Barliman Butterbur

From Tolkien Gateway
Barliman Butterbur
Man of Bree
"Barliman Butterbur" by John Howe
Biographical Information
Other namesBarley
LocationThe Prancing Pony, Bree
Birthlate Third Age
Physical Description
Hair colorNone
ClothingWhite apron
GalleryImages of Barliman Butterbur

One thing drives out another, so to speak. I’m that busy tonight, my head is going round. There’s a party that came up the Greenway from down South last night – and that was strange enough to begin with. Then there’s a travelling company of dwarves going West come in this evening. And now there's you.

Barliman Butterbur was a Man of Bree who was the owner of The Prancing Pony.

A short, fat, red-faced Man, he appeared to have had a rather bad memory.[1]


The Prancing Pony in Bree was kept by the Butterbur Family for many generations and Barliman inherited it before the War of the Ring.[2] He had two hobbit employees: Bob, who worked in the stables, and Nob, a servant.[1]

During the War, Gandalf wrote a letter to Frodo and told Barliman to send it to Hobbiton. Barliman could not find anyone for the task, and eventually forgot the letter altogether, leaving Frodo uncertain as to Gandalf's fate and causing him to start his journey much later than the letter indicated.[3]

He did not remember it until autumn, when Frodo and his companions arrived to stay at the inn, and even then it was long before the connection was made. He did, however, remember to produce Strider's credentials.[3]

During the night of the hobbits' stay, the inn was attacked by the Black Riders. Barliman was dismayed by the terrible events of the night, and was further upset in the morning, when he discovered that the stable-doors had been opened, and all of the horses and ponies kept there had escaped. As compensation, he purchased the only pony found to be available from Bill Ferny, who demanded at least thrice its proper price. This he gave to the hobbits along with eighteen silver pennies, although the loss of the money was a harsh blow to him. Fortunately, many of the horses had only been set loose, and were found again later. Merry's ponies fled to Tom Bombadil, who eventually returned them to Barliman for use at the inn.[4]

When Gandalf finally arrived at The Prancing Pony, he was furious with Barliman's forgetfulness, but quickly forgave him when he found out the Hobbits were alive. He even went so far as to put a blessing on his beer.[5]

After the War of the Ring, Barliman was amazed to learn that Strider, a former patron of the Prancing Pony, had become king of Gondor and Arnor.[6]

Other versions of the legendarium

In the first version of the events at the Prancing Pony, written in pencil, the name of the innkeeper was "Timothy Titus", a name from an old incomplete story by Tolkien (in which the character bore no resemblance to Mr. Butterbur). "Timothy Titus" was written over in ink with the name "Barnabas Butterbur" in Tolkien's manuscript and was created as a very fat Hobbit before he was subsequently changed into the man called "Barliman".[7]


Barliman means "barley-man", a suitable name for an ale-brewer.[8]

Portrayal in adaptations

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Barliman was voiced by Alan Tilvern.

1981: BBC Radio's The Lord of the Ring:

James Grout provided the voice of Butterbur. Grout played what is a fairly minor character with great panache, and much of his garrulous dialogue from the book is intact, especially in the longer 1982 episodes. Butterbur also appears in the penultimate instalment when the returning company stop off at Bree.

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

He is played by David Weatherley, although the character is not named and most of his scenes from the book (including the reference to Gandalf's letter) are not in the film.

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

The voice of Barliman Butterbur is provided by Július Satinský.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Barliman is a non-playable character that can be found at the Prancing Pony. The player meets with him during Volume I Shadows of Angmar, Book I: "Stirrings in the Darkness".

2010: The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest:

Butterbur appears briefly at the start of the Bree mission, where he informs Aragorn that he might learn the location of the Hobbits by asking around town.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

Barliman Butterbur is the inn-keeper, and can be found behind the bar in the Prancing Pony. He tells the player news about troubles in the south, and Southerners who have come lately to Bree, and information about the Prancing Pony, that it almost exists as long as Bree.[9]
"Butterbur, Sr." in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

2013: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:

Though he does not appear in the film, a character credited as "Butterbur, Sr." appears in its prologue running the bar at the Prancing Pony -- apparently meant to be Barliman's father, thus implying the inn was a family-run establishment.