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The Scouring of the Shire

1,421 words

Translations: Danish, Portuguese

One of my favorite parts of The Lord of the Rings is book 6, chapter 8, “The Scouring of the Shire,” the penultimate chapter of The Return of the King.

After the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of the Dark Lord, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to the Shire only to find that it has been seized by aliens who have enslaved and robbed the hobbits and ravaged the land.

The returning veterans rouse their people to rebellion, killing many of the usurpers and driving the rest away. Then they discover who was behind it: the fallen wizard Saruman, who is banished from the Shire. Before he can leave, however, he is killed by his servant in crime, the treacherous Wormtongue, who is then felled by three hobbit arrows.

This chapter was omitted from Peter Jackson’s film trilogy (as well as Ralph Bakshi’s animated version), although Jackson does allude to it in two places. In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo peers into Galadriel’s mirror, he has a vision of the hobbits enslaved and the shire blighted by dark satanic mills. In the extended version of The Return of the King, after the fall of Isengard, Merry and Pippin discover that Saruman’s storehouses contain products from the Shire, indicating some sort of contact.

But Jackson moved the deaths of Saruman and Wormtongue to the fall of Isengard. Wormtongue still kills Saruman, but he is dispatched by an arrow from Legolas. Thus when Frodo and company return to the Shire, they find it unchanged. Thus in Jackson’s telling, Frodo’s vision was just one possible future foreclosed by the death of Saruman at Isengard.

Still, I think it a shame that “The Scouring of the Shire” was not filmed, for it is a potent political allegory that remains relevant today. Most commentators simply note that the Scouring is based on Tolkien’s personal experience of returning from the trenches of World War I to find England a changed place. (Teeming colonies of non-whites had been established, primarily to work in port cities, which led to race riots in 1919.) But the Scouring goes far beyond anything in Tolkien’s experiences. It is a work of imagination, a political allegory that far more closely resembles the experiences of German soldiers returning from the Great War to find a radically new, alien-dominated regime.

The Shire was subjugated as follows. After the fall of Isengard, Saruman was reduced to a wandering “beggar in the wilderness,” a refugee. But when he enjoyed power, the wandering wizard developed a far-flung network reaching all the way to the Shire, where he cultivated the friendship of Lotho Pimple.

The Shire was an agrarian, autarkic society of independent small farmers and merchants. Pimple, however, was sufficiently alienated and ambitious that he wished to change this social order. He wanted more land than he could work himself, and he wanted hirelings to work it, so he could grow rich by growing cash crops for export. In short, he wanted to be a big shot with a plantation.

By means of mysterious infusions of capital from outside the Shire (obviously from Saruman) Pimple managed to target economically troubled small holders for takeover (perhaps by loaning them money at usurious rates and then foreclosing when they could not pay), reducing them to employees on what was once their own land. Thus Pimple became a big man, styling himself Chief Shirrif and then just Chief. When Saruman and Wormtongue arrived as refugees, naturally Pimple took them in.

Having elevated the rootless and greedy Pimple to power, Saruman cozied up with the Chief and began to institute a new order. He brought in racially indeterminate aliens to intimidate and terrorize the hobbits. He also recruited hobbits of defective character — people who wanted to act big and meddle in other people’s business (in the internet age, we call them trolls) — to vastly expand the police force. This was necessary, because Saruman also vastly expanded rules and regulations in order to yoke and mulct the hobbits. Naturally there was discontent, so a vast network of spies and informants was created, as well as a courier service to swiftly convey reports and orders. Dissidents were thus easily ferreted out and imprisoned.

Society was collectivized. Private homes were replaced by ugly, cramped, ramshackle housing developments. Crops and products were seized “for fair distribution.” Rationing was introduced to crush the hobbits’ spirits and lower their standard of living, freeing resources to be consumed by their new overlords or to be exported for cash. Leisure was restricted and work expanded. Handcrafts, which were fine for an aesthetically refined and ecologically sustainable subsistence economy, were replaced by heavy industry to produce exports for cash.

This industry was fueled by wholesale deforestation and fouled the water and the air. But the desecration of nature went far beyond the bounds of even economic necessity, betraying a hatred of nature and beauty as such. Saruman’s real goal was less to create a new world than to destroy the old.

Finally, to cement his rule, Saruman had his collaborator Pimple secretly killed once he had outlived his usefulness.

It is simply an error to reduce this all to an allegory of the endogenous rise of capitalism in England. For the role of Saruman indicates that this process was far from endogenous in the Shire. Nor was it in England, for that matter. Saruman represents an alien influence, specifically the Jewish spirit — rootless, alienated, materialistic, and ultimately nihilistic — which is incarnated both in Jewry and its extended phenotype, Calvinism and low-church Protestantism. (It was the Puritan Revolution that brought the Jews back to England.)

