Hello and welcome to Chapter 6- Middle Earth Could’ve beens Part 1- Bag end to Buckland. I would like to start by thanking all those who have given their support and convinced me to continue on. As usual I warmly welcome comments/discussion however please don’t feel obliged to just to keep these going, as I will do them anyways now I know I have a continuing reader base (though the more interest the better!).
So onto topic. I have currently been reading the history series of middle earth. Now the term ‘history’ may be a little misleading here. This series is not based on the history of middle earth, but on the history of Tolkien’s writings- the outtakes if you will. It never fails to fascinate me when I discover some new, obscure part of Tolkien lore, and this series is jam-packed full of it. I think I will do several of these ‘could have beens’ as there is just so much to write about, so this will be part 1, and will focus on the very first draft of what would become the first book of the fellowship. The journey from Bag End to Buckland. Enjoy.
1. An Unexpected Party
2. Three’s Company, Four’s More
3. The Un-used Prologue
4. To Maggot’s Farm and Buckland
An Unexpected Party
When Tolkien set about writing a follow up to The Hobbit, he was at first hesitant, as he truly believed he had used all his good material on The Hobbit itself (oh how wrong he was!). So, it came to be, that when he began writing, he had absolutely no idea where it was heading. The first and most obvious road to take, was to make a ‘Hobbit 2.0’ – pretty much what it sounds like, a light-hearted adventure with some hobbits, some bad guys, and some treasure. So this was what Tolkien set out to write.
(1) The very first thing Tolkien wrote of our epic tale was When M. However this was immediately crossed out, and followed with When Bilbo. This was part of the chapter entitled ‘A Long Expected Party’ which was to remain in the final draft, however as you are about to find out, that’s where the similarities ended.
Bilbo was celebrating his 70th birthday (the elements of the ring being anything other than a magic ring was not yet present, and therefore Bilbo wasn’t ‘well preserved’ and therefore younger than 111 in the final draft), and the party pretty much goes as expected- there is dinner, a speech with the famous ‘I don’t like you half as well as I should like’ and also the ‘Proudfeet!’ however it ends rather abruptly when Bilbo announces he is off to get married! And as Tolkien writes- ‘that’s that.’ It was merely an explanation that Bilbo went off to get married, as Tolkien intended to tell a story about one of Bilbo’s descendants (not Frodo- he was long from existence yet).
However this was not the end of Bilbo in this draft. The story goes on to explain that the marriage was merely an excuse for Bilbo to leave The Shire. The real reason was that he had ran out of his treasure hoard, and the lust for dragon gold was upon him. So how does the story progress from here? Well it doesn’t. This is where the first draft of the story ends. However we know 2 things here. 1. the story had to involve some of Bilbo’s descendants and 2. Bilbo was off adventuring. The draft ends by stating that Bilbo had most certainly not said goodbye to everyone. So therefore we can assume that the story would have progressed (if Tolkien had left this draft as it is) to Bilbo joining one or more of his descendants and going off in search for dragon gold.
That is the first draft. As you can see Tolkien had no clue yet of the rings of power, or the hunt for the ring, or even the ring’s significance. The follow up to The Hobbit was going to be just an adventure like its predecessor.
(2) The second draft of A Long Expected Party follows a similar strain of narrative, however we are introduced to Gandalf who is present at the farewell party. However there is one very important addition here. During the speech Bilbo says that he is here to celebrate OUR birthdays, that being his and his father’s. This seems a little odd, why should Bilbo talk about his dead father in such a way? However we can take from this that Tolkien added this part to the draft later on, and it was not actually Bilbo saying this anymore, but Bilbo’s son- Bingo. Therefore it is Bingo who is having the farewell party, in honour of his father Bilbo.
The change in the story’s main character here was due to Tolkien stating at the end of The Hobbit, that Bilbo lived happily to the end of his days. So how could Tolkien contradict this with sending him back out into the wilds? Therefore the creation of a son came about.
Note 1: There are some notes here that were obviously Tolkien’s ideas on what was to come before he discarded the idea of Bilbo being a central character. Of particular interest is the fact that Bilbo goes off into the east in search for treasure with 3 nephews- Odo, Drogo and Frodo (not the same as THE Frodo). They all travel to Rivendell and Bilbo asks Elrond how he is to cure his treasure cravings, and Elrond tells him of an island (Britain? pencilled in) far west where the elves still reign, and a perilous journey occurs. There is also a very interesting, but discarded idea of a dragon attack on Hobbiton!!
(3) The third draft takes Bingo fully into the story, and it is he who disappears and leaves gifts to all the hobbits. It is also kept that Bingo had ran out of money and craved adventure.
(4) The fourth draft makes a major change to the chapter- that Bingo Baggins becomes Bingo Bolger-Baggins, and is Bilbo’s nephew not son.
Note 2: In reference to note 1, there are pencilled ideas on the revere on the page, some of which are Bingo goes to find his father and The ring…whence its origin. Necromancer? Not very dangerous when used for a good purpose. But exacts its penalty. You must either lose it or yourself. This is a very interesting passage as it is the first appearance of the idea in Tolkien’s mind that the ring comes with a great price, and that it latched itself onto the bearer. There was of course no real idea why, just that it had evil origins. Tolkien also had the early idea of The Old Forest, and the capture by the Willow Man, and Barrow Wights and the rescue by Tom Bombadil (all of which already existed before the time of writing LOTR).
