Difference between revisions of "Red Book of Westmarch"

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[[Category:Books and documents within the legendarium]]
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[[de:Rotes Buch der Westmark]]
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[[fi:Länsikairan Punainen Kirja]]

Revision as of 23:25, 9 September 2022

"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
This article or section needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of article quality.
The name Westmarch refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Westmarch (disambiguation).
Red Book of Westmarch by Jeff Reitz

The Red Book of Westmarch (sometimes Red Book of the Periannath) is the book in which the legendarium of Middle-earth was written. It is bound in red leather.


The first Red Book was written as a diary by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and recounted his quest for Erebor, which he called There and Back Again. Within it, he also compiled Elven lore while retired in Rivendell. He later gave the book to his kinsman and heir Frodo Baggins.

Frodo organized Bilbo's manuscript and used it to write down his own quest during the War of the Ring. The title page has many titles, some crossed out:

My Diary. My Unexpected Journey.
There and Back Again.
And What Happened After.
Adventures of Five Hobbits.
The Tale of the Great Ring,
compiled by Bilbo Baggins from his own observations and the accounts of his friends.
What we did in the War of the Ring.

(as seen by the Little People; being the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo of the Shire,
supplemented by the accounts of their friends and the learning of the Wise.)
Together with extracts from Books of Lore translated by Bilbo in Rivendell.

In addition to the memoirs of the two Hobbits, the book contained Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish, legends from the Elder Days, and various Hobbit poems. A lot of background information on the realms of Arnor, Gondor, and Rohan was added to it by Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck from their contacts in Rohan and Gondor. Other material was provided by King Elessar.

After Bilbo and Frodo left for Valinor, the Red Book passed into the keeping of Samwise Gamgee, the Mayor of the Shire. When he also departed for the Sea, he left the book to his eldest daughter, Elanor Fairbairn, and her descendants (the Fairbairns of the Towers or Wardens of Westmarch).[1]

The original first volume was Bilbo's private diary, and attached to it, in a single red case, were the three large volumes bound in red leather: the Translations, which he gave to Frodo as a parting gift. The Fairbairns added a fifth volume containing commentaries, genealogies and various other matter concerning the Hobbit members of the Fellowship of the Ring.[source?] These elaborated trees, intended only for other Hobbits, are a small book in themselves.[2]

Several copies, with various notes and later additions, were made for the use of Samwise's descendants, and copies were passed on to future generations, of which one, the "Thain's Book", is the most important.

The original version of the Red Book contained the story of Bilbo's journey as it originally stood: thus, Gollum willingly gives the One Ring to Bilbo, and there is no trace of the Ring's hold over Gollum, something that he never corrected, and persisted in other copies and abstracts, as probably the keepers of the Book were unwilling to make alterations to Bilbo's own text out of respect. But other later copiers of the Book (based on notes by Frodo or Sam) wrote the true account, in which Bilbo comes across the Ring by accident.[3]

Loose leaves record some poems, possibly from oral tradition, and many jesting nonsensical ones are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces by many hands. In the later Ages they were unintelligible or half-remembered fragments. Some were attributed to Samwise Gamgee or Bilbo himself, and others displayed contact with Elvish and Gondorian culture.[4]

In the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien's foreword claimed he had translated the Red Book from the original Westron into English, and that claim is still implied in later editions of The Lord of the Rings, notably in Appendix F, part II "On Translation". It therefore must be supposed that copies of the book survived through several Ages. Tolkien says nothing about how he gained access to one or more copies of the Red Book and how he learned Westron and other languages of Arda.


"But most of all he [Tolkien] found delight in the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang, especially the Red Fairy Book, for tucked away in its closing pages was the best story he had ever read. This was the tale of Sigurd who slew the dragon Fafnir: a strange and powerful tale set in the nameless North."
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p. 22

Tolkien's inspiration for this repository of lore was the real Red Book of Hergest, the early 15th century compilation of Welsh history and poetry that contains the manuscript of the Mabinogion. Bound (and rebound) in red leather, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the manuscript was well known to Tolkien. In the lecture "English and Welsh," published in The Monsters and the Critics, he called it "“one of the treasures of Medieval Welsh.” Another possible echo is the Black Book of Carmarthen.[5]

Portrayals in adaptations

2001-2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

The framing device of the series is that Bilbo serves as a narrator and chronicler of the War of the Ring, writing new chapters and notes into the Red Book of Westmarch during his stay at Rivendell. It is also implied that Frodo eventually compiles his notes and storytelling into the final volume during the years before his and Bilbo's departure from Middle-earth and Frodo's entrusting of the Red Book to Sam.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

In the extended edition, Bilbo is writing in the book (working on the prologue) in Bag End. It reappears in Rivendell, where he shows it to Frodo.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Frodo entrusts the book to Samwise just before he leaves Middle-earth.

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

As part of the framing of the movie, Bilbo starts the writing of the book.

2021: The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War:

As part of the tutorial, Gandalf bring the Red Book of Westmarch to the player bar, and once every day, it allows you to play through a part of the history of Middle-earth, as well as gives you rewards in the form of resources as well as item used to recruit captains.

External links