The History of The Lord of the Rings: The Scouring of the Shire

As noted in the last post, this was originally part of the last chapter of the book called “Homecoming.” Gandalf announces to the guards at the gate who he is and gives the last names of the hobbits. They learn Cosmo Sackville (later Lotho S-B) is Mayor and Chief Shirriff. Gandalf tears down the notices on the gate. Tolkien later thought the wizard should remain at Bree, rather than come to the Shire. There is no mention yet of his leaving to see Tom Bombadil.

The original version of the Scouring of the Shire is far different than the truth Tolkien later discovered, especially concerning Frodo’s much more aggressive role in it. Sharkey is the name of the leader of the ruffians from Isengard who trades words with Frodo. The Ring-bearer updates the man about the fall of Sauron and Saruman and the return of the King. Frodo tells the man, “You are the fingers of a hand that has been cut off, and arm and body too are dead” (Sauron Defeated 83). 

After Sharkey and some of his men come to the farm of Jeremy Cotton where the hobbits stay the night, Frodo kills Sharkey and another, while his companions and Farmer Cotton kill others.

In another version, Frodo kills Sharkey at Bag End. Sam is glad his master wielded the last stroke of the war.

Frodo and Sam have a lovely little argument about who is the greatest hero, a theme I’ve had fun using several times in my fanfic. Sam says he doesn’t think Frodo has received as much praise as he should. Frodo replies, 

‘You’ve been far more neglected yourself. There’s never only one hero in any true tale, Sam, and all the good folk are in others’ debt. But if one had to choose one and one only, I’d choose Samwise.’

‘Then you’d be wrong, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam. ‘For without you, I’m nothing. But you and me together, Mr Frodo: well, that’s more than either alone.’ (Sauron Defeated 102)

Earlier drafts of the Battle of Bywater have no hobbit casualties. Only in the third draft, do some hobbits die, with many more ruffians. Also here Frodo completely takes the role he does in Return of the King. The revelation of Saruman as Sharkey and his death at Bag End occurs in the second draft.

So, what do you think? Who is right about who is the greatest hero?

Picture of both heroes from LOTR Framecap Library


The History of The Lord of the Rings: The Scouring of the Shire — 2 Comments

  1. I think Sam was right when he said (in the draft quoted above) that he and Frodo were greater together than either could have been alone.

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