Of the villain Treebeard and
the hobbit Trotter
The first phases of writing the Lord of
Gandalf imprisoned by Treebeard! What do we have here? A forgery of
of the ring? No, in fact, this quote is taken from the fifth-version
in the year 1939, as published in The Return of the Shadow
(aka The History of Middle Earth part VI).
(….)said Frodo. “I am wide awake now, and remember so many
want explaining.Why were you delayed? You ought to tell me that
“You will soon hear all you wish to know,” said Gandalf. “We
shall have the
council, as soon as you are well enough. At the moment I will
only say that
I was held captive.”
“You!” cried Frodo.
“Yes!” laughed Gandalf. “There are many powers greater than
mine, for good
and evil, in the world. I was caught in Fangorn and spent many
as a prisoner of the giant Treebeard. It was a desperately
for I was hurrying back to the Shire to help you.
On 19 december 1937 Tolkien wrote to his publishers: “I have written
first chapter of a new story about hobbits – “A long expected
when The Return of the King was first published in 1955,
years had passed. The changes that Tolkien made to the story during
years have been manifold. All the subsequent versions and changes
and explained by Christopher T. in The History Of Middle Earth
parts VI (The return of the Shadow), VII (The Treason of
Isengard), VIII (The war of the Ring) and IX (Sauron
Let’s try to get a picture of the maior changes between 1937 and
1937, Tolkien originally set himself to write a sequel to The
which was then just published . He did not like the idea
though, as can be seen in this letter, written by Tolkien in
“I don’t much approve of The Hobbit myself,
my own mythology (which is just touched on) with its consistent
– Elrond, Gondolin and Esgaroth have escaped out of it – and
to this rabble of Eddaic-named dwarves out of Volüspá,
hobbits and gollums (invented in an idle hour) and Anglo-Saxon
And indeed, what Tolkien starts out to do, is writing a story about
hobbits as a sequel to The Hobbit. He intends as its title “The
return of the Shadow”.
And initially it is his clear intention to leave out any clear
or relation to “his own mythology”, just as he had tried to leave
in the Hobbit. But he can’t keep that up. Gradually
“The mythology” – as already established by him in large manuscripts
like the Quenta Silmarillion
– becomes more and more the background for the story. And in the end
two perspectives of burlesque hobbiterie and epic elverie are merged
the synergetic result is The Lord of The Rings.
Thus it can be understood that the ranger that originally – in all
first versions – meets Bingo Baggins (>Frodo), Odo Bolger
Took (>Peregrin) and Marmaduke Brandybuck (>Meriadoc) at Bree,
who defends them at Weathertop against the ringwraiths and takes
to Rivendell is a hobbit (!) called Trotter.
When one reads the first versions of the Lord of the Rings,
from one astonishment into another. But still, so much of the
book is already there. Tom Bombadil is present from the first,
a “hobbit-story” figure, and completely inappropriate if the
would already have been a predominant perspective. He stays in the
as an enigma , defeating “the consistent mythology” of Tolkien’s Quenta.
What is so striking – and so typical of Tolkien’s specific writing
is that we find in the published versions many conversations,
etc. that were never changed from the start. What is changed is
background, the context, and to a far lesser degree the substance of
Most writers will typically start with outlines and backgrounds, and
then fill in the details. But with the Lord of the Rings,
Tolkien started with a story, which he then adapted to a background.
in the end the down-to-earth ranger-hobbit Trotter had to be changed
the Númenorean heir, descendant from Luthien and Melian. But
Trotter/Strider/Aragorns lines and words often stay the same. And
bravery, when Bingo (>Frodo) is attacked by the leader of the
At that moment Bingo threw himself forward onto the
ground, and he heard himself crying aloud (though he did not
know why): Elbereth! Gilthoniel! Gurth i Morthu.
At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy. A shrill
cry rang out
in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice
touch his shoulder.
Even as he swooned Bingo caught a glimpse of Trotter leaping out
of the darkness
with a flaming fire-brand in each hand. With a last effort he
Ring from his finger, and closed his hand on it.
Now this was written in 1938, so 17 years before the publishing of
the Lord of The Rings was concluded! And so were many more
parts, both essential parts and trivial details.
But what the ring was about, why Bingo/Frodo went on a journey at
where that journey would end or result in, all that still had to be
as the story progressed. The idea of old Bilbo’s ring being The One
Ring would emerge only later. And there is not a clue why the
and their Master want the ring, except that it is a ring gone
Originally, Bingo/Frodo goes on a journey because his inheritance
has run out and he is broke! In fact in the very first manuscript,
Bilbo himself who sets out to travel for that same reason
But that is of course not consistent with the promise made at the
the Hobbit: that Bilbo would be very happy till the end of his days.
in the second version it is an adopted cousin who takes his place as
hobbit starting on a journey to Rivendell.
For the Tolkien addict, reading the four volumes that constitute The
History of The Writing Of the Lord of The Rings is a thrilling
adventure. It appears that the definite change of scope in The
Lord of the Rings
– between the unexpected party at the start and the fields of the
at the end – is a feature of the story’s history. It started out as
hobbit’s story and ended as an epos of vast depth and implications.
For the sake of those of you who intend to take up reading The
Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The
War of the Ring and Sauron Defeated I won’t give away
any more spoilers.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Harper&Collins
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Harper&Collins
J.R.R. Tolkien, The History Of Middle Earth parts VI, VII,
VIII and IX, Harper