Yet Saruman’s takeover and elimination of Pimple does not resemble anything that happened in England. But it does resemble the revolution that deposed the Kaiser, followed by various Judeo-Bolshevik Putsches and ultimately the Jewish-dominated Weimar Republic. Furthermore, Saruman’s totalitarian system of spies and informants and his expropriation of small farms and seizure of their produce did not take place in England or Germany, but it did happen in Soviet Russia, leading to some of history’s greatest crimes against European man. Thus “The Scouring of the Shire” is a political allegory applicable not just to England but to all forms of Jewish subversion of traditional society.

But it is also an allegory of how a people might regain control of its destiny. The hobbits have lost their freedom through salami tactics. Each day a little more of their freedom was sliced off, but not enough to cause a general rebellion, just a lot of passive grumbling, until finally, when the meaning of what was happening dawned on them, it was too late. Frodo and company, however, returned home after a long absence, and the change hit them all at once. It did not slowly demoralize and enervate them. It made them fighting mad.

And as war veterans, they knew something about fighting. The Shire was also lost because the hobbits were disunited and fearful, ultimately because they had enjoyed a soft and easy-going lifestyle. Frodo and his comrades, however, had been tested and hardened in the crucible of war. They were not cowed by alien bullies, no matter what their stature. They immediately resolved to rally their people and scour the Shire of the usurpers. The hobbits had been long groaning under the new regime. The veterans were the spark to the tinder.

A few opening skirmishes led to a climactic battle at Bywater, which left nearly 70 of the alien interlopers dead and the rest in chains or flight. Nineteen hobbits also lay dead. The hobbits then marched to Bag End to depose Saruman and send him packing without penalty. The prisoners were also sent on their way unharmed. These foolishly gentle policies toward murderers were justified by Frodo with effusions of moral and metaphysical clap-trap that remind us that, after all, this is children’s literature. Best we ignore him when our own enemies are at our mercy.

The closest historical analogy to “The Scouring of the Shire” comes from Germany, where various Freikorps groups — militias of demobilized veterans — put down Judeo-Bolshevik Putsches in Prussia and Bavaria. Furthermore, the successor of the Freikorps was the NSDAP, also led and staffed by veterans, which finally put an end to the Weimar Republic. It is a model worth contemplating today as thousands of white veterans return from a Jewish-instigated war in Iraq to face 30% unemployment in a homeland overrun and despoiled by non-white immigrants. They are a constituency just waiting for a leader.



  1. Hrolf
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s an interesting interpretation, and I think you are correct in your thinking for this reason. The Scouring of the Shire derives from the final scene of William Morris’s Well at World’s End, sort of a prototype of Lord of the Rings. William Morris was actually a communist, very political in his thinking, and imbued his books with much of his political thought. The land of Mordor also derives from this book, as a wasteland ruled by an evil lord in a tower, who represents an uber-capitalist who has sucked the life out of all the land and into himself. Also the scene where Frodo and Sam sneak hiding under a shield in Mordor derives from here.

  2. White Republican
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Greg Johnson,

    If you’re referring to the extended version of The Lord of the Rings, you might want to clarify this to avoid confusion. Some of the incidents and details you mention as being in the film aren’t in the regular version, which I watched again about a month ago. In the regular version, there’s no indication that Saruman’s storehouses contain products from the Shire, and neither Wormtongue or Saruman are shown being killed.

    There’s a short article by Stephen Goodson which reports that Tolkien was a longtime subscriber to Candour, a newsletter edited by A. K. Chesterton, who was a former Mosleyite and the first chairman of the National Front. The article can be found at:

    A recent French translation of this article can be found at:

    I don’t know if there’s any truth to the anecdote, reported in a back issue of Spearhead, that Tolkien modelled Gollum on a South African Jew he was acquainted with.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I am referring to the extended version of The Return of the King.

      • Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:48 am | Permalink

        That scene of the extended version can be seen in YouTube, here.

  3. Jan L
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    “Show them no mercy, for you shall receive none.”

    That’s my favourite quote from the Ring trilogy. Unfortunately I don’t remember the context or in which of the films it was said. And I don’t think Tolkien wrote the line in the books. Anyhow it’s true.

    • Roscon de Reyes
      Posted January 7, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      That was at the Siege of Helm’s Deep, in Rohan, uttered in elvish by Aragorn while haranging the troops

  4. Posted January 4, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    This was a really interesting essay, Greg. I agree fully with your interpretation. Apart from the A. K. Chesterton connection, Tolkien did make a number of statements in defense of Jews in his lifetime, so I don’t know if he intended this as a critique of Jewish usury per se, but certainly the overtones are there.

