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Old 06-09-2007, 11:27 PM   #1
MatthewM
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Tolkien The Scouring of the Shire

"The Scouring of the Shire" is probably one of my favorite chapters in the books. Many people I find do not like it, but they do not understand the significance it shows for each hobbit- Pippin shows what he has learned after leaving the Shire as a fool hearted Took, Frodo shows the utmost of mercy that he has learned, contrasting his initial feelings about Bilbo and Gollum ("it's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him when he had the chance" (movie quote, although in the book I recall a very similiar statement made)), Sam is reunited with Rosie, and Merry...well...Merry always had his priorities together, I feel. He gained leadership and more authority, for sure. I feel like the chapter is essential to show the coming full circle for all the hobbits.

What are your opinions on this chapter? Is it one of your favorites as well?
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Old 06-10-2007, 11:34 AM   #2
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It's a great chapter, in my opinion. You forgot one thing with the hobbits from the Fellowship, and that's the Sam-Ted Sandyman issue. "Samwise strikes back". The same goes with Bill Ferny. But for me, the most important effect on a hobbit's fate or even the biggest movement in the view of the reader on a certain hobbit is in the case of Lobelia. When she is brought from the Lockholes, she turns from a troubling neighbor into a figure with whom the reader feels compassion.

But, of course, the best of the entire chapter is Saruman himself. Of course when you read it even for the first place, you suppose it was him who did all this mess (or do you?) - but speaking for myself, his sudden appearance succeeds to "surprise" me every time. And he is just wonderful! I mean, he's totally cool! You know, if you imagine this guy standing in Bag End? You know, that Saruman from Orthanc, the one you know from before as an enemy, the master of the Uruk-hai? Now I am not speaking of realizing his fall or how poor he now is, no, quite the contrary: it is as if, for example, Elvis Presley came to your house while you've been away. Now what he does, what he says on the few lines... he is just great! (It's not that I admire anything he did or something like that, but I just love him as character.) And his death scene? This is probably the most thrilling moment, comparable for me maybe only with the entrance into the Morgul-valley, and also the moment where we are nearest to the "transcendental" in the whole book.

However, there is also that Frodo-GrÝma thing, where you can see, as it was already mentioned, the ultimate pity. It is also the last moment where Saruman is shown mercy, and he rejects it, even attacks the one who offers it: but is given mercy once more. I think no person was offered mercy as many times as Saruman (counting the situations where his power was already broken, then these were by Gandalf in Orthanc, then once again after the end of the war, then in the Shire) and when we are speaking about mercy, we are very often forgetting him and instead think too much of Gollum (who was offered mercy only once, where he accepted it. I'm not of course deprecating the question of Gollum, but emphasising the case of Saruman).

So in general: yes, I give this chapter seven stars out of five, and PJ is a loser (although it's maybe better that he did not do the chapter, since he'd surely ruin it, which will in turn ruin my heart )
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Old 06-11-2007, 09:46 AM   #3
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I personally have one problem with it.
It's hard to read about some small fight in the Shire after you read about great battles in Beleriand and the rest of M-e against Melkor and Sauron.
It's also the reason why Tolkien stopped writing anything about new possible threats in Gondor during Eldarion's rule. It just wouldn't be the same.
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Old 06-11-2007, 11:03 AM   #4
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Well, from my point of view (but it is how I feel it), I cannot agree. First, I think what you say about the "small fight" is not comparable. If you'd read it right after the Silmarillion, of course you cannot compare it, the same as you cannot compare battle at Morannon - ha, ha, some few thousands of losers - with the War of Wrath. But a common reader, supposedly, sits down and then reads all the volumes of LotR, and he is in this story now, and when he comes to the last chapter, it just logically fits with the rest of what he read before. And that some thousands of years ago some folks did this and this, who cares? T˙rin also killed Brodda, and who says it is a problem to read about it when you know his father fought the troll-guard of Gothmog? If you take it from the perspective of a reader, there is a battle in the Shire, a home of those you know, and a place you know and are really familiar with it from the story. And the hobbits - those who just sit and smoke their pipes all the time - are now confronted with something the main characters experienced, but they did not - the "real world". And in this the chapter is interesting, because you now see another point of view - these guys just saved the world and all Gaffer Gamgee says is that it's about time that they are back and that they should've never sold Bag End. "And while you're been trapessing in foreign parts, chasing Black Men up mountains from what my Sam says, though what for he don't make clear, they've been and dug up Bagshot Row and ruined my taters!"

Simply, you cannot think of Thangorodrim when you read about the Shire.
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"But it is not your own Shire," said Gildor. "Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out."
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Old 06-11-2007, 11:54 AM   #5
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Tolkien

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc
these guys just saved the world and all Gaffer Gamgee says is that it's about time that they are back and that they should've never sold Bag End. "And while you're been trapessing in foreign parts, chasing Black Men up mountains from what my Sam says, though what for he don't make clear, they've been and dug up Bagshot Row and ruined my taters!"

