• Will Sherwood

LOTR 5: The Invisible Man

There are four key points to take away from the development of chapter 4, 'A Short Cut to Mushrooms':

  1. Hobbit names

  2. The development of the Shire map

  3. Farmer Maggot and his dog(s)

  4. The Presence of the Black Riders

It should be remembered that in Phases One and Two the scope and projection of the unravelling tale was vastly different to the final story. Crickhollow was introduced in Phase Two but the purpose of the quest had not fully taken shape. The chapters of Phase One were not named so Christopher named them appropriately for The History of Middle-earth. In Phase One 'A Short Cut to Mushrooms' was named 'To Maggot's Farm and Buckland' and covers the whole of 'A Short Cut to Mushrooms' and 'A Conspiracy Unmasked'. The title 'A Short Cut to Mushrooms' was introduced in Phase Two and is the second version of the chapter. In the first version, the first half of the chapter roughly follows the same contours of the final product. In the second section (Farmer Maggot's house), the character of Farmer Maggot needed to undertake some sufficient changes and the events that transpire in the Maggot house required some tweaking to fit the published version.

This post will also feature notes for the first time (just an FYI).

1. Hobbit names

Tolkien frequently swapped and changed hobbit names between Phases One and Three. Besides the four key hobbits that the novel would revolve around, many other hobbit names also changed. It has been fascinating conducting this investigation into the development of The Lord of the Rings as I have picked up on additions and changes that you would not necessarily expect from Tolkien. For example, there were two hobbits named after Shakespearean characters. Prospero comes from Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest, and has long been understood to represent the Bard himself. Tolkien undermines Prospero's authority by casting him as a hobbit who dances on a table at Bilbo and Bingo's party. The name did not stick however, as Tolkien changed it in Phase two (Return, 215). The second Shakespearean name did stay within the legendarium and that is Fortinbras. In Hamlet, Fortinbras is the former King and Fortinbras II is the crowned prince of Norway. Within Tolkien's legendarium Fortinbras II is one of Bilbo's cousins (son of Isumbras IV, grandson of Geronitus Took).

The names of the four key hobbits changed frequently and Christopher's comments show how complicated tracing the changes can be. As we saw earlier with Bingo, Tolkien did change it to Frodo for all of one second before deciding he was too familiar with Bingo. The second time he changed it to Frodo, he changed it for good. The picture below gives the best summary of the main changes:

(Peter Jackson, 2001, edited by the Marion E. Wade Centre's Facebook post about the podcast 'Revising the Ring: Tolkien's Early Drafts of "The Lord of the Rings"'). 1

From Sam's introduction, his name never changed. He took lines from Odo and slowly grew as the fourth member of the group. Odo however became Pippin, Bingo became Frodo, and Marmaduke became Merry.

2. The development of the Shire map

Phases One and Two saw the Shire grow steadily. The Four Farthings were introduced in the Phase Two version of 'A Conspiracy Unmasked' and although the general shape remained the same, there were details that were added and amended as Tolkien's writing progressed (Return, 298).

After version one of the chapter Christopher devoted a section to 'Note on the Shire Map' which outlined the six extent maps of the Shire. The first four were made by Tolkien and the final two by Christopher. The first is reproduced as the frontispiece to The Return of the Shadow volume and can be found below. Most of the maps extend further into Middle-earth than their previous incarnations: II reaches the Far Downs; III covers from 'Michael Delving in the west to the Hedge of Buckland'; IV stretches further to Bree; V was done by Christopher in 1943 with chalks; VI was the one that was published and was apparently made 'not long before its publications' (Return, 107).

The 'Note on the Shire Map' goes on to cover only a couple of adjustments of where Buckland and Buckleberry lie in relation to Woodhall.