  5. Posted January 4, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I would also like to believe what you said about the Iraq War veterans, but given that they’ve been fed neocon propaganda all along, I think that may be difficult.

  6. CompassionateFascist
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Greg, you nailed this one. Had an Iraq vet in my cab awhile back who said, “I go over there and fight for this country…I come back and a nigger is president.” Most don’t get the Jew connection yet, but a good solid US defeat at the hands of Iran and its Shia allies throughout the Middle East will enlighten mote than a few. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, Invest in Lead.

  7. Ulric
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “Most commentators simply note that the Scouring is based on Tolkien’s personal experience of returning from the trenches of World War I to find England a changed place.”

    Yes, and the scouring was at least partly carried out:

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, this is important information, and I have amended the original text to reflect it.

  8. Vick
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    “The Scouring…” has always been one of my favorite parts of the trilogy. I will mull over your interpretation – thanks for it.

    This is a little off topic, but except for a few parts I detest Peter Jackson’s films. They’re just a disappointment, in scene after scene after scene. It’s so frustrating seeing Middle Earth reduced to mostly clichéd Hollywood imagery and conventions.

    And leaving out the Barrow Downs and Tom Bombadil, as well as “The Scouring of the Shire” are simply unforgivable. Should have made four films if that’s what it took. There will likely be another cinematic effort to take on the Trilogy some day, but it will take a while to open up some distance with Jackson’s. What a wasted opportunity to do something great.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind words. I could not disagree more RE the Jackson films, however, which I regard as among the greatest films ever made.

      • Posted January 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        Jackson’s trilogy is good, especially the first film, despite the scenes I considered excessive in another CC thread.

    • Eric
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Leaving out the Barrow-Downs and Tom Bombadil was unforgivable?

      I LOL’d.

      Nah, I much prefer the movie’s continuous stretch of fear, intensity, and atmospheric darkness in the Nazgul scenes, that starts in the Shire and culminates on the Weathertop. Interrupting those scenes with an unnecessary interlude featuring a character worthy of a Disney musical…well, it would’ve ruined the movie.

      But I agree that the Scouring of the Shire is the one thing they should’ve left in.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted January 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        The Tom Bombadil and Barrow Downs scenes may not have been filmed, but by the same token, they were not excluded from the story. But “The Scouring of the Shire” was not merely left unfilmed. It was actually excluded; the story was rewritten so it did not happen.

        If Jackson could make Treebeard and the ents work on the big screen, he could have done the same with Tom Bombadil.

      • Vick
        Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

        “….I much prefer the movie’s continuous stretch of fear, intensity, and atmospheric darkness in the Nazgul scenes….”

        This is actually precisely one very big reason why the first film is such a disappointment.

        “The Fellowship” is an amazing plunge into a fantasy world that starts right off with an incredible tense chase story, from the almost familiar world of the Shire to the legendary haven of Rivendell. At every step of the way not only do the hobbits get clearer about exactly who are chasing them and how terrifying they are, but their sense of the world that they thought they knew is utterly upended in the process.

        The contrast between the world they’re so comfortable and familiar with with the unknown world that turns out to lie just over the border couldn’t get any starker than when they cross the Brandywine and leave the Shire and enter the Barrow Downs. While their encounter with the psychedelic Tom Bombadil doesn’t put them in peril, it does confound and unsettle them.

        See, the flight to Rivendell is as much about the psychological tearing down of the hobbits to prepare them for the world changing events they’re to be part of, and the great thing about the plot device is that the reader is fleeing alongside them, discovering the wider strange world of Middle Earth with them. The Barrow Downs and Tom Bombadil are a critical part of that psychological transformation. Unless you’ve read the books a zillion times, it’s easy to forget how completely upset their sense of reality is by the time they make it to Bree. By that point the hobbits already feel like they’ve traveled a lifetime!

        Jackson’s version, like so many scenes in his craptacular, is just standard Hollywood stuff – an extended chase sequence, on horseback – even the f/x are weak.

        I’d say don’t get me started, but you did. Cheers

  9. Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    The prisoners were also sent on their way unharmed. These foolishly gentle policies toward murderers were justified by Frodo with effusions of moral and metaphysical clap-trap that remind us that, after all, this is children’s literature. Best we ignore him when our own enemies are at our mercy.

    Could not disagree with you more. First off, to call LotR children’s literature is just absurd on its face. Second, think about who was talking about mercy. Frodo’s quest was only completed because he repeatedly showed mercy to the attempted murderer Gollum. Frodo did not pardon anybody: He killed when necessary, and then when not necessary he sent them packing. That is EXACTLY the example we should emulate – kill when we have to, and when we don’t have to get the enemy out of the doors.

    Otherwise, great write-up.

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