The Barrow-wight

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

"The Barrow-wight" is the title of the seventh chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Christopher Tolkien prefaces the text of this chapter with a discourse on the state of the draft text. His father began with a penciled draft in which the hobbits awake next to the standing stone and ride down into the fog. A version in ink repeats this draft, adding the description of the northward view to the dark line in the distance. This inked draft ends with a penciled plot-outline that descends into illegibility. Christopher then presents the plot-outline since it reveals his father's intentions up to Rivendell.

Tom Bombadil sings and awakens the hobbits. Tom blesses or curses the gold from the mound and lays it upon the ground. Tom leads them to the East Road and departs. The hobbits reach the inn and hear news of Gandalf. Tolkien notes that the rest of the journey is to be told rapidly. The hobbits visit Bilbo's trolls, which delays them. Approaching the Ford of Bruinen the Black Riders chase them. The hobbits make it across the ford but the Riders are right behind. As they enter the water the river floods and the Riders draw back just in time. The hobbits ride on quickly to Rivendell. There they find Bilbo and Gandalf and a consultation with Elrond is held. The outline ends with a title: "The Quest of the Fiery Mountain".

As Christopher notes in comments, at this point Strider does not exist and Weathertop is not present. The title at the end is the first mention of the goal of the adventure.

When the full manuscript of this chapter was written it was very largely in the final form that became Book I, Chapter 8: "Fog on the Barrow-downs". Instead of repeating the whole chapter, Christopher shows what was different before the published version: After the hobbits become separated in the fog and Bingo[note 1] cried out "Where are you?" the other hobbits responded "Here! Here!", and the party is reunited. Tolkien quickly rejected this section and substituted, "There was no reply". The first version of the incantation in the barrow was replaced. There is originally no mention of the history of the swords that Tom chooses for the hobbits to wear; a later penciled-in note states that men out of the west from long ago, foes of the Ring-lord, made them. Tom Bombadil guesses that the Riders were now seeking the hobbits among the barrows so it would be safe for them to go on to Bree. As for the inn (first the "White Horse" with "Prancing Pony" written above), Tom tells them that the keeper was a good man and "Just you mention my name and he will treat you fairly". The innkeeper is named Barnabas Butterbur instead of Barliman.[1]


  1. Bingo would later be renamed Frodo.