Simply, you cannot think of Thangorodrim when you read about the Shire.
Exactly. I found it funny when I read that, I love how Tolkien included it- it shows the true simplicity and ignorance of the hobbit folk. Although I have never read the Silm, it's a different time period with different characters and different stories. The Lord of the Rings comes full circle, as it started in The Shire, concludes with grown up hobbits defeating in The Shire what are practically pee-on's compared to what they faced out in the whole of M-e, and then the departure.

I agree with you Legate about Saruman. He is definitely an interesting character, and although I do not agree with the deeds he performed, his wit and personality are intriguing and entertaining to read.
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Old 06-13-2007, 10:45 AM   #6
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Eye

It's a great chapter. Pippin and Merry emerge for the first time as full fledged leaders and heroes. You may think that they had done that already in the story, but not really.

Sure, Pippin saved the Steward of Gondor, but Pippin didn't do it himself. He ran for help and then assisted Gandalf in saving the day.

Same with Merry. He didn't call out the WK and defeat him in a duel. He cowered in the background until he felt brave enough to stab him from behind.

Not that what they did wasn't awesome, don't get me wrong. But the fact is they were not standing up and calling the shots. They were just along for the ride, always under the care of someone else (Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, the orcs, Treebeard, Theoden, Dernhelm, Denethor).

But when they got back to the Shire, they rose up and took the reins of leadership. There was no more running to others for orders or help. They decided what they'd do and then did it. Their experiences during their long adventure had prepared them for the role.
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Old 06-20-2007, 07:40 AM   #7
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There is no such thing as a small fight, only a small warrior!

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Might
I personally have one problem with it.
It's hard to read about some small fight in the Shire after you read about great battles in Beleriand and the rest of M-e against Melkor and Sauron.
It's also the reason why Tolkien stopped writing anything about new possible threats in Gondor during Eldarion's rule. It just wouldn't be the same.
Well, first of all, I don't really enjoy LotR or any works of M-E because of the fights or battles--they are wonderfully told, but the purpose of all of them is to reveal character and demonstrate something essential about the themes. There is no fighting without purpose in Tolkien's world, and on that score the Scouring is no exception.

But what I really take issue with in your post is this idea that there is such a thing as a "small fight" -- to anyone in a life and death battle there is nothing 'little' about it. Part of the purpose of the Scouring is, I think, to remind us of that: that taken from the point of view of the individual combatant war of any 'size' is immense and overwhelming. You could die. You might need to kill. Whether you die alongside 10 000 other people or 100 is immaterial--either way you are dead and everything you have and could have is gone. Likewise, whether you kill 2 or 3 of 10 000 or 2 or 3 of 100 you have murdered and taken life.

The more intimate and personal scale of the battle in the Shire reminds us of this fact. Thousands died in the Pelennor, but we really only 'feel' for or remember those individual characters we know by name (Theoden) the rest are just part of that big and incomprehensible number. Those who fell defending the Shire are remembered and mourned individually by their friends and community, reminding us that this is what war really is all about.
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Old 06-20-2007, 09:03 PM   #8
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As Tolkien would say in his Foreward to LOTR the Scouring of the Shire is...

'an essential part of the plot, foreseen from the outset'.

The Lord of the Rings has to end with the hobbits, as it is hobbits as Mr. Simon argues:
Quote:
For it was Hobbits that made it possible for The Lord of the Rings to succeed. Few modern Englishmen, and not many modern readers of any nationality, could easily identify with the heroic nihilism of T˙rin or the romantic bravado of Beren, let alone with the high-minded loyalties and hatreds of the Elves. But almost anyone can identify with Bilbo, Frodo, or Sam. They mediate between the high style of archaic romance and the familiar conventions of the modern novel.
It is the hobbits that caused LOTR to be the hit that it was, and as Mr. Simon argues what ultimately led to 1,000's of readers being disappointed in The Silmarillion because there were no hobbits. I think Tolkien realized this in Letter 131 to Milton Waldman:
Quote:
A moral of the whole is the obvious one that without the high and noble, the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless.
Tolkien sets up a complimentary balance between the 'high and noble' (the Aragorn's, Gandalf's, and Boromir's) and the 'simple and ordinary' (the Frodo's, the Bilbo's, the Sam's...etc). Without one the other is meaningless. You need the 'high and noble' to do the heroic and mighty dragon-slaying, monster-sparring and glorious battling. Yet you need the 'simple and ordinary' the ones 'who are not made for perilous quests' (as Frodo sees himself), to do the 'dirty' quests (the trudge through Mordor to destroy the Ring) that the high and noble won't do or even can't do.

In the end Sauron is defeated by the hobbits, by the simple and ordinary. Gandalf doesn't challenge him one-on-one, Aragorn doesn't duel him to the death (Gil-galad and Elendil already tried that), Sauron is defeated (for good) by Frodo and Sam's march through a desolate wasteland.

