While 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 by 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 Saruman arrived and took full control and Lotho was deposed, imprisoned, and later killed by Wormtongue. The pace of destruction greatly increased afterwards.
Before returning to the Shire, Frodo Baggins and his companions 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 learned that strangers from the South had come to settle in and around Bree, much to the discomfort of the peace-loving Men and Hobbits indigenous to the region. Barliman was 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, with the former then driven out.
Gandalf took the four Hobbits - Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and Peregrin Took - part way to the Shire but detoured to have a long talk with Tom Bombadil. He assured the four that their training in the War of the Ring would be sufficient to settle the troubles.
The Battle of Bywater
When they discovered that the evil they had fought had come home to roost, they roused the Shire and were able to kill or drive off the evil-doers that infested it. With the assistance of Farmer Cotton, Merry and Pippin led the Battle of Bywater, the last battle in the War of the Ring, in which 19 hobbits and 100 Ruffians were killed; the remaining Orcs and Ruffians retreated away from Hobbiton.
Saruman and Wormtongue came to their ends shortly thereafter, when Wormtongue avenged a kick from his master by cutting his throat and was thereafter shot to death by arrows from Hobbits. An eerie column of mist arose from Saruman's corpse and was blown away in the wind, a scene reminiscent of Sauron's demise.
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.
Portrayal in adaptations
- "I know what it is you saw... for it is also in my mind. It is what will come to pass if you should fail."
- —Galadriel to Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring
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 film, the Scouring of the Shire is shown in the Mirror, 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.
While the Scouring itself does not occur in the canon of Peter Jackson's trilogy, the extended edition of The Return of the King references the original Scouring of the Shire. In a scene exclusive to the extended edition, the party from Helm's Deep arrives to interrogate Saruman at flooded Isengard for information on Sauron's plans. During the interrogation, Théoden 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).
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Afrikaans||Skuur van die Shire|
|Albanian||Pastrim i Shire|
|Armenian||սծոուրինգ ոֆ տհե սհիրե|
|Basque||Shire du Marruskatzen|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Які чысціць Шыра|
|Bengali||শিরে এর মাজন|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Почистването на Графството|
|Catalan||Purga del Comarca|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||收復夏爾|
|Danish||Rengøring af Herredet|
|Dutch||Schuren van de Gouw|
|Esperanto||Traserĉante la Graflando|
|French||Purge du Comté|
|Galician||Expurgo do Condado|
|German||Säuberung des Auenlandes (first translation) Befreiung des Auenlandes (second translation)|
|Greek||Καθαρισμός του Σάιρ|
|Hungarian||A Megye Feldúlása|
|Icelandic||Þrifið á Skíri|
|Italian||Percorrendo la Contea|
|Irish Gaelic||Sciúradh an Shire|
|Latvian||Mazgāšanu no Širė|
|Lithuanian||Šveitimo iš Širės|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Чистење на Шире|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Мужийг цэвэрлэх|
|Norwegian||Rensing av Hobsyssel|
|Polish||Czyszczenie z Shire|
|Portuguese||Expurgo do Condado|
|Persian||تمیز کاری شایر|
|Romanian||Curăţat de Comitatul|
|Scottish Gaelic||Sgùraidh na t-Sìorrachd|
|Serbian||Чишћење грофовија (Cyrillic) Čišćenje grofovija (Latin)|
|Sinhalese||මෙම ෂයර්හි ක ෙශෝධක|
|Spanish||Saneamiento de la Comarca|
|Swedish||Skur av Fylke|
|Telugu||షైర్ యొక్క నమోదుచేసి|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Очищуючий Шира|
|Welsh||Sgwrio y Sir|
|Yiddish||סקאָורינג פון די תהירע|