(Tolkien, the first map of the Shire 'built up in stages, and done in pencil and red, blue, and black inks', the frontispiece of The Return of the Shadow, 107)

3. Farmer Maggot and his dog(s)

Farmer Maggot is one of those hobbits that the 'Prologue' identifies as living in a stone house, the favoured style of 'farmers, millers, blacksmiths, [and] carpenters' (Return, 92). In the first version it is even speculated that 'houses were invented' in the area where Farmer Maggot lives (Return, 92). Farmer Maggot is practically presented as 'Other' to the hobbits of Hobbiton because of his choice of building. The hobbits go on to make fun of the impracticalities of the architecture that they think 'came largely from the Elves' (Return, 93). 'Fancy climbing upstairs to bed', 'I never like looking out of upstairs windows, it make me a bit giddy', 'what a nuisance, if you want a handkerchief or something when you are downstairs, and find it is upstairs' (Return, 92 - 93). This section also contains the digression on hobbit architecture that Tolkien moved into the 'Prologue'.

When the hobbits first arrive on Farmer Maggot's land, they are not encountered by the fearsome trio of hounds as in the published version, here it is only a 'small dog' by the name of Gip (Return, 94). The hounds are introduced in the second version with their published names (Return, 290). Farmer Maggot and Bingo's relationship is strikingly different and becomes much darker before settling just on the mushroom picking event of the published version. In the first version, Bingo appears to have little issue with Maggot but he does put on the ring which shows that Tolkien had not fully worked out what the ring was.

In the second version Bingo and Farmer Maggot's enmity for one another appears: '"I don't like him, and he doesn't like me"' (Return, 288). Farmer Maggot is also more 'violent and intransigeant' (Return, 287). The reason for the hatred is not only because Bingo stole his mushrooms (which first appears here), he also killed one of his dogs by throwing a heavy stone at its head. Tolkien apparently wrote another version of Bingo's memory where he falls 'down with the dog over [him], and Bilbo b[reaks] its head with that thick stick of his' (Return, 296). The lengths that the hobbits go to in the second version shows the disharmony between them, the Hobbiton hobbits perceive Farmer Maggot and the Brandybucks as queer, just as Farmer Maggot sees them as queer.

Christopher's notes for versions three and four (Phases Three and Four) are minimal and do not explain at what point this was dialled back to just stealing mushrooms.

After Farmer Maggot delivers the news about the Black Rider's visit in which he asks for 'Mis-ter Bolg-er Bagg-ins', Bingo plays a practical trick on the hobbits' hosts (Return, 96). Just as Farmer Maggot goes to drink to the party's health 'the mug left the table, rose, tilted in the air, and then returned empty to its place' (Return, 96). Tolkien appeared partial to the trick as it featured in the second version. He further dramatised it by playing on the hobbits' dislike of one another. Bingo still puts the ring on in version two to hide from Maggot but as the party prepare for a final drink, Bingo drinks the beer and terrorises the Maggot household:

"You did not ask me to have a bite or a sup," said a voice coming apparently from

the middle of the room. Farmer Maggot backed towards the fire-place; his wife

screamed. "And that's a pity," went on the voice, which Frodo to his bewilderment

now recognised as Bingo's, "because I like your beer. But don't boast again that no

Baggins will ever come inside your house. There's one inside now. A thievish

Baggins. A very angry Baggins." There was a pause. "In fact BINGO!" the voice

suddenly yelled just by the farmer's ear. At the same time something gave him a

push in the waistcoat, and he fell over with a crash among the fire-irons. He sat

up again just in time to see his own hat leave the settle where he had thrown it

down, and sail out of the door, which opened to let it pass. (Return, 293). 2

Tolkien's prose expertly portrays the dramatic terror felt by Farmer Maggot and his wife. Whereas the opening includes longer, probing sentences, the middle section shortens them. Bingo's speech is cut up with narrative turns, creating an aura of anticipation. Even the sentence 'There was a pause' cranks up the tension. The final section returns again to long sentences to portray Farmer Maggot's bewilderment and confusion. Even in these early drafts, Tolkien skilfully shows off his power as a writer.

In both the first and second versions Bingo's party are expelled from the Maggot household with no offer of a lift. We cannot be certain if Farmer Maggot's temperament changed in the third or fourth phases because of Christopher's short notes.

