Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The Scouring of the Shire
When they arrive at Brandywine, they find that a gate has been erected and that guards are posted to keep outsiders away. The Shire has fallen under marital law. Merry recognizes one of the Hobbit guards, who is please to see them alive but has orders from "The Chiefís up at Bag End" that he must obey. It seems that Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who bought Bag End, has instated himself as Chief.
When Merry and Pippin climb the gate they are accosted by the Chiefís Big Man, who opens the gate and runs away, never to be seen again. The Hobbits enter the Shire and are given a list of "donít doís" which they ignore. They make themselves at home in the guardhouse, where they learn from the guards that life in the Shire is anything but pleasant. One of the guards tells them that food and drink are scarce, all of which is either kept for the Chief and his people or is being sent out of the Shire.
The next morning the Hobbits make straight for Hobbiton, but are arrested by a "Shirriff" who tells them that they are to be handed over to the Chiefís Men. They are also told that all the inns are closed, because they have been converted into quarters for the Sheriffs and no drinking is allowed. Also there are spies all around to inform Lotho of all the Shire happenings. Many of the sheriffs have no choice but to join up with the Chief because if they donít they are put in Lock-holes and even beaten up.
The arrested Hobbits go along with the Sheriff and his escorts, noticing along the way that the Shire is ugly and overgrown with weeds. Some men tell them that Lotho Sackville Baggins is only working for Sharkey, who is the real boss. They mock the Hobbits, who tell them that the Kingís men will be coming soon to restore order. When Pippin pulls his coat back and draws his sword, the men are scared.
Frodo tells his companions that he wants no blood spilled. He suggests that Lotho Baggins may be in trouble too, if Sharkey is the real cause of the problem. Sam goes off to Tom Cottonís farm to check up on Tom, Mrs. Cotton and Rosie, their daughter. Merry blows the horn and wakes the Hobbits of Bywater. Tom is happy and surprised to see Sam, as is his daughter Rosie, who has long been in love with the good- natured Hobbit.
The villagers assemble with axes and firebrands; they build barricades and enlist the help of others opposed to the police state the Shire has become. The leader of the ruffians is killed by Merry and the others surrender.
When this skirmish is over, the Hobbits have time to survey the real damage at the Shire. Samís nightmare has come true. Everything is ruined and his father has been kicked out. He is living with Farmer Cotton. Samís father tells them that after Frodo left, Lotho began buying up the Shire bit by bit and sending foodstuff abroad. People who opposed him were locked up and food was taken away. Lotho became Chief, but even he was not as bad as Sharkey, who even locked up Lothoís old mother.
Samís father scolds Frodo for selling Bag End, but Frodo soothes him by telling him of their adventures and Samís new hero status. Before the day is up Pippin gathers many of his relatives and they stand ready to challenge the gathering ruffians. In the Battle of Bywater, seventy ruffians and nineteen Hobbits are killed. When the fighting is over, the good Hobbits return to Bag End to salvage their homes.
With a start, Frodo realizes that "Sharkey" is actually Saruman, who had warned them of his misdeeds in the Shire. Saruman laughs, insisting that he must be spared because of his former greatness. As Frodo is about to banish him, Saruman tries to kill him. Frodo still spares him, cheating him out of his revenge. Now the miserable Saruman owes his life to Frodo.
When Frodo offers Wormtongue forgiveness, Saruman says that Wormtongue has killed Lotho. Wormtongue comes out of his hiding place and kills Saruman. The old wizard shrivels up till only his bones are left. The bones rest right at the doorstep of Bag End.
The Shire has been scoured of evil, but it has yet to be restored to its original glory. Saruman, who recognizes that the Hobbit has become a great leader, compliments Frodo. But Saruman offers a gloomy prediction, which is that Frodoís life will be far from easy. The narrative is submerged in this though, but only momentarily. Regrowth is about to occur.