From Hobbiton to the Woody End

From Tolkien Gateway
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

From Hobbiton to the Woody End is the title of the second chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.

"This tale grew in the telling…"
― The first phrase in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings[1]

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

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."[2] Christopher Tolkien stated that "The 'unpremeditated turn', beyond any doubt, was the appearance of the Black Riders."[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]