advises Bingo to not use the Ring or at least not let it obtain any more power over him than can be helped. Also, he tells him to keep it secret. Bingo wishes he could immediately go after Bilbo although Gandalf thinks he should not try. Gandalf tells Bingo he plans to go off and find out about the Ring.

Tolkien then returned to the beginning of the chapter and wrote an opening in which the family history was communicated by gossip at the Ivy Bush inn. This new opening was quite short compared to the final version.[1]

In a short section appended to this chapter Christopher laid out the genealogy of Bilbo and Bingo as seen in the text so far. Much would later be added and some of the names would be changed.[2]

Notes

  1. Bingo Bolger-Baggins later became Frodo Baggins.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Second Phase: XIV. Return to Hobbiton"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Second Phase: XIV. Return to Hobbiton, [Untitled final section: Genealogy"