So….the story so far, is that Bingo Bolger-Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew, is setting out on an adventure to Rivendell, possibly to find Bilbo, possibly to find treasure, along with two companions- Odo Took and Frodo Took (again not THE Frodo).
Three’s company, four’s more
(1) The first draft pretty much sets out as expected, Bingo, Odo and Frodo are setting out for Rivendell, however they must first pick up another hobbit, called Marmaduke in Buckland, and then continue on out of The Shire. It is here that something of great significance happens – the emergence of a rider on the road, however interestingly it is not at first a Black Rider, as per the final draft, but is Gandalf who turns up, hooded and cloaked. More interesting is the fact that even though the rider was Gandalf, the cloaked figure still stopped and sniffed. This is just one of many examples of Tolkien’s habit of writing material, then changing the entire meaning of what he wrote, but still managing to incorporate the little details of the draft.
It is here however that this draft ends, most likely as Tolkien discarded the idea of Gandalf appearing as soon as he wrote it.
(2) The second draft continues much as the first until the point of the rider. It is here that the first real encounter is made with a Black Rider, though at this point neither the reader nor Tolkien knew what they were. After the rider moves on, Frodo Took explains how he has seen one before, last spring, asking for Baggins, so we can see that in this draft the hunt for Bilbo/Bingo started much earlier than the final draft.
After this the text moves on swiftly until the meeting with Gildor, who takes them into his company for the night for fear of the riders returning. During the conversation with Bingo and Gildor, it is first hinted that the ring helps the riders locate the wearer rather than disguise them, and this is obviously kept throughout the final draft.
Note 3: There is a manuscript in regards to this conversation, however Gildor is not yet named, and the conversation merely takes part between Bingo and ‘they’ (elves most likely). It is an extremely important passage, as it is the first appearance of many elements, notably the first mention of ‘The Lord of the Ring’ (note - singular).
The passage is basically an account of what the ring and black riders are. The speaker says that there were many rings made and given out, many to the elves who became Elf-Wraiths (note that elves were not immune here, but the dark lord still couldn’t control them), goblins got many (goblin ring bearers!!!) and the dwarves didn’t get any. It is also here noted that Gollum was a ring bearer most like a hobbit than any other race. Now at some point (probably before Bombadil passage but after Maraduke appearance) Tolkien took this passage and decided that it was not fit to have Gildor say such things of importance to Bingo, but that it should be reserved for Gandalf himself, and it is through this that the following comes about.
The Un-used Prologue
This is obviously what became chapter II – Shadow of the Past, however Tolkien first used it for a forward to the book. It is something I am very fond of, and would have loved for something similar to be incorporated….though it would inevitably mean changing the entire book.
It begins with Gandalf and Bingo sitting by the fire in Bag End. Gandalf is explaining the importance of the ring to him, that the dark lord handed out rings to elves, dwarves, goblins and men, and all were retuned save one. It fell from the hand of an elf as he swam across a river fleeing the old wars (ie Isildur), and was later picked up by Gollum, and then onto Bilbo. Gandalf explains how one cannot merely throw the rings away, and can only be rid of it by either handing the curse to someone else, surrendering it to the dark lord, or casting it into the fiery mountain. (mount doom)
Gandalf advises that the ring must be made a light hearted matter, as using it for anything else ends in evil, therefore he advises Bingo to make his disappearance a huge joke. The forward ends with Bingo rocking in laughter as Gandalf tells him the plan to disappear at the party.
It is interesting to note that during the time of writing Tolkien was working alongside an earlier draft of The Hobbit, where Gollum wants rid of the ring and wishes to give it to someone else. In this draft of The Hobbit, Gollum willingly helps Bilbo out of the caverns, and his mission of freeing himself from the ring is complete. This was all changed in the later draft as Gollum loses the ring to Bilbo but wants it back.
It is therefore in the forward just shown, that Gollum used the ‘give the problem to someone else’ strategy, however this must be taken into context with the early draft of The Hobbit, not the present day copy as it wont make any sense.
To Maggot’s Farm and Buckland
This chapter happens with little events, a rider is seen on a hill top as per the final draft, the hobbits stop to see Maggot, and then onto meeting Marmaduke, and the catch up in what is pretty much Crickhollow. The four companions decide to travel through The Old Forest the morning after.
Note 4: In a letter to Charles Furth at Allen and Unwin (publisher) dated 24th July 1938, Tolkien wrote that the Hobbit sequel had come to a halt, and had lost his ‘favour.’ He stated that the sequel was destined to become thinner and repetitive. He lastly says that his mind is too much occupied with the Silmarillion and that he doesn’t see how he can move outside its limitations.
However on the 31st August he wrote again saying that the story was flowing along nicely and getting quite out of hand………..
Well I think that’s a nice place to end it there. As you can see the story as it stands has many similarities to their corresponding chapters in the final draft, however the story as a whole is still miles away from being developed, still swinging more to the Hobbit end of the spectrum than the Trilogy. Though as the narrative progresses we get more and more hints and the epic scale to come. So what exactly is getting out of hand??
Well tune in for the next part to find out, which will focus on The Old Forest To Rivendell.