4. The Presence of the Black Riders

I did not want to finish this post without drawing attention to the Black Riders. By this point in Phase One, they were already iconic for their sniff. Tolkien continued to employ this as a method of identifying them and creating an unsettling atmosphere around who they were. In the published version when the hobbits sing 'Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go', they are suddenly frozen stiff by a 'long drawn-out wail' (Lord, 90). The first version of this scene is quite different; Tolkien cuts the hobbits off at the start of the second verse:

It will never be known whether the next verse was any better than the first; for

just at the moment there was a noise like a sneeze or a sniff. . . . The noise came

again: sniff, sniff, sniff; it seemed to be quite close. They sprang to their feet, and

looked quickly about; but there was nothing to be seen anywhere near their tree.

(Return, 91).

It is never identified whether it is a Black Rider or not (same as the published version) but we can safely assume that it is one of them because of the characteristically defining sniff. The repetition of the onomatopoeia is itself charismatic of Tolkien's sound symbolism as it is a fundamental way of bringing a character to life. So far it had been the Black Rider's most distinctive trait.

What is different is the hobbits' reactions to the Black Riders. Their presence appears to engage strongly with Ann Radcliffe's 1826 article 'On the Supernatural in Poetry'. She identified that 'objects of terror sometimes strike us very forcibly, when introduced into scenes of gaiety and splendour' which is exactly what Tolkien uses to enhance the shock of the scene (149). The following description was introduced in the first version and was so effective that it made its way into the published version. Within the book the weather is miserable so the hobbits turn to 'laughing and snapping their fingers at the rain and black riders', they transform the bleakness of their surroundings by injecting Radcliffe's 'gaiety and splendour' (Return, 91). They even sing in order to rouse their spirits.

Mary Kelly has emphasised that 'reciting or singing verse is for [Hobbits] the most natural way to express their emotions . . . Hobbits sing when they are happy and comfortable, when they are sad and troubled, when they are fearful and desperate, and when they are angry and vexed' (172). The scene is therefore at its emotional peak when the Black Rider's sniff/wail interrupts.

In Radcliffe's essay, terror and horror are split into two distinctly contrasting forces: 'whereas the first [terror] expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other [horror] contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them' (149). Tolkien appears to move from terror to horror as the versions progress.

The hobbits' shock at the sniffing calls them to action; they are 'awakened' to a higher degree of movement and quickly leave. As for the published version, they are 'suddenly frozen' and the 'high piercing notes' of the Black Riders are 'chilling to the blood' (Lord, 90). The hobbits don't just feel immobilised, the sound of the Black Riders freezes and slows their very blood, showing a 'contraction' and 'annihilation' of the body. At this point the Black Riders are not figures that are supposed to inspire terror, they are sluggish, creepy and Other. They do not yet awaken the terror that the company feel when they are attacked at Weathertop (Lord, 195). The Black Riders at that point have transformed. They are not simply the Black Riders that crawl and creep around the Shire, they are the right-hand agents of Sauron. Their identities have been revealed and their capacity for psychological terror has been triggered.

I cannot wait for 'A Knife in the Dark' where I will be dipping into Edmund Burke's work on the sublime. Until then, here ends this part of my blog series on The Lord of the Rings. (Can anyone guess that I have been reading The Mabinogion?)


1. You can listen to the Marion E. Wade Center Podcast here. However, it should be noted that at no point during the writing process of The Lord of the Rings was Gandalf known as Bladorfin. This was his first name during the writing process of The Hobbit. Nevertheless the podcast is useful and insightful.

2. The Frodo in this is not to be confused with the final Frodo Baggins.


Kelley, M. Q. (1972). 'The Poetry of Fantasy. Verse in The Lord of the Rings.' In Isaacs, Neil, and Roose Zimbardo (Ed.), Tolkien and the Critics. (pp. 170 - 200). Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.

Radcliffe, M. (1826). ‘On the Supernatural in Poetry’. New Monthly Magazine, 16 (1) 145 – 152.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (1988). The History of Middle-earth: The Return of the Shadow. [Ed. Tolkien, C.]. London: HarperCollins.

Tolkien. J. R. R. (2007). The Lord of the Rings. London: HarperCollins.

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