Therefor, as I agree with Tolkien, The Scouring is 'an essential part of the plot.' The Lord of the Rings is a story about the hobbits. It starts with them, Sauron is defeated by them, and it's only fitting that the story ends with them.
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Old 06-21-2007, 07:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88
Tolkien sets up a complimentary balance between the 'high and noble' (the Aragorn's, Gandalf's, and Boromir's) and the 'simple and ordinary' (the Frodo's, the Bilbo's, the Sam's...etc). Without one the other is meaningless. You need the 'high and noble' to do the heroic and mighty dragon-slaying, monster-sparring and glorious battling. Yet you need the 'simple and ordinary' the ones 'who are not made for perilous quests' (as Frodo sees himself), to do the 'dirty' quests (the trudge through Mordor to destroy the Ring) that the high and noble won't do or even can't do.
New Thought (sparked by the above): It's not just the "good" that is presented to us in such balance: what about (to borrow Boro's* phrase) the "complimentary balance" between Sauron and Gollum? The "high" and overpowering evil of the Dark Lord vs the "vulgar" and "mean-spirited" ill will of Smeagol.

Another example more germaine to the thread topic: Saruman and Grima--both are traitors, but one is high and "one of the great" while the other is low and pathetic.

More examples??:

The Balrog and the Watcher--the former a holdover from the First Age (possibly even fallen maia, certainly with wings that work), the latter is simply a creature doing what it does with perhaps some nudging by evil but not really an embodiment of evil.

The Nazgul and the orcs--both slaves of Sauron, but again, "high" and ancient evil wih the Wraiths and pathetic, "vulgar", petty villanies by the orcs.

We now return you to your regulary scheduled topic.


* Heh, that rhymes....what if one were to ask to "borrow Boro's Barrow"?
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Old 07-06-2007, 05:24 AM   #10
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No I don't like it, if you were a Briton who lived in the Battle of Britain would you say it was fun? Please, don't let's celebrate terrible events. Even fictional.
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Old 07-06-2007, 09:53 AM   #11
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No I don't like it, if you were a Briton who lived in the Battle of Britain would you say it was fun? Please, don't let's celebrate terrible events. Even fictional.
That has nothing to do with "The Scouring of the Shire", in my opinion.
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Old 08-29-2007, 06:35 AM   #12
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Tolkien said that The Scouring of The Shire was "an essential part of the plot, foreseen from the outset", but how much detail did he have in place in the 1930s?

I think that, despite Tolkien's denials, this chapter contains much that reflects the real events of the 1940s and his attitude to them. In WW1, Tolkien had fought on foreign soil but in WW2 he was caught up in the fighting in his own beloved country. In the aftermath of the war, he lived through the introduction of Socialism in the UK with its Rules and Gathering and Sharing, organised by men who he would have seen as not fitted to rule. Was it Tolkien's personal fantasy that men returning home after defeating Hitler's Germany would lead the people of Great Britain agianst those he saw as Communists and restore an absolute Monarchy?

The Scouring of The Shire contains to only real allegories in LoTR.
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Old 09-01-2007, 05:37 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selmo View Post
Tolkien said that The Scouring of The Shire was "an essential part of the plot, foreseen from the outset", but how much detail did he have in place in the 1930s?

I think that, despite Tolkien's denials, this chapter contains much that reflects the real events of the 1940s and his attitude to them. In WW1, Tolkien had fought on foreign soil but in WW2 he was caught up in the fighting in his own beloved country. In the aftermath of the war, he lived through the introduction of Socialism in the UK with its Rules and Gathering and Sharing, organised by men who he would have seen as not fitted to rule. Was it Tolkien's personal fantasy that men returning home after defeating Hitler's Germany would lead the people of Great Britain agianst those he saw as Communists and restore an absolute Monarchy?

The Scouring of The Shire contains to only real allegories in LoTR.
.
Firstly, if you analyse the politics of what happened to The Shire, it was not despoiled due to the efforts of Socialism but Venture Capitalism - those resources did not go back to the people but were shipped out of The Shire to be sold elsewhere. Saruman was the epitome of the modern Asset Stripper.

But I also think Tolkien had no such strong right wing agenda - remember that Attlee's Government (using diluted Keynsian economics, not Socialism, certainly not Communism!) was returned to power with a resounding landslide victory by those newly returned from the war and that Tolkien himself was one of those who received the most benefit from the Welfare State; at one time he struggled to find doctor's fees for his family and was often reduced to working well into the night marking school exam papers in order to scrape some more income.

He definitely makes some interesting points about overwhelming State control and about Totalitarianism but Attlee's Government was as far from these as you can imagine. And the Rules and 'gathering and sharing' had been in operation from the beginning of the war, by necessity. The bleak times lasted from 1939 right into the 1950s as rationing had to intensify following the war due to the immense debts which had to be paid to the US (and were only paid off last year).
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Old 09-01-2007, 06:09 PM   #14
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Well, however much Tolkien may have benefited from the NHS, he was outraged by income tax, complaining that until his retirement it "took all my literary earnings."* Notwithstanding his Green opinions, Tolkien's politics have been aptly described as "Telegraph-reading Tory."

As an aside, everybody's political definitions vary; but I think 'state control of the means of production' is a decent working definition of Socialism, which thereby would certainly include Atlee's nationalisation of mining, steel, autos etc, and a health system where the State actually owns and operates the hospitals, rather than just paying the bills. Besides, Atlee used to close his letters "Workers of the world unite!"

*It seems that a large tax bill plus a lack of ready cash underlay his sale of the LR film rights!
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