From Hobbiton to the Woody End
|The Return of the Shadow chapters|
On 4 March 1938, J.R.R. Tolkien sent a letter to Stanley Unwin, reporting that "The sequel to The Hobbit has now progressed as far as the end of the third chapter. But stories tend to get out of hand, and this has taken an unpremeditated turn." Christopher Tolkien stated that "The 'unpremeditated turn', beyond any doubt, was the appearance of the Black Riders." In "From Hobbiton to the Woody End" this crucial moment in the writing of The Lord of the Rings is revealed.
In the first draft of this chapter, which continues onward from Version IV in the opening chapter, Bingo Bolger-Baggins (who would later become Frodo Baggins) and his three nephews – Drogo, Odo, and Frodo – leave Hobbiton and head out on the East Road directly for Rivendell, which Bingo has visited before. Tolkien then dropped Drogo and redirected the hobbits to Buckland via the road to the Woody End. On this road Bingo heard a horse coming, the hobbits hid, and a white horse carrying a bundle appeared. Coming closer, the bundle was actually a small man so cloaked and hooded that only his eyes were visible. The figure stopped, sniffed, and laughed! It was Gandalf, wanting a word with Bingo.
At this point the draft stopped and Christopher believes it was because his father was suddenly struck by the idea that the horseman was not Gandalf. Penciled changes in the draft showed the change: The horse's color went from white to black, the man was wrapped in a great black cloak and hood, and his face became entirely shadowed. Bingo's aimless lark has suddenly become an adventure.
The chapter continues with a new start, with the title "Three's Company and Four's More". The text reads more like the eventual third chapter of the finished story although the names and personalities of the hobbits will be much altered. Notable differences include: When the Black Rider draws near, Bingo puts on his Ring to hide and the Rider does not see him. Nephew Frodo mentions having met a Black Rider months before up in the North Moors who was asking for Baggins. When the Elves appear they sing in the "secret elf-tongue" and later Gildor says that Bingo is "a scholar in the elf-latin". When Bingo talks with Gildor he says that Gandalf told him nothing before he left.
Christopher Tolkien comments that much of the details of what would eventually become "Three is Company" is already in place although countless modifications will be made. 'Bingo' will become 'Frodo'. 'Odo' will become 'Pippin', although Christopher says the process was "strangely tortuous" (to be described later in the book). Nephew Frodo disappears but bits of him will resurface in the character of Sam. Although Gandalf has told Bingo nothing about the Black Riders and the hobbit has no reason to associate them with the Ring, the dark hints of Gildor indicated new ideas occurring to Tolkien as to the future course of his story. Christopher emphasizes that the Riders and the Ring were evolving as his father wrote. Without the eventual "The Shadow of the Past" chapter, Christopher says that these scenes are "empty" compared to the final "Three is Company", but the details of the scenes will be preserved in the published tale.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Foreword to the Second Edition"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 26, (dated 4 March 1938)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: I. A Long-expected Party, [Untitled section: Notes on letters"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: II. From Hobbiton to the Woody End"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: II. From Hobbiton to the Woody End, [Untitled final section]"