- This article is on an event in The Shire. For the second to last chapter in The Lord of the Rings see: The Scouring of the Shire.
Background EditWhile Frodo Baggins and company were away, Lotho Sackville-Baggins began a massive land grab with the money he had made from Pipe-weed sales to Saruman at Isengard. This gave him great power. Lotho, now calling himself the Chief, began to stretch forth his authority and sought to control the Shire for himself. With help from Dunlendings and goblin men sent from Saruman, Lotho took over control of the Shire, imprisoning many, including important folk. He then began industrializing the once green and agrarian Shire, causing much damage. Soon the deposed Saruman arrived and took full control and Lotho was deposed, imprisoned, and later killed by Wormtongue, and/or possibly eaten.
Before returning to the Shire, the five travellers stayed overnight at The Prancing Pony in Bree where they caught up on the last year's local events with the proprietor Barliman Butterbur. They learn that strangers from the South have come to settle in and around Bree much to the discomfort of the peace-loving Men and Hobbits indigenous to the region. Barliman is impressed to discover that Strider has been crowned King of Gondor. There was also a fight in Bree between Bill Ferny's friends and some Bree-men such as Mat Heathertoes.
Gandalf takes the four Hobbits - Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck, and Peregrin Took - part way to the Shire but detours to have a long talk with Tom Bombadil. He assures the four that their training in the War of the Ring will be sufficient to settle the troubles.
The Battle of Bywater Edit
When they discover that the evil they had fought in Mordor had come home to roost, they rouse the Shire and are able to kill or drive off the evil-doers that infested it. With the assistance of Farmer Cotton, Merry and Pippin lead the Battle of Bywater, the last battle in the War of the Ring, in which 19 hobbits died, and which in this battle, 100 (Half of the Isengarder force) were killed, the remaining Orcs and Wildmen retreated away from Hobbiton.
Saruman and Worm (Wormtongue's new nickname) come to their ends shortly thereafter, when Worm avenges a kick from his master by cutting his throat and is shot to death by Hobbits. An eerie column of mist arises from Saruman's corpse and is blown away in the wind, a scene reminiscent of Sauron's demise. Frodo covers the suddenly shriveled skull of Saruman and turns away.
Despite Tolkien's much-publicised dislike of allegory, this chapter can be viewed as the most directly allegorical component of the book. The transformation of the Shire from rural idyll to industrial wasteland heavily parallels Tolkien's own views of the destruction of the English countryside by the steady creep of industrialisation. In particular, the loss of the old Mill in Bywater, only to be replaced by a much larger, grimier version, mimics an event from Tolkien's childhood. Tolkien himself commented that the symbolism lay in the feeling of loss he felt after returning from the First World War, to discover that many of his close friends had died, and the world he remembered from his youth had largely disappeared.
Book vs. movie Edit
The Scouring of the Shire is among the most prominent scenes not featured in the theatrical release of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, except for one part of it which is shown in the Mirror of Galadriel in "The Fellowship of the Ring". However, later scenes of Frodo's return to the Shire in "The Return of the King" show the Shire as completely unchanged, so within the film adaptation it is intended as an alternate future that was avoided. But in the Fellowship of the Ring movie foreshadowing scene in the Mirror of Galadriel, the scouring of the Shire is shown, but instead of Ruffians, there are Orcs that serve Sharkey in battle armor with Whips, torches, and Axes, and they send the hobbits to workhouses. Samwise is shown in a chained line of hobbits also.
The extended edition of The Return of the King also references the Scouring of the Shire. In a scene exclusive to the extended edition, the party from Helm's Deep arrives to interrogate Saruman for information on Sauron's plans. During the interrogation, Theoden attempts to reach out to Grima, but Saruman strikes Wormtongue. In anger and retaliation, Grima stabs Saruman in the back (as opposed to slitting his throat from behind as in the book), and Legolas quickly shoots him (referencing Wormtongue being shot by hobbit archers).