Queries and Alterations

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

"Queries and Alterations" is the title of the thirteenth chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.


At this point in the writing of The Lord of the Rings (after Bingo and the others had reached Rivendell) J.R.R. Tolkien created a series of notes with the title Queries and Alterations. Up until this point Bilbo's heir has been name "Bingo". In these notes Tolkien considered changing his name to "Frodo" (which he was already using for another hobbit in the party) but rejected the idea. However, Tolkien now abandoned the writing of the book for some time and when he returned the name "Bingo" had been replaced by "Frodo", thus indicating that these notes were written about the same time as the early manuscipt. There are fourteen of these queries and alterations, starting with the issues raised by Bingo meeting Glóin in Rivendell.

  1. Dale Men and Dwarves at Party: Tolkien notes that this rather spoils the meeting of Bingo and Glóin because Men at Bilbo's Farewell Party (or helping to set it up) would certainly have told Bingo news from Dale. Tolkien felt it unwise to bring Big People to Hobbiton.
  2. Too Many Hobbits: Tolkien begins to think that Bingo Bolger-Baggins is a bad name for his hero. He considers changing the name to Frodo, making him the son of Primula Brandybuck and Drogo Baggins. Tolkien then struck out "Frodo", stating "I am now too used to Bingo". Should the character Odo[note 1] be left as heir and in charge of Bag End? And argue with the Sackville-Bagginses? Frodo Took[note 2] must come because he brings the news of the Black Riders coming to Bag End. But Frodo remains at Bucklebury and only Merry and Bingo go on. Cut out Odo. All of the foregoing, from "too used to Bingo" onwards, was struck out and in the margin Tolkien wrote the name "Sam Gamgee", the first appearance of the name.
  3. Gandalf Against Bingo Telling Anyone Where He Is Going: This note was jotted in pencil then struck out. Bingo will take Merry. Bingo does not want to cause pain for Odo or Frodo. Bingo tells them goodbye, Frodo (Odo) meets what looks like a hobbit coming to Bag End, and tells him Bingo is off to Buckleberry. Thus the Black Riders know where Bingo is headed. Christopher calls this the embryo of the episode of Gaffer Gamgee meeting a Rider.
  4. Sting: Did Bilbo take Sting or his armor? Possibilities include (a) Bingo has the armor but loses it in the Barrow, (b) Gandalf urges him to take the armor but since it is heavy it is left in Bucklebury, or (c) Bingo takes it along, it saves him in the Barrow, but it is stolen at Bree. The point is that Bingo cannot be wearing armor on Weathertop when the Black Rider stabs him.
  5. Bree-folk Are Not Hobbits: Tolkien thought he might move the Hobbits' dislike of upstairs here (instead of prior to the visit to Farmer Maggot's house). Because of this dislike the landlord gives the travelers a hillside room with second floor windows level with the ground. This was a reversion since Tolkien originally had Men in Bree, then made them all Hobbits, and now he reconsidered Men again.
  6. Who Is Trotter?: Perhaps Rangers should not be hobbits. Trotter[note 3] should either not be a Hobbit or should be someone well known, possibly Bilbo although that is awkward. Perhaps Trotter is Fosco Took, Bilbo's cousin who went adventuring due to Gandalf.[note 4] He must have some bitter experience with Ring-wraiths. Christopher says this is the first hint that Trotter would eventually not be a Hobbit.
  7. Bingo Must Not Wear the Ring: Earlier Tolkien had Bingo putting on the Ring to avoid detection by a Black Rider. Now his conception is that this action would be the worst thing Bingo could do. Bingo must think about it but be prevented each time, and the temptation must increase.
  8. Reasons for Gandalf's Unease and Bingo's Flight: Some reason must occur that does not involve Black Riders since Gandalf did not yet know of their coming. Perhaps using the Ring at the Party was Bingo's idea and contrary to Gandalf, instead of approved by him.
  9. Why Was Gandalf Hurrying? : Because he was known and hated by the Dark Lord. He had to get to Rivendell quickly and thought he was drawing pursuit away from Bingo. He also knew about a council there. Christopher Tolkien thinks that this is the point at which the Council of Elrond was conceived.
  10. Should Elves Have Necromancer-Rings?: Elves live in both worlds, but perhaps only the High Elves of the West do so. Perhaps Elves would use the rings differently. Earlier Tolkien had said that there were Elf-wraiths but that the Ring-lord could not control them.
  11. Bingo Sees Bilbo at Rivendell: Bingo must see Bilbo – is he sleeping? In retirement? Shadows gathering in the South. Lord of Dale corrupted? What happened to Balin, Ori, and Óin? They went to colonize rich hills in the South, but no word has been heard of them lately. One idea: A Ring is needed as a foundation for a hoard. Perhaps the dwarves received threats from Mordor. Christopher says that the "rich hills in the South" is the first appearance of Moria.
  12. Bilbo's Is the One Missing Ring: All others had come to Mordor. Make Bilbo's Ring taken from the Dark Lord himself when Gilgalad wrestled with him and was taken by a fleeing Elf. This Ring was the most powerful. Tolkien here links Gil-galad's wrestling with the Necromancer to Gollum's Ring, fallen from the hand of an elf swimming across a river. The Ring betrayed the elf to goblins who slew him. This is the beginning of the story of Isildur. Tolkien wrote, "Why did the Dark Lord desire it so?" meaning what were its powers, and penciled in that its power depended upon the user and how often he used it. Gollum just used it to hunt and it made him wretched. Bilbo used it sparingly but it drove him to wander again. It would treble Gandalf's power but he dare not use it. An elf using the Ring would grow nearly as mighty as the Dark Lord but would himself turn dark. Tolkien then added that this Ring would make the Dark Lord the master of the masters of all the other Rings. Christopher comments that here the central idea of the Ruling Ring emerges at last.
  13. Simpler Story: Tolkien wrote: Bilbo disappears on his 100th (written above: 111) birthday party. Bingo is heir, annoying the Sackville-Bagginses. Back up a month or so for the conversation of Bilbo and Gandalf. Talk dies down and Gandalf is seldom seen. Next chapter: Bingo's life, Gandalf's furtive visits, their conversation. Bingo, bored, decides to go looking for Bilbo. The money is running out. He sells Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses and leaves at age 72. Gandalf encourages Bingo to leave and warns him not to use the Ring. All of this was struck out and replaced by: Bilbo disappears (putting on the Ring) at his 111th birthday party, leaving Bingo as his heir. Years later, Gandalf talks to Bingo at Bag End. Bingo decides to leave with Gandalf encouraging him, but without telling him much except to not use the Ring. This too was struck out. Tolkien still planned to include a flashback chapter, having Bilbo and Gandalf discuss the history of the Ring, separate from Bingo and Gandalf's discussion.
  14. Memoirs: Bilbo carries his memoirs to Rivendell.[1]


  1. Odo Took later becomes Peregrin Took.
  2. Frodo Took later becomes Samwise Gamgee.
  3. The ranger-hobbit Trotter would eventually become Aragorn.
  4. Fosco Took disappears but later his first name is used for Fosco Baggins.